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Spring Festival Travel Rush in China

Spring Festival Transport Peak
 See Video of Spring Festival Travel Rush
The Spring Festival Travel Rush, also known as Chunyun in Chinese, or Spring Festival Travel Season / Transportation Peak is considered to be the largest annual migration. It is the special period when China faces an extremely high traffic load, which results in great transportation problems, especially on the railway services.

Millions of people working or studying out of their hometowns will be hurrying home to reunite with families as the Chinese Spring Festival approaches. This long-held tradition is the main reason for the rush. The other is that the holiday is one of the two week-long holidays of the year, a perfect travel time for many people. The rush usually begins 15 days ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year and 25 days after that.
  2014 / 2015 / 2016 Chinese Public Holiday Calendar for your reference

During the 40 days of Chunyun period, the inter-city transportation faces great challenges. The demand for tickets far exceeds the supply. Various measures are adopted to alleviate the problem by opening many temporary trains (numbers starting with letter L), extending the working hours of booking office and opening up more booths. More policemen are deployed to insure the public security. The application of real name system is taken to relieve the difficulty in buying tickets and effectively stop scalpers who profit a lot during this period.

Spring Festival Travel Rush in China

Traveling by Train during Spring Festival Travel Rush
Although the above mentioned measures are taken, traveling by train during the Chinese Spring Festival is still a challenge, especially to foreigners. Here are some tips for you to avoid troubles:

1. Ticket
If your China tour is happen to arranged during the Chinese Spring Festival, you had better make early plan and contact a travel agency or ticket agency to book ticket for you (Buy Ticket at TravelChinaGuide.com).

To book the ticket on your own, you have to be in China, know some Chinese, and also have a Chinese bank card that supports online payment if booking through internet. Now a ticket can be bought through internet and telephone 20 days in advance and 18 days prior to departure at stations or ticket windows in towns and cities. For detailed methods of booking a ticket, read How to Buy Tickets. Please note that if you book through internet, you just need to collect your ticket two hours before departure at station or ticket windows (CNY 5 is charged as service fee) by showing your valid ID certificate (usually passport for foreign visitors). There are time limits for collecting tickets that booked through telephone. Specifically you need to collect the ticket before 24:00 of the same day if it is booked before 12:00 and before 12:00 of next day if it is booked after 12:00 of that day. During the Spring Festival Rush, there are more chances to get a ticket through internet or telephone than purchasing at stations or ticket windows. 

2. Taking a Train
During the Spring Festival, the steps of taking a train will take longer time as everywhere of railway stations are crowded with people, so you are advised to get to the station at least 1 hour prior to departure. Most stations will set temporary waiting rooms outside of station halls and air-condition and heat are not available, so remember to wear warm clothes as most cities in China are cold during Spring Festival. Avoid taking heavy luggage as it will be inconvenient for you waiting in lines to enter the station hall, check in, and get onboard. Also, take good care of your young children and luggage when you are in the crowd. After you get into your carriage, keep your luggage in sight or put is under your lower berth, and try not to expose your personal information to strangers. If you happen to take an accommodation or temporary trains that have no heat or air-conditioner, remember to take enough warm clothes with you. 

Long Queue for Buying Tickets at a Bus Station
Long Queues in the Booking Office
    
Crowded Waiting Hall of Xian Railway Station
Crowded Waiting Hall of Xian Railway Station
3. Arrival
Do no throw away your ticket after arriving at your destination, as the ticket carries your personal information. When you get out of a station, ignore the “kind-hearted” venders and take official taxies or buses to your hotel.

4. You’d better avoid taking a train during Chinese Spring Festival, and, if condition allows, try other transportation means.