02 February 2016

Tips from a Tour Guide: Travel Pro Tips for Chinese New Year!

Home  /   Blog  /   Tips from a Tour Guide: Travel Pro Tips for Chinese New Year!

Planning on Chinese New Year travel this year? Here’s what you need to know about travelling in China and Hong Kong during its most significant holiday – from an expert tour guide with the insider tips!

christine buffalo tour guideChinese New Year might be one of the coolest times of year to explore Asia, but it can also be the most frantic! Make the most of this spectacular holiday without making rookie travel mistakes in the process. Our top Hong Kong tour guide is here to help! Our top tour guide Christine – a Hong Kong local and bona-fide travel expert during the holiday – shares her top Chinese New Year travel tips for getting the most out of a visit this time of year.

Book Ahead!

“Chinese New Year throughout Asia – but especially my native Hong Kong – is quite the affair! Imagine booking tickets for something like the Super Bowl or the World Cup – you’ve got the book early to guarantee a seat! For events like the International Chinese New Year’s Parade and fireworks display, book your tickets as early as you possibly can. A front-row seat is perhaps one of the most magnificent cultural displays you’re likely to see anywhere in the world, so it’s worth the prior planning!”

Hong Kong's Lunar New Year celebrations are by far the best in the region - and worth the crowds!
Hong Kong’s Lunar New Year celebrations are by far the best in the region – and worth the crowds!

Pack some red!

“Locals in Asia believe that the colour red is lucky, which is why you see the colour so much throughout the region during the new year. Red symbolises happiness and prosperity, so it’s the colour of choice for the festivities. To get in on the action like a true local, don your brightest crimson during the lunar new year!”

Head out with a guide.

“Asia’s biggest cities are usually a lot quieter during the Lunar New Year, especially in Hong Kong, Vietnam and China. That said, there are a lot of beautiful festivities and celebrations throughout local areas of cities, and guides are your best bet to find them (since they are a bit more hidden away than the tourist attractions). Make sure you make arrangements beforehand, though, since a lot of us will head home to spend the new year with our families!”

Red envelopes filled with "lucky money" make great gratuity during the holiday
Red envelopes filled with “lucky money” make great gratuity during the holiday

Buy a few red envelopes.

“This is a really fun way to participate in the Lunar New Year like a local. In China and other countries that celebrate Chinese New Year, we believe that ‘lucky money’ presented in a special red envelope is lucky for the person who receives it. As a charming gesture to locals, put some cash into these envelopes and give to people like waiters, service professionals and tour guides – they’ll be so appreciative of your gift, and it’s such a fun way to be a part of the local culture.”

Avoid wearing black or white.

“In China and a few other Asian countries, the colours of black and white are worn during funeral services. Because locals become a bit more superstitious around the New Year, wearing these colours as the new year approaches will signal to locals that there’s bad luck to be avoided! Swap out the neutral threads for something bright, like red!”

Arrive Early for great shopping!

“Though my experience with this is in Hong Kong, arriving a few days before the big day throughout Asia is a good idea. Why? Because just like the few days before Christmas, Hong Kong and Asia are chock-a-block with fantastic promotions and sales! For those heading to Asia for a bit of shopping, arriving about a week prior to the lunar new year promises some really great deals. Plus, most stores will close between the 1st and 5th days of the lunar new year, so you want to arrive ahead of time.”

Spectacular celebrations make Chinese New Year well worth an Asian holiday
Spectacular celebrations make Chinese New Year well worth an Asian holiday

Try ‘pun choi’, a special Chinese New Year treat!

“In Hong Kong and other major cities in Asia, there are some special dishes that you’ll only find during the holiday. Keep an eye out for a special Chinese dish called ‘pun choi’, which is a bowl filled with items like lotus root, mushrooms, roasted goose and pork and lots of seafood. This is served in villages at New Year’s banquets, but in the cities you’ll usually only find this dish during the new year, so enjoy it while you can!”

Visit a temple before the New Year begins.

“Locals believe that the New Year promises blessings and good luck – so long as you make a visit to the temple to pray for it just before it starts. If you’re travelling with a guide, this is a really fun local experience to try during this time of year. Ask your guide to show you how locals will pray at temples, and try it for yourself. Who knows? Maybe some good luck will come your way!”

If you plan to travel locally, do it before the first day of the year!

“Just before the new year, Chinese families traditionally dine on a meal together – which means that most of us won’t start our own travels until the 1st day of the year. Trust me, it gets busy! If you plan to travel between major Chinese cities like Hong Kong, mainland China or Macau, try and do it before the first of the year to avoid the worst of the crowds!”

Planning to travel in Asia during the Lunar New Year? Head out with an expert local guide to make the best of the experience! Contact us to make it happen.