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China's New Year Holiday Travel Includes Passing Pop Quiz

A couple says goodbye before leaving to visit respective families for the Spring Festival in Beijing. More than 2.9 billion passenger trips, including 332 million on the country’s rail networks, are expected by China’s Ministry of Transportation to be made over the New Year period.

A couple says goodbye before leaving to visit respective families for the Spring Festival in Beijing. More than 2.9 billion passenger trips, including 332 million on the country’s rail networks, are expected by China’s Ministry of Transportation to be made over the New Year period.

Photographer: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

In China, getting a ticket home for the Lunar New Year can feel a bit like winning the lottery. First, there’s competition for plane, train and other passenger seats for almost 3 billion voyages. Then there’s the quiz to prove you’re not a Web robot.

Beijing hairstylist Yang Mingyue learned how high the odds are in November, when she stayed up past midnight to buy train tickets online as soon as they became available. After finding the best fares for the 20-hour trip home to Heilongjiang province, Yang hit a snag: cryptic questions she had to answer correctly before her booking would be accepted.