May is certainly a favorite month in China. You can pretty much depend on it being warm and balmy while the heat and humidity of the summer have not yet set in. The country has greened up and the flowers are in full bloom. You often get some clear blue skies in the major cities and there's just an overall good feeling in the air.
Northern China, such as Beijing, is beautiful. You'll be relatively dry and the temperatures are usually very comfortable. Across central and southern China it will still be damp, but the temperature will have warmed to such a degree that it won't feel uncomfortable, unlike the cold, wet winter and early spring. You will still need your rain gear, but you should have plenty of nice days.
May sees the opening of tourist season in places like Tibet and Northern Gansu Province where it has warmed to such a degree that touring is comfortable. But the crowds don't truly start kicking in until later in the summer when schools are out. So it is still a nice season in which to travel.
May Weather by Major City
- Beijing: The average daytime temp is 80F (26C), and the average number of rainy days is 6.
- Harbin: The average daytime temp is 70F (21C), and the average number of rainy days is 10.
- Xi'an: The average daytime temp is 67F (20C), and the average number of rainy days is 10.
- Shanghai: The average daytime temp is 74F (23C), and the average number of rainy days is 15.
- Guangzhou: The average daytime temp is 85F (30C), and the average number of rainy days is 19.
- Guilin: The average daytime temp is 72F (22C), and the average number of rainy days is 20.
May Packing Suggestions
By May, you can lose a few layers or at least make them lighter. You won't need much cold-weather gear unless you're going to high altitudes.
- Traveling in the North and Northwest: You should find it very comfortable during the day. You still might need a warmer layer for cooler evenings.
- Traveling in Central China: There will be many rainy days but it should be quite warm. Bring layers if you get cold in air-conditioning but you won't need anything too warm or heavy. You will need a good rain jacket and shoes that you don't mind getting wet.
- Traveling in the South: As with April, it'll be warm during the day, even hot, and humid. Bring light clothes that will feel comfortable under rain gear. You may want a heavier layer at night, but light pants will probably be the warmest thing you'll need.
Pros and Cons of Visiting China in May
- May is good because you will enjoy the comfortable temperatures and nice weather while avoiding the peak tourist season in the summer months.
- On the downside, there is rain across most of China except the North and far West, but that's just how it goes. You can't avoid rain if you're going to see the country, so pack an umbrella.
- Labor Day (or May Day) used to be a week-long holiday, but with just one day off now, it shouldn't be a big problem to travel during that time. You may find larger crowds at tourist sights and worse traffic.