6 Ways to Maximize Your Holidays as an Expat Worker in China

6 Ways to Maximize Your Holidays as an Expat Worker in China
Nov 10, 2020 By Cian Dineen , eChinacities.com

Although many expat teachers working in China enjoy long summer holidays and winter breaks, most of the rest of us have very limited vacation days compared to what we’re used to back home. Typically a new hire will be offered five days of annual leave in addition to national holidays, which will only increase to 10 days after 10 years at the same company. With enough foresight and planning, however, you can still enjoy plenty of getaways. Here are six ways to maximize your holidays as an expat worker in China.

Maximize Your Holidays as an Expat Worker in China
Source: Luke Richardson

1. Combine Public Holidays with Annual Leave

If you only have a few annual vacation days, you may think you’re limited to one trip a year. But before you resign yourself to a trip home at Christmas and nothing else, take a look at the Chinese calendar for public holidays. Many Chinese public holidays are based on the lunar calendar, so change date from year-to-year. Additionally, the government sometimes adjusts the dates further to give people more days off in a row. This will nearly always be accompanied by employees having to work make-up days the weekend before or after a national holiday, but longer string of days off means you can go farther and do more.

If the dates fall kindly, it’s sometimes possible to tag a few days of annual leave and a weekend onto a short public holiday to magic up a much longer break. If you’re smart about it, you might be able to take three or four week-long holidays in a year despite a paltry annual leave allowance.

2. Book Time Off Around Public Holidays Well in Advance

Speaking of public holidays, if you do plan to book any additional time off either side, make sure to do so well in advance. Otherwise, you may find those holiday dreams dashed when you’re told your colleagues got in there before you.

Chinese workers often seek to combine all their annual leave with public holidays, in particular at Chinese New Year and National Week, so that they can enjoy extended visits to their hometowns to see family. It’s also likely your foreign colleagues will be planning extended trips of their own around these times, perhaps to nearby beach destinations in Southeast Asia.

So, get in early and book your time off. The earlier, the better. If you’re concerned that your travel dates may change closer to the time, remember that it’s a lot easier to adjust existing annual leave dates than it is to book them late. Likewise, if you do get your dates confirmed, book your trains, planes and hotels as early as possible. When 1.4 billion people all have a holiday at the same time, things get booked up quickly.

3. Ask Your Boss if you Can Work Public Holidays

As travel can be a bit of a chore during the big Chinese national holidays, it’s arguably preferable to travel outside of them if you can, when everything is cheaper and less crowded. Most Chinese employers don’t allow it because they technically have to pay you overtime for working a public holiday, but some may actually prefer having someone in the office to steer the ship while everyone else is away.

If you agree with your boss that you will work for normal salary in return for being able to take time off outside of national holidays, you’ll face less in-office competition in booking time off and find everything less crowded and less expensive when you go.

This will obviously negate the ability to tag your annual leave days onto public holidays to make them stretch further, but for some, travel without the crowds is more than worth it. If you live in a city with a lot of migrant workers, you may also enjoy spending the national holidays at home when everyone else has cleared out to visit their families.

4. Turn Visa Runs into Mini-Breaks

While anyone working in China longterm should, by the letter of the law, be on a Z Visa, there are still some expats working on business or even tourist visas. This means they have to leave and return to China every few months. These so-called visa runs are a thorn in the side of many expat workers in China, something to be dreaded rather than enjoyed. While the hassle of leaving the country on a schedule and the pain of actually applying for new visas can’t be avoided, there’s no reason why you can’t have fun while you’re at it.

Whether it’s a visa run to Hong Kong or a complete visa renewal in your home country, be sure to make the most of that time. Don’t view it only as a chore to be ticked off, but rather as an excuse to do some sightseeing or catch up with old friends. For example, if you need to renew your visa in Hong Kong on a Monday, head there on a Friday evening and make a long weekend out of it. If you need to head back to your home country to get a new visa, leave yourself enough time to catch up with friends and family.

5. Turn Overtime into Holiday Time

China is well known for its overzealous overtime practices. Whether it’s factory managers doing quality control on the production line, marketing execs preparing for launch events, or teachers on school trips on the weekend, many of us find ourselves working extra hours one way or another. Although it depends greatly on the company you work for, there is sometimes a way to turn all this overtime into holiday time.

While most companies pay time-and-a-half for overtime or dish out big bonuses at Chinese New Year, some offer days off in lieu instead. Lieu days won’t give you any extra hours off overall, but they’re a great way to squeeze a couple of sneaky trips out of the calendar year.

Rather than just sitting at home on a random Friday, let your owed days accumulate until you have enough to take a trip. Working a few extra hours during the week can soon add up to a long weekend away in China. And if you’re willing to work the odd Saturday here and there, it won’t be long before you find yourself with enough days to go a little farther afield.

6. Get Out of the City on Weekends

This final tip requires no building up of overtime or calculating of public holiday calendars, it’s simply a matter of mindset. Your weekends may seem to go by in a flash, but in reality there’s plenty of time to take a short break somewhere nearby.

These days, there are flights and high-speed trains running to all over the country, making domestic travel quick, easy and (generally) reliable. Domestic ticket prices are typically very affordable, and if you search around, you can usually get a flight or train heading out early Friday evening and coming back late Sunday night. If you really want to make the most of your weekends, you could even come back Monday morning and go straight to work or take a half day either side.

Admittedly, traveling on the weekend can get tiring and you wouldn’t want to do it all the time, but once in a while, it’s a great way to improve your quality of life as an expat worker in China.

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Keywords: expat worker in China


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Living in a tier-one Chinese city has many perks, one of which is its proximity to and transportation links with numerous incredible holiday destinations.

Apr 08, 2021 10:43 Report Abuse



No time

Dec 17, 2020 08:10 Report Abuse



Never ever take a risk by accepting a job if you are on a tourist visa.

Nov 14, 2020 19:47 Report Abuse



Maximizing weekend by traveling is a good idea. Public transport is so convenient, in particular the fast speed rail connects most cities and small town in China.

Nov 12, 2020 07:49 Report Abuse



Good article, Chinese nationality usually plan their holidays during festive season. Try to avoid at peak season. Train ticket can only be booked and purchased one month in advance.

Nov 11, 2020 09:39 Report Abuse



This year mid autumn festival coincidentally around China's national day, it's a long week off.

Nov 11, 2020 09:33 Report Abuse



You are so boring

Nov 25, 2020 19:10 Report Abuse