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I'm planing on traveling to Shanghai and Beijing (and maybe some cities in between) just before Chinese New Year. I've read online that it can be very hard to move around and book hotels around this time, but accurate information on what "this time" is seems hard to find.

Is it realistically possible to travel on the east coast of China during New Year? One week before? 2 weeks before? How about after new year?

Basically: when does the busy time start and when does it end?

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1st of January is should still be out of scope and fine to travel.

The peak time is during the week of Chinese new year, in 2015 this will be 19th to 25th of February. However, as Wikipedia confirms, the period of high traffic is not only restricted to those dates but stretches beyond that, usually 40 days, namely 15 days before and 25 days after the festival.

So to make sure, you should avoid all of February and most of March in 2015. I cannot stress enough how much you should avoid this time for travel. Why?

It won't be just busy. Even if you get a ticket in a train, don't expect to be able to sit down. Don't expect that a reservation in a hotel will actually guarantee you a room. Do not expect to be able to see whatever you want to see, since there will be a wall of people standing between you and whatever you came for.

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