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Train Travel in China during Holidays

During holidays, the China railway system is busier than usual with more passengers. This can make the railway stations and train carriages rather crowded and may lead to unpleasant train travel.

Thus, it is recommended that foreigners NOT travel by train in China during the Chinese holidays.

If you must travel at this time, the following tips will help to make your travel smoother:


Holiday Calendar and Influences on Train Travel 

Festival Date 2019 Days off Influences
New Year’s Day Jan.1 Dec. 30, 2018 -
Jan. 1, 2019
More passengers for short-distance rail rides
Chinese New Year Jan.1 of
lunar calendar;
Feb. 5, 2019
Feb. 4 - 10 Crowded passengers for both long-distance and short-distance rail rides;
The situation usually begins 25 days before the Chinese New Year and ends 15 days after, known as Spring Festival Rush.
Qingming Festival Apr. 4 or 5;
Apr. 5 in 2019
Apr.  5 - 7 More passengers for short-distance rail rides
May Day May 1 Apr. 29 - May 1
Dragon Boat Festival May. 5 of
lunar calendar;
Jun. 7 in 2019
Jun. 7 - 9
Summer Holiday July-early Sep.  July-early Sep.  More passengers for long-distance rail rides;
Increasing passengers are mainly university students going between hometowns and schools
Mid-Autumn Festival Aug. 15 of
lunar calendar;
Sep. 13 in 2019
Sep. 13 - 15 More passengers for short-distance rail rides
National Day Oct. 1 Oct. 1 - 7 Crowded passengers for both long-distance and short-distance rail rides;
the situation lasts from Oct.1 to Oct.7

 Detailed  2019 / 2020 / 2021 China Public Holiday Calendar

Crowded Railway Station during China Holidays
Xi'an Railway Station during Summer Holiday
Crowded Railway Terminal during Holidays
A Waiting Hall during Chinese New Year

Top 10 Train Travel Tips on China Holidays

Try to Avoid Holidays

If you can’t avoid the holiday time, please purchase tickets as early as possible. Railway tickets are usually available 30 days prior to the departure date. It is easier if you use a booking agency. In that case, place your order more than 30 days in advance.

Be Careful of Fake Tickets

During the holidays, some illegal traders sell fake tickets on phishing sites and around railway stations. Not only will you lose your money, but this may also ruin your trip. To avoid this, buy tickets from ticket offices at railway stations, the official website, or more conveniently, a legal and reliable agency like TravelChinaGuide.com.
 See details of How to Buy Train Tickets

Keep an Eye on Last Minute Ticket Availability

If you fail to get a ticket in advance, check the most up-to-date ticket availability every now and then. Sometime passengers return tickets a few days before departure (known as “refund tide”) and the tickets are placed on sale again. Also, some trains may be temporarily added to relieve the transportation pressure, thus providing more tickets.

Avoid Temporary Trains if Possible

Compared with the regularly scheduled trains, those added temporarily are not as well equipped, run at lower speeds, and take longer to reach destinations.

High Speed Trains Advantage

In addition to the high speed and clean and spacious carriages, the high-speed trains usually depart from newly-built modern stations with better air and environment, and more importantly, they are less crowded.

Crowded Train during China Holidays
A Hard Seat Carriage Filled with Passengers

Stay away from Hard Seat Carriages

The least comfortable way to travel is in a hard seat carriage. Many passengers are squeezed in with standing room only tickets. The aisles, sometimes even the washrooms, are filled with passengers and luggage; at these times it is difficult to move around, let alone get to the toilet.
 See details of Train Ticket Types 

The Dining Car is a Good Place to Escape from the Noisy and Crowded Carriages.

Make an order and you can enjoy a meal quietly. You can also order a cup of drink and they should not drive you out until you finish it. However, the dining car sometimes may be used as a regular carriage and the staff there may charge you additionally.

Keep an Eye on the Real-time Schedule

It is very possible that the arrival/departure times may be delayed during the holidays because of the busy traffic flow along rail lines or due to foul weather, in winter or summer, such as heavy snow, rainstorm, landslide or typhoon. Prepare some food and water for the trip in advance.

