With the annual spring travel rush fast approaching, one billion people are preparing to celebrate with millions of planned journeys. International SOS and Control Risks offer advice and tips to ensure travellers remain healthy, safe and secure during the Chinese New Year festival.
- Over 3 billion trips expected on roads, trains, planes and ships, meaning that solid precautions and preparation are needed to avoid travel disruption and ensure a healthy and safe holiday season;
- With the large crowds and an increase in security, travellers should be prepared for longer waiting times at major transportation hubs.
James Shi, Client Liaison Director at International SOS and Control Risks, said, “Medical and security emergencies can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time. Taking extra precautions during China’s busiest travelling period will improve safety and give peace of mind.”
Alongside the large crowds, travellers in China can also expect spectacular fireworks displays across the country. Despite media reports suggesting that the sales of fireworks at Chinese New Year had fallen last year by around 32%, and by 37% the previous year, the numbers of injuries caused by fireworks every year is still significant.
Dr Zhang Shu, Medical Director, International SOS China, added, “Of course it is important to enjoy Chinese New Year with family and friends, but health and safety need to be taken into account at all times. During the celebrations, if you are outside fireworks are often being set off all around you. It’s important to keep yourself and those with you at a safe distance. Once you have set a firework alight, do not approach it and never let children light fireworks. Once you have finished with fireworks, water them down to ensure there is no further risk.”
Tips to keep in mind:
- Preparation is essential – prior to going anywhere during spring festival, ensure you know your schedule well. Check the local news and any travel security alerts you may have received from your assistance provider. If you plan on travelling, ensure that you have copies of all essential travel documents including passport, insurance documents and any details of medication. Please note that during the holiday season, hospitals and clinics in China will have reduced staff and services, so please check the schedule of available services in your local hospital.
- Travel will be a challenge – if you plan on moving around during Chinese New Year, book tickets well in advance. Tickets for planes, trains and other forms of transport will be sold out quickly and will become more expensive as the holiday approaches. Due to the number of people travelling expect delays and set aside more time to make a journey. Long queues and big crowds can be expected at the security checks of railway stations in major cities. Additionally, major airports will experience bigger crowds and extra time should be planned for immigration and security checks.
- Stay alert in crowds – where possible, avoid crowded places and if you do find yourself in a crowd, remain vigilant, with a planned exit route if necessary. Theft and petty crimes can be prevalent in crowds so be on your guard and make sure your possessions and valuables are in a safe place.
- Avoid Petty Crime – despite the increased police presence during the festival season, petty crime is a concern in crowded places in China, especially at this time of the year. Common crimes to be aware of are theft of cell phones, wallets and jewellery, confidence scams, fake train tickets, counterfeit bank notes and the theft of bank or credit card information. Travellers are advised to monitor and guard their own belongings carefully, take precautions when using the ATM and other cash/credit devices, not to expose signs of wealth, and not to trust strangers easily.
- Watch out for fireworks – when lighting fireworks never put any part of your body over the firework and move immediately to a safe distance after the firework has been ignited. Never let children light fireworks and don’t try to re-ignite or handle them if they don’t ignite properly. Finally, once you have finished, water down all remaining fireworks to ensure there is no risk of fire or unplanned explosions.
- Be careful on the roads – every year over 1.24 million people die globally in traffic accidents. During the Chinese New Year the numbers of cars and people on the roads will dramatically increase at the beginning and end of the festival, and at popular tourist spots. To ensure safe road travel, make sure the vehicle you are travelling in has been serviced recently and that brakes, lights and tyres are all in good condition. If you are driving, get a good night’s rest before travelling, ideally eight hours sleep, and finally, always wear a seatbelt!
- Be vigilant of taxis – even for locals, taxis in China can be a problem. Generally, it is more convenient for foreign visitors to pre-arrange a pick-up. From city to city, the practices of getting a taxi can vary, with shared taxis and detours not being uncommon. However if you must take a taxi, ensure that you have the destination address written down and tell others about your journey. Always insist that the driver uses a meter and never use an unlicensed taxi.
- Stay Healthy – Chinese New Year falls every year in the midst of the influenza season in the Northern Hemisphere, so to ensure you have a fun-filled festival, it is important to take some steps to keep the flu at bay. The most effective way to avoid influenza is to get a flu shot. The vaccine only lasts one season, so you need a new one each year. Regularly wash your hands and minimise touching your face. If soap and water is not easily accessible, make sure to carry an alcohol-based hand sanitiser and use it frequently. If you do get ill, remember to keep hydrated and rest and wear a face mask to protect others.
The International SOS and Control Risks alliance brings together the extensive global network and expertise of both companies. International SOS is the world’s leading medical and travel security risk services group. Control Risks is the world’s leading global risk consultancy firm.