General Introduction

Trains link all main cities and towns together in China. With its development, train tour becomes popular among people as it is a real grass-roots experience for foreigners to roam around the vast country.

There are four different types of trains in China: multiple unit (MU), express, fast and slow trains. MU train numbers always begin with D, such as, D31; express train numbers with T, such as, T98; fast trains with K, such as, K888; slow train without letter preceding them, such as, 1044 or 1088. MU trains are the best ones, which are characterized by high speed and excellent condition. Both express and fast trains have air conditioning and service is generally good. Though slow trains are much cheaper and most do not have air conditioning.

China trains usually have 4 classes: soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat, and hard seat. Short distance trains normally have just hard class seats. Long distance trains have soft & hard sleepers. And soft seats are not always available for passengers.

Soft Sleeper

Soft Sleeper

Most long-distance trains have only one soft sleeper car, which has 9 comfortable 4-berth compartments with full bedding provided. You can lock the door before going to sleep. Besides, passengers are offered slippers, teacups, free tea bag, and a thermos bottle with hot water, even soap and a toothbrush. Western style washrooms and toilets are located at both ends of the compartment. Very few trains in China have deluxe soft sleeper class, which has eight 2-berth compartments with private toilet inside, but the cost is quite high. Therefore, soft sleeper tickets are more easily available.

Hard Sleeper

Hard Sleeper

There are 66 beds in one car with 11 open compartments (without doors), arranged in bays of 6 (upper, middle and lower) on one side of the aisle, with pairs of seats on the other side of the aisle for daytime use. A blanket and pillow is supplied, while the mattress is a bit hard. Some hard sleeper cars are not that clean and noisy.

Soft Seat

Soft Seat

It is only available on some short-distance trains between major cities, but it is a better way. Usually it is much easier to reserve a seat. The seats are comfortable, and the trip can be pleasant.

Hard Seat

Hard Seat

This is the most common and cheapest way to travel. There are 110 seats in each car. The greatest numbers of Chinese travelers use this class due to its low cost. Sometimes more tickets than seats are sold. These seats tend to be crowded and are not always very clean. This class is not comfortable and recommended to international tourists.

It can sometimes be difficult to obtain tickets at times of peak travel, such as, May holiday (1st-3rd May), National day (1st-7th October) and Spring Festival (between Jan and Feb). Tickets can also be hard to obtain at the start of summer and winter vacations when students travel between home and school.

Bathroom (toilet)

Bathroom (toilet)

The big issue while traveling by train in China is the bathroom on board. At each end of cars, there is one toilet (one is western seat-style in soft sleeper car). As your train trip progresses, the toilet may get very dirty and smelly, in some cases you have to hold your nose to step in, get everything done ASAP and leave. Usually the toilets at soft sleeper class look better. Please do not forget to bring your own toilet paper since it is not available at bathroom.

Staff:

The staff working on trains has very little knowledge of English except international trains. If possible, please prepare a phrase book for the emergency. In fact, more and more Chinese people, especially younger generations can speak English. Many of them will love to talk with their foreign travel companions on the way.

Meals:

There is a dining car next to soft sleeper car in most trains, while most food is Chinese style. Usually the non-stop trains like Beijing/Shanghai and Beijing/Xian plus those international trains serve some simple Western food. Most of domestic trains do not have an English menu. Passengers (like many Chinese do!) can also challenge their stomach to buy the boxed meals carried by a food trolley during mealtime - USD2-3 /meal.

Luggage:

Clients are suggested to take their luggage with them while traveling by train. You can leave the suitcases in your compartment. Baggage space is limited, so it is better to take smaller and handy luggage rather than large suitcases. Many train stations have lots of stairs up and down before you get into the train. The cases with wheels will be helpful to your way out.

 

It is the ticket sample. When you get it you should check the departure time and the boarding train station.

ticket sample