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Chunyun - Spring Festival Travel Rush in China

 The 2020 Chunyun is from January 10 to February 18, when train tickets will be under great demand. TravelChinaGuide recommends you to avoid traveling to China during the period or book the tickets as early as possible.
Spring Festival Transport Peak
 See Video of Spring Festival Travel

What is Chunyun? 

Chunyun, also known as Chinese New Year Migration, Spring Festival Travel Rush, Chinese New Year Travel Rush, Lunar New Year Travel Rush is the largest human migration on earth happening annually. It usually begins 15 days ahead of the Chinese New Year and 25 days after, lasting for 40 days. The Chunyun 2020 lasts from January 10 to February 18. During the Spring Festival Rush, China, especially its railway system, faces an extremely high traffic load, which results in great difficulties to obtain a ticket, crowded railway stations and train carriages…  

 2019 / 2020 / 2021 China Public Holiday Calendar for your reference
 

What are the reasons of Chinese New Year Migration? 

Millions of people working or studying out of their hometowns will be hurrying home to reunite with families as the Chinese New Year (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.
 

Traveling by Train during Spring Festival Travel Rush

Try not to travel by train during the Chinese New Year Festival. If have to, below are some tips for you to avoid troubles:
 

Buy tickets as early as possible

If your China tour is happen to be arranged during the Chinese Lunar New Year, you had better make early plan and contact a travel agency or ticket agency to book ticket for you.

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 30 days in advance and 28 days prior to departure at stations or some ticket windows in towns and cities; due to adoption of real-name ticket policy and identity verification, some ticket outlets in downtown are unable to issue tickets for foreign/ Hong Kong/ Macau/ Taiwan passengers. For detailed methods of booking a ticket, read How to Buy Tickets and How to Buy Tickets Online.

Please note that if you book through internet, you just need to pick up your ticket before departure at stations by showing your valid ID certificate, usually passport. During the Spring Festival Rush, there are more chances to get a ticket through internet than purchasing at stations or ticket windows.
 

Spring Festival Travel Rush in China

Reach the station at least 1.5 hours prior for boarding process

During the Chinese New Year Travel Rush, 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 1.5 hours 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.
 

Travel light & take care of your luggage

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 luggage when you are in the crowd. After you get into your carriage, keep your luggage in sight or put it under your lower berth, and try not to expose your personal information to strangers. 
 

Upon arrival, get to your hotel by official transport

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.
 

Long Queue for Buying Tickets at a Bus Station
Long Queues in the Booking Office
Crowded Waiting Hall of Xi'an Railway Station
Crowded Waiting Hall of Xi'an Railway Station
 

Railway Passenger Figures during Chunyun

Year Passengers Volume (million) Growth (%)
2019 (January 21st - March 1st) 410  7.4
2018 (February 1st - March 12th) 382 6.8
2017 (January 13th - February 21st) 357 10.1
2016 (January 24th - March 3rd) 325 10.2
2015 (February 4th - March 15th) 295  10.4
2014 (January 16th - February 24th) 266 12
2013 (January 26th - March 6th) 240 12.1

 Further Reading:
    Train Travel in China during Holidays
    Passenger Rail Transport in China
    China Train Travel - A Beginner’s Guide

- Last modified on Mar. 15, 2019 -
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    I thought the journey was very good, the train left at 22.00, so it was overnight. I had a soft sleeper and was in the top bunk. This may be a hassle for unfit people or fat people, being fit though it was no problem getting up. The bunk itself was very nice to sleep in and managed to get a full 8 hours which was great. Boarding might have been the biggest worry, just getting on, there wasn't much English in the stations. Found the waiting room though using some street smarts and once getting on, it was full steam ahead. The conductors in the rail hall though were all very nice and using hand signals we manage to get the job done. A massive crowd also helps to follow.

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