Chinese trains always seem busy. And they become even more busy than usual during holidays, with thousands of Chinese and foreign passengers traveling by train. The railways becomes extremely busy during the Goldren Week: the National Holiday week, the Spring Festival week. And you should also watch out short-break holidays such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival and May Day Holiday.
During holidays, trains may be noisy, crowded and dirty. Be prepared too for extra inconvenience when buying tickets during holiday times. Here are some tips that should help make your holiday journey smoother.
List of Chinese Holidays in 2023
|Chinese Holidays||Dates in 2013||Please Note|
|New Year’s Day||December 30th – January 1st (3 days)||Tickets on short-journey (less than 5 hours) high-speed trains (with durations that less than 5 hours) will be sold out quickly.|
|Spring Festival||February 4th - 10th||The peak period lasts for around a month, from January 25th to February 21th. The whole China Rail network will be very busy.|
|Tomb-Sweeping Festival||April 5th - 7th (3 days)||Tickets on short-journey (less than 5 hours) high-speed trains will be sold out quickly.|
|May Day Holiday||May 1st - 3rd (3 days)||Tickets on short-journey (less than 5 hours) high-speed trains will be sold out quickly.|
|Dragon Boat Festival||June 7th - 9th (3 days)|
|Summer Holiday||July 1st - September 1st||Both high-speed trains and overnight trains are popular during the summer holidays. Be prepared for increased noise on the trains, since many families will be traveling with children.|
|Mid-Autumn Festival||September 13rd - September 15th (3 days)||Tickets on short-journey (less than 5 hours) high-speed trains will be sold out quickly.|
|National Day||October 1st - October 7th (7 days)||The whole China Rail network will be busy. Tickets for October 1st, 6th and 7th will be extremely hard to get.|
To see the specific holiday-dates for 2019, please click here.
The summer holidays in July and August are also a peak period for travel, with all the students out of school, taking trains back home or traveling around the country.
Problems You Might Encounter If Travel During Chinese Holidays
Overcrowded Main Train Stations and Airports
Passengers at main cities’ airport always are doubled or even tripled during the holidays, especially during the National Day Week and Spring Festival. According to the latest data of Civil Aviation Administration of China, during the Spring Festival Holiday from February 4th to 10th, 2019, Chinese carriers performed 111,000 flights, transported 12.58 million passengers.
China’s busiest airports include Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Hangzhou Xiaoshan Airport, Urumqi Airport, Chongqing Jiangbei Airport, Sanya Airport, Lijiang Airport and Harbin Airport.
Trains are the most popular means of transportation for Chinese travelers because of its extensive rail network and rapid development of high-speed rail. And this means of transportation has become more and more popular among western travelers.
During the Spring Festival, National Holiday week and the summer holiday, with tourists going for vacation and students leaving and returning schools, main train stations, such as Beijing South, Beijing West, Shanghai Hongqiao, Zhengzhou East, Hangzhou East, Xi’an North, Guangzhou South and Shenzhen North, etc. become extremely crowded.
Large Crowds at the Most Tourist Spots
During the holidays, Beijing, Zhangjiajie, Lijiang, Xiamen, Guilin and Chengdu are the most popular tourist destinations. Tourist attractions in these cities are always overcrowded during holiday times. You will find long queues everywhere at main attractions. It may take several hours to line up to visit a scenic spot.
Difficult to Acquire Tickets
During Chinese holidays, train tickets are sold out very fast. Tickets for popular rail routes may be sold out the second tickets are released. It is much harder to obtain train tickets than usual. Flight is an alternate option for travel, but you may find the price go up a lot even book weeks ahead.
During the Spring Festival, Qingming Festival, May Day Holiday, Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day Holiday, passenger cars with seven seats or less get a free pass on highways, which resulting massive traffic pressure on toll roads. It takes much more time to travel from one scenic spots to another by coach or tourist bus.
Tips for China Train Travel During the Holidays
If you are going to take a train during Chinese holidays, here are some tips to help your journey run smoothly.
1. Book Your Tickets As Early As Possible
If you plan to travel by train during the Spring Festival travel rush, it is recommended that you book your train tickets with a travel agency as early as possible.
China Railway opens its ticket reservations 30 days before departure but you can book tickets more than 30 days in advance with a travel agency. They will hold your bookings and purchase tickets on your behalf as soon as the tickets are released, increasing the success rate of ticket purchases.
If you book your train tickets online with China Highlights, please also write any special requirements you have in the special request column. By fully understanding your requirements, we can book your tickets accordingly and as efficiently as possible.
However, we cannot 100% guarantee that we will be successful in purchasing tickets for travel during the busy Spring Festival period. This time of year is a bit of a lottery as millions of people rush to buy tickets online or by telephone when the ticket reservation offices open. China is a country with a very large population and more people than you can imagine choose to go home by train.
2. Which Train Type and Seat Class to Choose
The high-speed G and D trains are recommended due to their comfort, stability, modern and punctuality. On a high-speed train, second class is the most popular for the majority of passengers and it is also the most cost-efficient.
However, during the travel rush, second-class cars can be noisy. If you prefer more privacy and a high-quality travel experience, and have enough in your budget, first class and business class are better choices.
If you choose an ordinary train, you are highly advised to choose soft or hard sleepers rather than seats during the crowded Spring Festival.
Standing tickets are available on high-speed trains as well as ordinary ones during the Spring Festival. The number of standing tickets is limited to 7% of the total seating capacity on high-speed trains. Passengers with standing tickets on these trains are only allowed to stand in the second-class areas, and are not allowed to go into the business-class areas. The number of standing tickets is not strictly limited for the ordinary trains - standing-ticket passengers can stand in the aisles and even in the toilets during the Spring Festival season.
3. Get to the Train Station Early
During the holidays train stations will be extremely busy, especially stations in large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Xi’an, Wuhan or Changsha.
It is advisable to arrive at the station at least 1.5 hours before departure, if you have your tickets in hand. If you have made the booking online and need to collect your paper tickets before boarding the train, then it is recommended you arrive at the station at least 2 hours in advance.
4. Ticket Collection
You are highly recommended to have your tickets delivered (for example, to your hotel), for convenience. If you don’t get your tickets mailed, you are advised to collect them at the railway station ticket window a few hours before departure, as the queues can be very long.
5. Get to the Station Early
It is advisable to arrive at the railway station at least 2 hours before departure to allow for the long queues at the ticket counter, the security checks, and the ticket checks during the Spring Festival travel rush season.
6. Check the Updated Train Schedules
Be prepared for train delays during holidays. Check the updated schedule at the station before boarding, to see if your train will be on time.
7. Keep an Eye on Your Luggage and Belongings
Always keep an eye on your suitcases and luggage and take care of your train tickets. Remember to bring your valuables on your person, rather than putting them in your suitcases.
8. Choose Appropriate Seat Class
Avoid hard seats when traveling during the holidays. The hard-seat carriages will be incredibly crowded and noisy. When there are not enough hard-seat tickets available, China Rail sells standing tickets. So you may find the hard seat carriages full of people standing and sitting during peak periods. That may lead to a very uncomfortable travel experience.
If you need to take an overnight train, soft sleeper is recommended. Skip hard sleeper unless you are on a budget. Soft sleeper is quieter and provides more privacy than hard sleeper.
Second-class carriages on high-speed trains are sometimes noisy during holidays, especially during the summer holiday and Spring Festival, with a lot of families traveling together. First-class, however, is better. So first-class or business-class is recommended when traveling on high-speed trains during the holidays.
Read more about how to choose train types and seat.