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Hainan (海南) is one of the newest provinces in China, only being split off from Guangdong province in 1988, and the smallest by land area. The province is made up of several different islands, the largest being Hainan Island, which the province is named after. Hainan Island has been part of China for most of its history although Han Chinese migration has always been slow. Even today a large percentage of the population are minority groups. Hainan can be a higher end budget traveller dream come true. Lots of resorts with few visitors, except during the national holidays, makes for some great deals. There is also excellent diving, hiking and beaches to explore. Although not super expensive there is very little tight budget options or backpacker infrastructure, like in Thailand, in Hainan.
Large populations of people settled Hainan during the Song to the Ming dynasty. The local Li population rebelled but the Ming goverment brought in Miao soldiers a different minority group from Guizhou, to supress the rebellion. Many of the Maio people stayed in Hainan after the war was over.
During the 1920s and 1930s the island was a center for communist activity. The communist allied themselves with the Li people to fight against the Japanese during the occupation. Even with the strong communist presences on the island it still was one of the last places the communist took control of in May of 1950. Many people thought Taiwan would fall quickly after Hainan fell but there was no internal rebels in Taiwan and the US 7th fleet arrived in the straights of Taiwan after the outbreak of the Korean War.
The resources of Hainan were not exploited until the 1980s after the liberalizing of the economy. Also Hainan has become a major point for domestic Chinese tourists. The island shares the same latitude with Hawaii and the same climate. There are many beautiful beaches and mountains to explore. Although with the economy of China getting better and it being easier for Chinese to travel to other countries, like Thailand or Malaysia, many of the newly built resorts have been hit by hard times. The middle class Chinese can't afford to make the trip to Hainan and the wealthy can afford to go to some place more exotic.
China has three "Golden Week" holidays per year. People get a mandatory two or three days off work for each holiday, and workers' companies can grant them the rest of the week off, making each holiday a total of 7 days. As you can imagine, having almost 1.4 billion people with the same days off can make travelling at these times arduous to say the least.
Travelling during the Spring Festival/Chinese New Year is incredibly difficult. Chinese New Year is China's Christmas, so the millions of migrant workers and students flood back to their home towns. Everybody else takes the opportunity to spend their hong bao (gifts of money traditionally given at CNY) and go travelling. Most of the time, since you are only allowed to purchase train tickets 6 days in advance and must be present in the city of origin, sometimes only standing room tickets are available. Be aware! The Spring Festival is undoubtedly the busiest time for the Chinese transportation system. Flying will avoid the crowded trains, but book early and expect to pay higher prices. All the main tourist attractions will be crawling with tourists (worse than usual), so unless you like crowds, it's best to avoid it altogether.
Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar, so the date changes each year. The Chinese New Year/Spring Festival holiday is 7 days long and usually starts on New Year's Eve.
The two other national holidays are October 1st, National Day, celebrating the founding of the People's Republic of China and May 1st, which is International Labor Day. Almost all Chinese get the two holidays off and many take the opportunity to travel. If you want to avoid the crowds, fly, but it should get a lot less busy towards the end of the week.
Hainan has great weather year-round. Although a little more rainy during the winter months (December - February), it is possible to enjoy the ocean pretty much every day of the year. The summers (June - September) can get very hot and humid so make sure to spend plenty of time in the water in order to cool off. Temperatures are usually between 27 and 33 °C during this time, except for the mountainous areas. In winter, temperatures rarely drop below 10-15 °C.
Haikou (the capital of Hainan) and Sanya (the beach 'capital') are the two main towns on the island and both have airports. Haikou Meilan International Airport (HAK), about 25 kilometres from Haikou, has a small number off international flghts to Bangkok, Taiwan, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Macau and daily domestic flights to Beijing, Guangzhou, Kunming, Nanning and Shanghai.
The main means of transport on Hainan is bus. Good roads link the biggest towns and cities, but they'll quickly turn into dirt roads if you stray away from the most used ones. There aren't any passenger trains.
Taxis are a common means of transport on Hainan, although few drivers will speak English. The standard metred rate is RMB10 for the first 3 kilometres and RMB2 for every km after that.
Most of the hotels in Hainan are geared towards Chinese tour groups. A few youth hostels have started to pop up but most of them are Chinese hotels just saying they are youth hostels. The asking price for a room range in price from RMB100 to RMB200 depending on the quality. It is always possible to bargain except during a national holiday because that is the only time of year these hotels fill up. Therefore getting a cheap room might be hard to find but finding a good deal on a good room is very easy to find.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Hainan searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Hainan and areas nearby.
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