Traveling through China during the national holidays is difficult. No holiday is more difficult for traveling than Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year. However, it is still a wonderful time to see the sights of China while enjoying the traditions of its most important holiday.
With more than a hundred million migrant workers, China’s transportation network serves an enormous number of passengers around the two-week holiday that traditionally reunites families across the country. Additional buses, trains and planes are in service during the holiday, and all are packed with passengers bringing gifts for their relatives. With an excess of people and personal belongings, buses and trains feel more crowded than usual.
Due to the large passenger volume, airlines do not offer any discounted fares during Chinese national holidays. During most other times of year travelers can expect significant discounts on tickets, which can be more than 50 percent. It is advised that if you must travel during Spring Festival, that you book tickets as far in advance as possible and avoid traveling during the few days leading up to and immediately following the New Year. Unfortunately, it is still difficult to book tickets for buses and trains more than a few days ahead of time. For most visitors, it is easier to fly to chosen destinations.
Every year the Chinese government issues a warning for everyone to be cautious as the weeks leading up to Spring Festival see a spike in theft. Although most theft cases involve small amounts of money or personal property, there are occasional horror stories about losing large sums or important belongings.
Despite all the hassles of traveling around China during Spring Festival, it is an exciting time of year to immerse oneself in the culture of the holiday. The best way to enjoy this time of year is to partake in a traditional celebration at a local’s home. If that’s not possible, there’s still plenty of excitement going on around any city in China on the first night of the New Year. If one is fortunate enough to be invited to a local’s home for the holiday, it is guaranteed to be an enjoyable meal with more food and drink than necessary to feed everyone in attendance-it’s important to pace oneself to eat and drink until the clock strikes midnight.
Many restaurants will be closed during Spring Festival-more on the first night-but it is possible to find some that remain open as more families now opt to eat out. After dinner, in the run up to midnight, most cities will be filled with the booming sound of fireworks. Even though most cities ban private use of fireworks, there is little enforcement of the rules during the New Year. Most open spaces and parks become playgrounds for residents to set off an array of fireworks in every direction. Because there is little or no organization, it is important to be careful when partaking in this holiday tradition.