There is No Perfect World Holiday Calendar – Always Ask Locals

This past Saturday and Sunday in China were work days while Monday-Wednesday are public holidays for the Dragon Boat Festival.

In February I had no hope of getting in to the Natural History Museum in London because of school half-terms.

National History Museum at Half Term 1

Last fall my Rio de Janeiro plans had to be changed because certain areas of Brazil celebrate Black Consciousness Day (Dia da Consciência Negra) with businesses closed on November 20.

When I arrived in Guyana needing a same-day Suriname visa one July there was a holiday that no public source that I had consulted listed.

I can continue rattling on through religious holidays and local festivals. The point is that web resources such as Wikipedia generally only do well with official public holidays in countries. Local websites can help, for instance China Briefing is my annual China holiday bible, yet those can just as easily be incomplete or out of date.

So for time-sensitive plans I have no suggestion other than old-fashioned pick up the phone or email legwork contracting locals you know, your hotel, etc. to avoid empty streets and locked doors. The flip side is you might stumble into some fun festival.

Readers, have I missed any great holiday resource? What are your unexpected holiday stories?

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  • Helen

    Went to Arles, France by train out of Marseilles on November 1st. That’s All Saints Day. All of the things we went to see were closed as were most of the shops and restaurants. This was of course noted in the guidebook. Still a nice day out though!

  • Amy

    In Oaxaca in March we ran into many small parades with school children in costumes (birds, butterflies and bees were popular), their parents carrying signs and banners, and mariachi bands. The parades were to celebrate the first day of spring. It was fun to be wandering around and suddenly come upon these groups of 50-100 people and the police officers blocking traffic for them (often while dancing along!).

  • Muerl

    Happened to us twice. The first time was in the Azores, thought I have been told that most weekends are saints fest weekends in the summer.

    We stayed in a small town of Povoação in Eastern St Miguel and while the Grocery stores were closed more or less the whole time we were there, but we had a wonderful time because basically everyone was relaxing. There was a small town parade with the local marching band, a fun fair kinda thing in the main square, with a hotdog vendor. We wound up missing the public dinner, but we see fireworks and later on in the day The barrista who had sold me espresso and beer the previous weekend took me out to the only true bar and we talked about the Azores and the USA.

    Second time it happened to us was we were in Cambodia. It was Bon Om Touk or the Water Festival celebrating the change in direction of the Tonle Sap River.

    Most of the tourist attractions were open, but they were all mobed by CAMBODIAN tourists. The only thing that I tried to go to and was closed was the Kingdom Brewery, which billed it self as the first craft brewery in Asia. However it was an amazing experience to walk in the streets mobbed with out of towners. It was similar to being in Boston on the 4th of July for example. Random Dancing, Ballons for sale, amazing street food, fireworks, but we were the only white people in the street.

    I got the best looks from the kids on their father’s shoulders looking about a foot up at me and I was left wondering if I was the tallest person they had ever seen.

    I have liked it a lot mostly because it was always awesome to be somewhere when nearly everyone was on vacation. The uniformed Cambodian Army officers joking while their children run around Banteay Srey was a good example of the good vibe. Also everyone who was on a summer vacation to the beach setting off fireworks in Sihanukville 😉

  • @Muerl – Azones have been on my radar for a trip with my wife, what are your thoughts on it?