International Labor Day in China

xishuangbanna botanical garden
••• The water lilly pond inside the Xishuangbanna botanical gardens. Photo by Sara Naumann. All rights reserved.

Chinese workers and students get a few days off for the May 1 holiday period. Depending on when May 1 falls, people might get an "extension". So, for example, if May 1 is a Saturday, the public will get an extension and have Monday, May 3 off.

Travel during National Holidays

Many workers may extend the weekend to make it a longer holiday which can translate into millions of Chinese traveling domestically and internationally.

Travel fares double and triple and advance bookings must be made weeks, even months ahead for international travel. Hoards of tour groups flock to the major tourist destinations ofChina, so you can forget having a quite moment to ponder how the Great Wall was built.

May Holiday Travels

If you can avoid it, it's advisable not to travel domestically during the week around May 1st. According to 2004 statistics, 90 million tourists were expected to travel; in 2006, China’s main tourist destinations saw a 17% increase in visitors. Four million tourists traveled to Shanghai alone.

But If You'll Be There Anyway...

However, if you are in China, you'll find the weather in May is usually very nice, if a little wet. Government offices and banks will be closed for a few days around May 1, but almost everything else, from tourist spots to shops, restaurants and even the post office will be open for business.

My kids' schools usually take a whole week off around the May holiday period so this becomes our spring break. Because I have some flexibility and don't have to travel exactly on the dates of the holiday, we have been able to go on a number of great trips. Here are my suggestions for travel during the May holiday:

  • Xishuangbanna - My kids and I traveled to Xishuangbanna in Yunnan Province over the May holiday in 2015. This region of central-southern Yunnan is tropical and lush - totally different from Shanghai. We relished in the greenery and vegetation and my kids loved exploring the gardens at Yourantai outside Jinghong as well as the sky walk at Wang Tian Shu. We did not find the area or places we visited particularly crowded at the time we went but we were careful to avoid areas popular with domestic tourists.
  • Wuyishan - this is another great area to explore in spring. We actually visited Wuyishan in April of 2014 but I think waiting a few weeks for better weather (e.g. over the May holiday) would be great. The nature in this famous for tea region in Fujian Province is beautiful and there are many mountain and scenic areas to explore.
  • China's West - if you've got even more time, take a full week or more to go out to China's western reaches where you'll find even fewer tourists and great weather:
    • Xinjiang - you might find it's still quite cold, especially if you're planning a trip up the Karakoram Highway but the rest of the region will be warmer and you'll get to see the desert in spring.
    • Lhasa & the Tibetan Autonomous Region - May is when travel season in Tibet really opens up but it's still not so overly popular that you'll be fighting tourist hoards.
    • The Silk Road - Any dots along the Silk Road will take you away from the more popular places to travel over the May Holiday period. Try a road trip on the Hexi Corridor, the strip of ancient Silk Road that connects Lanzhou with Dunhuang.
  • Hainan Island - while this is a popular time to go, if you book in advance, you might be able to find some deals. The beaches in Hainan are great to visit in early May. It's not overly hot yet but you'll still get to enjoy beach style and swimming at any of the numerous Hainan resorts such as the Intercontinental Sanya.