Spring Festival Travel Rush in China: 2019 Chunyun Migration by Train
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Spring Festival Travel Rush in China

 The 2019 Spring Festival Travel Rush is from January 21 to March 1, 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.
 See Video of Spring Festival Travel

The Spring Festival Travel Rush, also known as Chunyun in Chinese, or Chinese New Year Travel Rush, Lunar New Year Travel Rush is the largest annual migration on earth. It usually begins 15 days ahead of the Chinese New Year and 25 days after, lasting for 40 days. 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…
 2018 / 2019 / 2020 China Public Holiday Calendar for your reference

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.

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.

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 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 windows 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 two hours before departure at stations 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 pick up 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 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 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.

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 Lunar New Year Travel Rush, and, if condition allows, try other transportation means.
Long Queues in the Booking Office
Crowded Waiting Hall of Xian Railway Station

Railway Passenger Figures during Spring Festival Rush

Year Passengers Volume (million) Growth (%)
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

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