The Busiest Travel Week in the World

Spring Festival (春节, chūnjié), or Chinese New Year, has been referred to as the "largest annual migration event on the planet" because of the extraordinary number of people who travel for the one-week holiday. Spring Festival is equivalent to the Christmas/New Year holidays in many countries. Companies close for up to a week and many people take 1-2 weeks of vacation to visit family in their hometown or at a domestic or international tourist destination. At the start of 2018, nearly 400 million people travelled for Spring Festival, that's more than the entire population of the USA travelling during the same week. The Spring Festival travel season now has its own name: 春运 (chūnyùn).

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Travel companies take advantage of the increased demand for tickets, raising prices to 3-times the regular costs, especially for international flights to popular tourist destinations such as Japan, Korea, Australia, and America. There is a government-enforced cap on the price of train tickets during Spring Festival but there are still ticket scalpers (票贩子piàofànzi or 黄牛 huángniú) and counterfeit tickets being sold at extremely high prices. Train tickets are released 30 days before the travel date and the release of Spring Festival train tickets is a highly anticipated week, in effect, the start of a countdown to the new year. In contrast to high priced public transportation, highway toll booths are free during Spring Festival.

Besides increased ticket prices, there are long lines at airports, train and bus stations, more cars on the road, and many frustrated people. Many Chinese tourist destinations are also incredibly busy as families take advantage of the time off work to visit national treasures like The Great Wall and The Forbidden City in Beijing, the terracotta warriors in Xi'an and The Bund in Shanghai. Pick pocketing and petty theft are, unfortunately, more common during Spring Festival in these crowded conditions. It's even more of a concern during the month leading up to the holiday as people struggle to pay for expensive tickets home plus gifts for their family. The best advice for anyone travelling during the holiday is to stay calm, expect to wait, and try to avoid travelling during the beginning and end of the new year week.


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