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How to Travel in China During Spring Festival

A short guide of when and in what directions to travel during Chinese New Year.

Hundreds of millions of people will be making 3.2 billion trips during the 40 day period of Chinese New Year/ Spring Festival this year. This is often cited as being the world’s largest migration. It’s a time when people leave the cities they work and study in and return home to visit their families, as well as a time for rampant tourism. In China, almost everybody gets the same vacation days, so almost everybody wants to travel at the same time. The public transportation networks and highways get clogged up as an entire country goes on the move throughout this holiday.

Perhaps unfortunately, this is also the time when most foreign workers get their vacations as well. Imagine getting one to three weeks off to travel around a country only to find it extremely difficult to get train and bus tickets and almost impossible to find accommodation — and even if you do get either you are going to be so stuffed and crammed in will such massive amounts of humanity that it often hardly seems worth the effort. This is the Chinese New Year travel experience.

But the Chinese New Year Migration is actually two migrations. The first tide begins around twenty days prior to the lunar new year, as workers in the economically vibrant south and east of the country travel to their homes in the north and west; the second is when they return, which is generally for the second half of the festival. The time surrounding the lunar new year itself is madness, it’s recommended to lay low.

If you travel against these tides you will probably still find yourself in extremely crowded conditions, but it will generally be more manageable. So in the beginning of the new year holiday travel south and/ or east, near the end travel north and/ or west.

Travel against the tides of the Chinese new year migration, flank the holiday by moving at the edges of the bell curve, and, of course, buy train/ bus/ train/ plane tickets and making reservations for accommodation well in advance. Take these tips and go out and and experience China at it’s most insane.

Godspeed.

Filed under: Celebrations, China

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3546 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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