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Train Travel in China during Holidays

During holidays, 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 your China train travel an unpleasant one. Thus, foreigners are not recommended to travel in China by train during its holidays. If have to, read the below tips to smooth your train travel in China during holidays as much as possible.

 Holiday Calendar and Influences on Train Travel 
Festival Date 2017 Days off Influences
New Year’s Day Jan.1 Dec. 31, 2016 - Jan. 2, 2017 More passengers for short-distance rail rides
Chinese New Year Jan.1 of
lunar calendar;
Jan. 28 in 2017
Jan. 27 - Feb. 2 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. 4 in 2017
Apr. 2 - 4 More passengers for short-distance rail rides
May Day May 1 Apr. 29 - May 1
Dragon Boat Festival May. 5 of
lunar calendar;
May 30 in 2017
May 28 - 30
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;
Oct. 4 in 2017
Oct. 1 - 8 Crowded passengers for both long-distance and short-distance rail rides;
the situation lasts from Sep.28 to Oct.8
National Day Oct. 1

 Detailed 2017 / 2018 / 2019 China Public Holiday Calendar

Crowded Railway Station during China Holidays
Xian Railway Station during Summer Holiday
Crowded Railway Terminal during Holidays
A Waiting Hall during Chinese New Year

To smooth the trip in China, here below are some tips:

 Try to Avoid Holidays

If it is inevitable, please purchase tickets as early as possible. Railway tickets are now available at most 30 days prior to departure date. If you want to book from a booking agency to save troubles, it’s better to make an order over 30 days ahead of your departure date.

 Be Careful of Fake Tickets

During the holidays, some illegal traders will make profits by selling fake tickets on phishing sites and around railway stations. This will not only bring you loss in money, but also ruin your trip. So it is suggested to buy tickets from ticket offices at railway stations, 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 failing to get a ticket, check the most up-to-date ticket availability every now and then. Some passengers will refund their extras a few days before departure, known as “refund tide” and the tickets will be on sale again. Also, some temporary trains may be in operation to relieve the transportation pressure, which provides more tickets, too.

 Avoid Temporary Trains if Possible

Compared with others, they are worse equipped, run at lower speeds and need longer time to reach destinations.

 High Speed Trains Advantage

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

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

 Stay away from Hard Seat Carriages

It will be the worst if in a hard seat carriage as you may find passengers holding standing tickets are all squeezed in. Aisles, sometimes even the washrooms, are filled with passengers and luggage; it is so difficult to move around, let alone march 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 time being postponed during the holidays because of the busy traffic flow along rail lines and foul weather in winter or summer such as heavy snow, rainstorm, landslide or typhoon. Prepare some food and water for the trips in advance.

 Get to Railway Station Earlier than Usual

If one already has a ticket in hand, please arrive at the station at least 2 hours before departure. If one needs to pick up online bookings, it is suggested to get there over 3 hours before departure, for there is a great possibility of long queues waiting.
 See details of How to Collect a Ticket

 Travel Light and Keep an Eye on Your Luggage

Please try to simplify your luggage. And after getting onboard, please put the luggage in obvious places in case that it is mistaken by other passengers or stolen by thieves. If possible, travel with friends or families and ask them to take care of your luggage when you must leave. Bring valuables with you at any time and do not make a display of them to strangers.

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