The largest annual migration on Earth is happening for Chinese New Year — these incredible photos show what the journey is like

Chinese New Year has begun!

Around the world, 1.5 billion people — that's nearly a fifth of everybody — are expected to celebrate two weeks of festivities that begin on February 16.

And in China, the Lunar New Year, or Spring Festival, sees hundreds of millions of rural migrant workers that spend most of the year living in major cities travel home to spend time with loved ones.

Together they will make nearly 3 billion trips in a little over a month. It is the largest annual human migration on Earth.

28 PHOTOS
Largest annual migration on Earth in photos
See Gallery
Largest annual migration on Earth in photos
In 2018 hundreds of millions of people in China will travel home to see family and celebrate the Lunar New Year.
All up, it's expected that 2.98 billion trips will be made between February 1 and March 12.
During this period some people will travel back to their family's homes by car while those traveling by plane will benefit from 30,000 extra flights that are being put on.
But trains remains popular. 390 million people will travel by rail this holiday period, with bullet trains making some journeys 75% faster.
Not all trips will be fast though. These travelers are on train trip from Beijing to Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan province, which lasts 26 hours.
There aren't enough seats for everyone so some people have to stand for the entire journey.
But services, and food options, have improved over the years. This year travelers can order KFC online which train attendants will then deliver to their seat.
Some lucky people sleep in cabins.
Though many sleep in their seats or in the restaurant car.
Others get some shut eye at stations while they wait for connecting trains.
Current temperatures are dropping below freezing which means travelers — particularly little ones — need to wrap up.
Travelers can have a lot of luggage that sometimes includes traditional gifts and foods that are only available during the Spring Festival.
Fireworks are also popular — but this year Beijing banned them in the city center in an effort to reduce air pollution and the inevitable injuries that occur.
Some of the queues are immense.
Part of the reason for the mass migration is that hundreds of millions of people have moved away from their villages to earn more money.
However, people in China can't just move wherever they want. There is a system called hukou which restricts the number of urban residency permits the government gives out each year.
Even when rural migrants obtain a permit to live in a city, they don't have access to health, education or social services. And neither do their children, so millions of children are left back home with their grandparents to attend school.
But this year, it's believed many of the migrant workers who traveled home won't return to Beijing at the end of the holidays.
Since November 2017, Beijing has not only evicted tens of thousands of residents — mostly migrant workers originally from rural areas — but it has demolished their homes. In some cases people were given no warning.
While the evictions began as part of a safety campaign following a fire, many see the efforts as part of an explicit plan to arbitrarily cut the city's population by 2 million people by 2020.
But for now, China's migrants will be enjoying countless meals and celebrations with their loved ones over the holidays.
Migrant workers ride motorcycles in the rain ahead to Guangdong.
Passengers wait to board trains at Shanghai's Hongqiao Railway Station as hundreds of millions of Chinese travel home for Lunar New Year in Beijing and Shanghai.
Passengers have their tickets checked as they board a train during the Chinese Lunar New Year travel rush at a railway station in Jiujiang.
People wait to enter Guangzhou Railway Station in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China, February 2, 2016. 
People run to enter Guangzhou Railway Station in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China.
A passenger looks from inside a train travelling from Shanghai to Shijiazhuang at the station in Wuxi after migration for the annual Chinese Lunar New Year and Spring Festival began.
Mainland Chinese visitors rest outside a shop at a shopping district in Hong Kong.
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

See Also:

SEE ALSO: North Korea and South Korea met in the 'truce village' of Panmunjom — these extraordinary photos show what it's like

