China during National Holidays
China is a fantastic destination to visit all year round. Each month presents a variety of great reasons to visit, with travellers exploring its world-famous attractions and taking part in the many exciting activities that each Chinese town and city has to offer.
The national holidays are a popular time for travel for locals and visitors alike. New Year’s Day, Chinese New Year, Qingming Festival, Labour Day, Dragon Boat Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, and National Day are all national public holidays in China. The festivities of these public holidays can be enjoyed by all, not just citizens.
Travelling to China during one of its national holidays does come with its drawbacks, however. Here we explore the pros and cons of national holiday travel as well as reveal top tips for travelling to China during these periods.
Why travel during the national holidays?
National holidays mean many things to many people, but for visitors to China, these times offer great opportunities to enjoy life as the locals do.
All national holidays are marked in some way or another. April’s Qingming Festival (also known as Tomb Sweeping Day) is a low key affair in which people pay respects to deceased loved ones and celebrate the start of spring.
Marking the Chinese New Year is an altogether more raucous affair with locals decorating their homes with red paper scrolls, eating lots of homemade dumplings and lighting firecrackers. Whichever national holiday you plan to visit China in, seeing traditional celebrations is another way to add interest and authenticity to your experience.
Golden Week is often mentioned when looking at the reasons not to travel to China during national holidays. There are two Golden Weeks in the Chinese calendar, each of which contains an important public holiday.
Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, takes place during the first Golden Week at the end of January or start of February. National Day takes place during the second Golden Week at the beginning of October.
Most recommend not travelling to China during these Golden Weeks. During these times, it’s not just foreign tourists you’ll have to work around, Chinese natives holiday then too. Sparrow in Space explains more about the logistical nightmare you could experience if travelling during these Golden Weeks:
“China is always a crowded place, with people everywhere, all the time, but Golden Week is something else entirely… People use this week to go home and visit the family they can’t see for most of the year, or for seeing the landmarks of their great nation, mainly Tian’anmen Square and the Forbidden City, both in Beijing. This completely clogs up the public transport systems of China.”
In addition to travel being all the more difficult on or around the national holidays, planning a budget-friendly trip during these periods isn’t easy either.
Flight prices and hotel rates tend to be higher on and around national holidays. The best dining hotspots also tend to get booked up faster and the tourist attractions are much busier.
Tips for travelling during the national holidays
If you’re willing to overlook the disadvantages to enjoy the many perks of national holiday travel, not to mention the carnival atmosphere that’s present in most towns and cities during national holidays, a bit of planning can go a long way.
Choose your travel dates wisely, plan your arrival and departure time outside Golden Week or national holiday dates. Be prepared for the crowds and traffic too. Avoid road networks and travel by subway. This mode of public transport is the best and most affordable way to travel at any time of year, especially during national holidays.