I'm about to head out to China. Flying into Beijing and out of Shanghai 18days later. I am hoping to race around, seeing as much of the country as possible. Not my favourite way to travel, but I have to work with what i've got.
Is it going to be possible to hop on trains during this holiday?? Or is it just too demanding?? I had hoped to see Datong, Wutai Shan, Pingyao, Luoyang, then go from Wuhan to Shanghai. It's all very unplanned and last minute so i am flexible. But if anyone can advise on what I can expect travelling at this time, that would be really helpful.
Lots of people travel over the Chinese New Year (as in millions and millions and millions). China is that big that you should consider flights where possible as trains are slow and not that cheap.
You're going to struggle to "hop on off" trains, even flights will be booked out. You will be very lucky to get any sort of tickets on short notice during Chinese new year(especially right before it) I'm afraid.
The main reason for this is migrant workers heading home from the capital cities, so those are the worst places to get your tickets (any sort), people can queue up for up to a day just to get a train ticket.
What I'd suggest is to book a plane ticket out of any capital city in advance. Once you get to smaller cities, buses and trains will become more available, if you want to travel between the minor cities(will still be very tough though, best to avoid traveling during chinese new year all together).
OK, thanks for the tips. When you talk about Chinese New Year do you mean the 7 day holiday? Or a full month of travel difficulties?
melady, it would depends on where you're going on how you'd like to plan your trip.
Go to ctrip.com to check for availability of local flights and hotels. I'm afraid the above posters are right, CNY is the largest yearly human exodus on earth, even if the public holiday is set for 7 days, ticket shortages and filled up trains starts weeks before and can last weeks afterwords. You do not want to be on one of the slow long distance trains. Having said that, it's still quite possible to travel - two years ago I did beijing area on CNY and surprisingly it was quite OK. Main routs like beijing to shanghai and shanghai hangzhou should be quite possible, so check in advance. Touristic areas are going to be filled to the brim, it's also an experience of a sort, though.
I have also travelled during the chinese new year in the past, and managed to get tickets. The level of crowd depends on where you leave and the destination. Daniele is right, you should check the avaliabilities online.
Usually, the weeks before the chinese new year, it will be hard to get tickets from capital cities to smaller cities. So right about now it would be the worst time for those tickets
After the 7 day holiday, the trend reverses, and it would be harder to get tickets from smaller cities back to the capital cities. In between large cities it is usually okay, for example, if you get the express train between Beijing and Shanghai, it would not be too bad. This is because the train does not stop at minor stations, and it is more expensive. Infact, it is possibly the case for all express trains. A few years ago I travelled from Beijing to Manzhouli during the chinese new year on an express, managed to get the tickets but just (got the tickets like a week before though).
Another tip that might help you: if you are at an inbetween station, you may "hop on" a train by buying a "no seat" ticket. You will be going on a "hard seat" carriage, it will be super crowded with no room to breath, but hey, it's better than nothing. You can also purchase a ticket to better seating after you get on the train this way. Some people also buy a "platform ticket" and get on the train "illegally", then buy the ticket when asked.
Hopefully that will help you plan your trip. all the best
[ Edit: Edited on Jan 18, 2009, at 6:39 PM by lzl ]