Labor Day holiday has thousands waiting at China border

By Tu Nguyen   April 27, 2024 | 04:38 am PT
Labor Day holiday has thousands waiting at China border
People waiting to travel to China through the Lao Cai border gate. Photo courtesy of the Van Nam Group Tour
Thousands of people at the northern province of Lao Cai’s border gate have had to wait for four hours, twice as long as usual, to enter China as tourists on Saturday, the first day of the five-day Reunification Day and Labor Day holiday.

Hoai Thanh, from Hanoi, was shocked to see lines of thousands of people at the Lao Cai border gate on Saturday morning. It was the first time that she had purchased a four-day tour package to China.

The tour agency said she would need to be arrive at the border gate by 5:30 a.m., two hours before the gates open, in order to complete immigration procedures.

Despite arriving that early, Thanh still had to wait for four hours before she could cross the border. She said the hot weather did not help, especially for children and the elderly.

Most tour groups traveling to China by land on Saturday were also instructed to be stationed at around 5 a.m., just like Thanh.

Hoang Tuyet, a representative of the Van Nam Group Tour, estimated that over 4,000 tourists would pass into China through the border gate on Saturday, around 1.5 times more than during the Lunar New Year holiday.

"Tour guides stayed up virtually all night to keep their spots. Groups had to split over multiple areas to line up and cross the border," she said.

Tuyet said the number of China tours by land have skyrocketed this holiday season.

She predicted this surge would continue over the next few years thanks to the tours’ more affordable prices compared to flights, and the wider availability of opportunities to experience the local culture.

Groups with visas and moving by high-speed trains get priority before those who use travel passes, in order to make sure the trains stay on schedule. The earliest group that got to do so boarded around 8:45 a.m. Certain groups with travel passes crossed the border at around 1 p.m.

Luu Thi Thu, vice director of Hoang Viet Travel, said groups usually begin traveling at midnight or 1 a.m. from Hanoi, and the earliest group crossed the border at around 9:30 a.m. Many other groups got stuck in traffic jams at the border instead. The latest group to cross did so at around 4 p.m.

Minh Tung, a tour guide for a group from Hanoi, said they purchased train tickets to Dali with departure times of around 12:30 p.m. If they could not cross the border in time and missed the train, they would need to pay up for cars to bring them to the destination.

Chinese travel agencies specializing on crossing the land border said the number of tourists would be highest on April 27, before gradually dropping to normal levels on April 30.

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