51 PHOTOS
Lunar New Year
See Gallery
Lunar New Year
LIUZHOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 15: Folk artists perform waist drums to welcome Lunar New Year at Rongan County on February 16, 2018 in Liuzhou, Guangxi Province of China. The year of the dog is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
MOUNT EMEI, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Citizens burn incense sticks to celebrate the Lunar New Year, marking the Year of the Dog, on February 16, 2018 in Mount Emei, Sichuan Province of China. The Lunar New Year falls on February 16 this year. (Photo by Liu Zhongjun/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)
MOUNT EMEI, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Citizens burn incense sticks to celebrate the Lunar New Year, marking the Year of the Dog, on February 16, 2018 in Mount Emei, Sichuan Province of China. The Lunar New Year falls on February 16 this year. (Photo by Liu Zhongjun/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)
MIANYANG, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Local residents in festive costumes perform dragon dances together to welcome Lunar New Year on February 16, 2018 in Mianyang, Sichuan Province of China. The year of the dog is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
MIANYANG, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Local residents in festive costumes perform dragon dances together to welcome Lunar New Year on February 16, 2018 in Mianyang, Sichuan Province of China. The year of the dog is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
MIANYANG, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Local residents in festive costumes perform dragon dances together to welcome Lunar New Year on February 16, 2018 in Mianyang, Sichuan Province of China. The year of the dog is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 16: A general view of the eight-metre, multi-coloured, illuminated dog lantern at the Sydney Opera House on February 16, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. The giant lantern, created by Chinese-Australian artist Song Ling, will usher in the Year of the Dog as part of the Lunar Lanterns exhibition for the Chinese New Year Festival. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
JAKARTA, INDONESIA - FEBRUARY 16: Residents pray at the Petak Sembilan temple, as they welcome the Chinese Lunar New Year, on February 16, 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Chinese New Year is an occasion for families to gather and celebrate. 2018 is the Year of the Dog according to Chinese zodiac. (Solo Imaji) (Photo credit should read Solo Imaji / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
JAKARTA, INDONESIA - FEBRUARY 16: Residents pray at the Petak Sembilan temple, as they welcome the Chinese Lunar New Year, on February 16, 2017 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Chinese New Year is an occasion for families to gather and celebrate. 2018 is the Year of the Dog according to Chinese zodiac. (Solo Imaji) (Photo credit should read Solo Imaji / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
Chinese-Filipinos venerate the Medicine Buddha at the buddhist Seng Guan Temple in Manila, Philippines during Chinese New Year celebrations on Friday, February 16, 2018. Chinese around the world are celebrating this year's Year of the Dog, according to the Chinese lunar calendar. (Photo by Richard James Mendoza/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
JINAN, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Students wearing Han costumes read classics to welcome Lunar New Year at a temple on February 16, 2018 in Jinan, Shandong Province of China. The year of the dog is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
FUYANG, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Folk artists perform dragon dance to welcome Lunar New Year on February 16, 2018 in Fuyang, Anhui Province of China. The year of the dog is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
JINAN, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Students wearing Han costumes read classics to welcome Lunar New Year at a temple on February 16, 2018 in Jinan, Shandong Province of China. The year of the dog is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Children fly kites during Lunar New Year festivities on Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang on February 16, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / KIM Won-Jin (Photo credit should read KIM WON-JIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Young women in traditional Chinese costumes hold lanterns as they take part in celebrations marking the first day of the Lunar New Year in Yangon's Chinatown district on February 16, 2018. The 2018 Lunar New Year fell on February 16 across much of Asia, marking the start of the Year of the Dog. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
A fire breather blows flames as a troupe performs a traditional dragon dance during celebrations marking the first day of the Lunar New Year in Yangon's Chinatown district on February 16, 2018. The 2018 Lunar New Year fell on February 16 across much of Asia, marking the start of the Year of the Dog. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
A fire breather blows flames as a troupe performs a traditional dragon dance during celebrations marking the first day of the Lunar New Year in Yangon's Chinatown district on February 16, 2018. The 2018 Lunar New Year fell on February 16 across much of Asia, marking the start of the Year of the Dog. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of a dragon dance troupe wait to perform in celebrations marking the first day of the Lunar New Year in Yangon's Chinatown district on February 16, 2018. The 2018 Lunar New Year fell on February 16 across much of Asia, marking the start of the Year of the Dog. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
People take part in celebrations marking the first day of the Lunar New Year in Yangon's Chinatown district on February 16, 2018. The 2018 Lunar New Year fell on February 16 across much of Asia, marking the start of the Year of the Dog. / AFP PHOTO / YE AUNG THU (Photo credit should read YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images)