Get to Railway Station Earlier than Usual

If you already have a ticket, please arrive at the station at least an hour before departure. If you have booked online and need to pick up a ticket, plan to get there at least 1.5 hours before departure and be prepared for long lines.
 See details of How to Collect a Ticket 

Travel Light and Keep an Eye on Your Luggage

Please try to simplify your luggage. After getting onboard, try to put the luggage where you can see it to be sure it is not mistaken by other passengers or stolen by thieves. If possible, travel with friends or family and ask them to take care of your luggage when you must leave. Always keep your valuables with you and do not display them to strangers.
 See details of Luggage Space

Further Reading:
 China Train Travel Tips
 China Train Travel - A Beginner’s Guide
 Facts on China Train Travel

- Last modified on Nov. 15, 2018 -
Questions & Answers on Train Travel in China during Holidays
Asked by Katerina from CYPRUS | Aug. 04, 2018 14:07Reply
Beijing to Tianjin on October 7th 2018
My husband and I need to travel from Beijing to Tianjin International Port on October 7 which is a National Holiday. I see some trains from Beijing to Tanggu. Would it be possible to catch a high speed train if we pre-book it and then a taxi? Or would it be easier to take a taxi from Beijing straight to the port?
Thank you!
Answers (1)
Answered by Mr. Erin | Aug. 05, 2018 01:40

You could book a train from Beijing to Tanggu firstly, then take a taxi to the port. This should be a better way.
Asked by Ray from CANADA | Dec. 08, 2017 01:25Reply
Train ticket from Shanghai to Zhenjiang on Feb 3rd, 2018
I am looking to travel to Yangzhou during spring festival and am wondering if I will have difficulty booking a ticket for Feb 3rd 2018 from Shanghai to Zhenjiang. Then taxi from there to Yangzhou. Or would you advice to look at other options, possibly shanghai to nanjing? Thanks!
Answers (1)
Answered by gwe | Dec. 08, 2017 02:04

The time is the begining of the spring rush. It is still possible to get the tickets if you buy the tickets as soon as the tickets are released.
Asked by Sunny from USA | Mar. 28, 2017 17:42Reply
From Shenzhen, to Guilin, to Wudangshan, to Xian, to Beijing in a week
Our group of 8 foreigners would like to travel from Shenzhen to Beijing in August. We would like to make tourist stops for a day or so in Guilin, Wudangshan, and Xian. We are expecting to take overnight trains between them. I cannot find an efficient way to get from Wudangshan to Xian, that seems to be the hardest though shortest leg. Does this trip seem possible in a week?
Answers (1)
Answered by Sally from USA | Mar. 28, 2017 21:35

There did has no direct rides from Wudangshan to Xian, but you can take bus from Wudangshan to Shiyan station. There is a ride at 01:01 in midnight from Shiyan to Xian and arrives at 07:10am. But indeed, a week for 5 cities are very limited.
Asked by Lie from SUMITRO | Aug. 08, 2016 09:03Reply
Bullet Train during National Day
Hai, when i should book Bullet train tickets from Gz to Chengdu at 5 Oct?
Answers (3)
Answered by Eunice | Aug. 08, 2016 19:25

The high speed types are being adjusted at this time, itis still not clear when will it finished. You may check the availability often recently
Answered by Lie Sumitro | Aug. 09, 2016 04:31

Is it a correct direction if I'm planning from JZG to Datong old city via train is from Chengdu to Datong? Which stations is it? Thanks
Answered by Petra from USA | Aug. 09, 2016 19:26

Do you mean Jiuzhaigou? Chengdu is a possible city for transfer, however, still no direct rail line to Datong. You may still need a transfer in Taiyuan and then to Datong. Except Chengdu, you may try Guangyuan as well.
Asked by Helene Beguin from FRANCE | Dec. 29, 2015 23:49Reply
Is China Railway Express ( 中铁快运股份有限公司) open during public holidays ?
Do you know if the company CRE works during the spring festival holidays and if we can use their services between the 7th and the 13th of February 2016?
Thank you very much for your help,
Helene Beguin
Answers (1)
Answered by Glenn | Dec. 30, 2015 01:32

They should still work during holiday (may have difference for each city). But at that time, the delivery can be slower due to the holiday rush.
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