Lunar New Year is one of the most significant celebrations for East and Southeast Asian cultures. It's a time of celebration when people gather to eat food, exchange gifts, and watch street performers and processions. It's also the biggest global travel event, with billions of people travelling to celebrate with their friends and family.
This year, the Lunar New Year festival starts on 10 February, New Year's Day. It typically runs for 15 days, from the year's first new moon to the first full moon.
It's a thrilling and culturally rich time to travel, but it can also have downsides. If you're travelling to or through a destination that celebrates the festival, do your research and know what to expect.
Where is Lunar New Year Celebrated?
The festival is a major event in destinations across East and Southeast Asia, including:
Smaller celebrations also happen in destinations that have large Asian immigrant populations.
Each culture celebrates differently. Before you travel, take some time to learn about the traditions and cultural practices of where you're going. Find out if there's anything you should or shouldn't do.
How will it affect my trip?
The Lunar New Year travel rush is notorious.
Even if you're not travelling to a destination that celebrates Lunar New Year, the travel rush can impact your trip. So it's important to be aware and plan ahead.
The rush typically starts in late January and lasts until early March.
Flights and accommodation
The number of people travelling during the next 2 months can cause congestion and delays at major transit hubs such as Singapore and Hong Kong and in destination airports. Plan for delays and allow plenty of time to navigate large crowds and long queues.
Accommodation can be more expensive and harder to find during the festival period. Make sure you secure your bookings before you travel rather than finding hotels on the go, or you could end up with nowhere to stay.
Public transport is often overwhelmed by the number of locals travelling to be with family for the festival. Overcrowding can be a safety hazard and increase the risk of petty crime. Avoid overcrowded public transport where possible. If you must use it:
- keep your valuables secured and stay alert to your surroundings
- don't wear bags where you can't see them or put valuables in your pockets
- plan your trips ahead of time, know where your stops are and try to stay close to the exits
- if you're travelling with others, have a plan in case you get separated by large crowds.
The days following New Year's Eve are often public holidays in destinations celebrating Lunar New Year. Local businesses may be closed, including tourist attractions, shops and restaurants. Do your research and find out ahead of time if your planned activities will be affected.
In some destinations, it may even be hard to find essentials during the days before and after New Year's Day. Ask locals for advice and stock up on food, drinking water and medication if needed.
Prices often increase for the duration of the festival. Keep that in mind when budgeting your trip.
Safety and security
Lunar New Year celebrations often attract huge crowds. Unfortunately, large crowds can attract both petty crime and more serious threats. In some destinations, terrorism is a risk.
If you're participating in the celebrations, stay aware of your surroundings. Be mindful of your personal security.
- Read the travel advice for your destination. Find out if there is a risk of crime or terrorism.
- Keep your valuables safe and secure. Use money belts and theft-proof bags. Only carry as much cash as you need.
- Avoid overindulging in alcohol. Drunk tourists are easy targets for criminals.
- If you see anything suspicious, tell local authorities.
Before you go
- Read and subscribe to the travel advice for your destination and your transit locations.
- Research how your destination celebrates Lunar New Year, how it might affect your trip, and how you may be expected to behave.
While you're travelling
- Respect the culture of the destination you're in. Take the opportunity to immerse yourself during a culturally significant celebration.
- Be flexible and prepared for travel congestion, delays and cancellations. Have contingency plans.
- Be aware of local laws, particularly those around drinking and photography in public spaces.