A young Exiled Tibetan looks on during celebrations marking the Lunar New Year or 'Lhosar' in Kathmandu on February 16, 2018. Lhosar is the New Year of the Tibetans which falls in February or March, and is marked with feasts, family gatherings and the exchanging of gifts. / AFP PHOTO / PRAKASH MATHEMA (Photo credit should read PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)
Cambodian-Chinese pray at a temple to mark the start of the Lunar New Year in Kandal on February 16, 2018. While not a holiday in Cambodia, the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in China and a number of countries in east and southeast Asia, began on February 16 welcoming in the 'Year of the Dog'. / AFP PHOTO / TANG CHHIN Sothy (Photo credit should read TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images)
Cambodian-Chinese burn incense sticks and make offerings at a temple to mark the start of the Lunar New Year in Kandal on February 16, 2018. While not a holiday in Cambodia, the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in China and a number of countries in east and southeast Asia, began on February 16 welcoming in the 'Year of the Dog'. / AFP PHOTO / TANG CHHIN Sothy (Photo credit should read TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Members of the Chinese community perform a lion dance as they welcome the Lunar New Year of the dog at the China town area in Kolkata on February 16, 2018. The Lunar New Year marks the start of the Year of the dog on February 16. / AFP PHOTO / Dibyangshu SARKAR (Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Cambodian-Chinese place various sizes of incense sticks into an urn at a temple to mark the start of the Lunar New Year in Kandal on February 16, 2018. While not a holiday in Cambodia, the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in China and a number of countries in east and southeast Asia, began on February 16 welcoming in the 'Year of the Dog'. / AFP PHOTO / TANG CHHIN Sothy (Photo credit should read TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images)
Cambodian-Chinese burn incense sticks and pray at a temple to mark the start of the Lunar New Year in Kandal on February 16, 2018. While not a holiday in Cambodia, the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday in China and a number of countries in east and southeast Asia, began on February 16 welcoming in the 'Year of the Dog'. / AFP PHOTO / TANG CHHIN Sothy (Photo credit should read TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of the Chinese community prays a the community temple as they welcome the Lunar New Year of the dog at the China town area in Kolkata on February 16, 2018. The Lunar New Year marks the start of the Year of the dog on February 16. / AFP PHOTO / Dibyangshu SARKAR (Photo credit should read DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP/Getty Images)
People walk past a kiosk selling Chinese-style decorations and T-shirts for the Lunar New Year in Jakarta on February 16, 2018. The 2018 Lunar New Year fell on February 16 across much of Asia, marking the start of the Year of the Dog. / AFP PHOTO / BAY ISMOYO (Photo credit should read BAY ISMOYO/AFP/Getty Images)
People pray at a Chinese temple to mark the start of the Lunar New Year in Kuta near Denpasar on Indonesia's Bali island on February 16, 2018. The Lunar New Year is celebrated in many parts of the predominantly Muslim country of 250 million people where Chinese heritage took roots through ancient transmigration. The 2018 Lunar New Year fell on February 16 across much of Asia, marking the start of the Year of the Dog. / AFP PHOTO / SONNY TUMBELAKA (Photo credit should read SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images)
ZHOUKOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Citizens pray with incense sticks to celebrate the Lunar New Year, marking the Year of the Dog, at the Taihao Temple on February 16, 2018 in Zhoukou, Henan Province of China. The Lunar New Year falls on February 16 this year. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
ZHOUKOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: A man with his daughter burns incense sticks to celebrate the Lunar New Year, marking the Year of the Dog, at the Taihao Temple on February 16, 2018 in Zhoukou, Henan Province of China. The Lunar New Year falls on February 16 this year. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
QIQIHAR, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: A Chinese worshipper takes flower to pray happiness and good health at the Dacheng Temple on February 16, 2018 in Qiqihar,China. Chinese New Year is being celebrated around the world, marking the beginning of the Fire Rooster.The New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar and ends with the traditional Lantern Festival on the Fifteenth day. (Photo by Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
QIQIHAR, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Chinese worshippers light incense to pray happiness and good health at the Dacheng Temple on February 16, 2018 in Qiqihar,China. Chinese New Year is being celebrated around the world, marking the beginning of the Fire Rooster.The New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar and ends with the traditional Lantern Festival on the Fifteenth day. (Photo by Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
QIQIHAR, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Worshippers light incense to pray for happiness and good health at the Dacheng Temple on February 16, 2018 in Qiqihar,China. Chinese New Year is being celebrated around the world, marking the beginning of the Fire Rooster.The New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar and ends with the traditional Lantern Festival on the Fifteenth day. (Photo by Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
This photo taken on February 16, 2018 shows a Chinese-Indonesian man praying on the eve of the Lunar New Year in Surabaya, East Java province. Chinese-Indonesians are celebrating the Lunar New Year, the most important holiday for a number of countries in east and southeast Asia, as they mark the first day of the Year of the Dog. / AFP PHOTO / JUNI KRISWANTO (Photo credit should read JUNI KRISWANTO/AFP/Getty Images)
HANOI, VIETNAM - FEBRUARY 16: A shop owner burns ghost money to mark the start of the Lunar New Year at the Old Quarter on February 16, 2018 in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Chinese Lunar New Year also known as the Spring Festival, which is based on the Lunisolar Chinese calendar, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)
HANOI, VIETNAM - FEBRUARY 16: People watch a firework display to mark the Lunar New Year celebrations of the Year of the Dog at the Old Quarter on February 16, 2018 in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Chinese Lunar New Year also known as the Spring Festival, which is based on the Lunisolar Chinese calendar, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day. (Photo by Linh Pham/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - South Korean athletes and team officials attend a traditional ceremony marking the Lunar New Year, at the South Korea house in the Gangneung Olympic Park on February 16, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Ed JONES (Photo credit should read ED JONES/AFP/Getty Images)
Indonesians of Chinese descent prays with incense and joss sticks for good fortune to mark the Chinese Lunar New Year at Amurva Bhumi Temple in Jakarta, Indonesia on Thursday midnight, 15 February 2018. The Chinese Lunar New Year, also called the Spring Festival, falls on 16 February 2018, the first day of the Year of the Dog. (Photo by Afriadi Hikmal/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
over 20,000 light and lanterns decoration for Chinese New Year at kek lok si temple, Georgetown Penang on February 15, 2018, in Balik Pulau, Malaysia. The Chinese lunar New Year will welcome the year of dog tomorrow. (Photo by Shaiful Azre/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Residents of Chinese descent worship during the Chinese New Year at Amurva Bhumi Temple, Jakarta, on February, 16.2016. Chinese people celebrate the Lunar New Year 2567 by performing prayers as a form of gratitude for all fortune and expecting a better life in the year of the land dog. (Photo by Dasril Roszandi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
GUANGZHOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 15: Illuminated decors are seen during the Spring Festival on February 15,2018 in Guangzhou, China. The Chinese Lunar New Year also known as the Spring Festival, which is based on the Lunisolar Chinese calendar, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day.� (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GUANGZHOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 15: Canton tower displays colorful lighting during the Spring Festival on February 15,2018 in Guangzhou, China. The Chinese Lunar New Year also known as the Spring Festival, which is based on the Lunisolar Chinese calendar, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day.� (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GUANGZHOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 15: People enjoy the Spring Festival on February 15,2018 in Guangzhou, China. The Chinese Lunar New Year also known as the Spring Festival, which is based on the Lunisolar Chinese calendar, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day.� (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GUANGZHOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 15: People enjoy the Spring Festival on February 15,2018 in Guangzhou, China. The Chinese Lunar New Year also known as the Spring Festival, which is based on the Lunisolar Chinese calendar, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day.� (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
GUANGZHOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 15: People enjoy the Spring Festival on February 15,2018 in Guangzhou, China. The Chinese Lunar New Year also known as the Spring Festival, which is based on the Lunisolar Chinese calendar, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the lunar year and ends with Lantern Festival on the fifteenth day.� (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A woman holds a bunch of balloons for sale at Lungshan Temple as people visit to mark the start of the Lunar New Year in Taipei on February 16, 2018. The Lunar New Year fell on February 16 across much of Asia, and marks the start of the Year of the Dog. / AFP PHOTO / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
Local residents gather at Lungshan Temple to mark the start of the Lunar New Year in Taipei on February 16, 2018. The Lunar New Year fell on February 16 across much of Asia, and marks the start of the Year of the Dog. / AFP PHOTO / SAM YEH (Photo credit should read SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images)
HEFEI, CHINA - FEBRUARY 15: A citizen prays with incense sticks to celebrate the Lunar New Year, marking the Year of the Dog, at a temple on February 15, 2018 in Hefei, Anhui Province of China. The Lunar New Year falls on February 16 this year. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
QIQIHAR, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: A Chinese worshipper takes flower to pray happiness and good health at the Dacheng Temple on February 16, 2018 in Qiqihar,China. Chinese New Year is being celebrated around the world, marking the beginning of the Fire Rooster.The New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar and ends with the traditional Lantern Festival on the Fifteenth day. (Photo by Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
QIQIHAR, CHINA - FEBRUARY 16: Worshippers light incense to pray for happiness and good health at the Dacheng Temple on February 16, 2018 in Qiqihar,China. Chinese New Year is being celebrated around the world, marking the beginning of the Fire Rooster.The New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is celebrated from the first day of the first month of the Chinese lunar calendar and ends with the traditional Lantern Festival on the Fifteenth day. (Photo by Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
MEDAN, INDONESIA - FEBRUARY 15: The Chinese burn incense and see firework at the Lunar New Year celebration at Pak Pie Hut Cou temple on February 15, 2018 in Medan, Indonesia. The Chinese celebrate the Lunar New Year, in the world's largest Muslim country. Lunar New Year falls on Feb 16 this year, marking the Year of Dog. PHOTOGRAPH BY Lana Priatna / Barcroft Images (Photo credit should read Lana Priatna / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.