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China train guide

Quick Guide on China Train Travel

If you’re looking for an affordable and comfortable way to get around China, train travel is the way to go. Getting train information and cheap train tickets has never been easier. Online train ticket booking makes it easy for travelers to browse through China’s train timetable, compare train fares, and look for ticket availability. Once you’ve found a suitable train, you can book online and pick your tickets up at the train station or get them delivered to your home or hotel. Train tickets can be booked online a minimum of 35 minutes and a maximum of 60 days before departure.

How to Choose Train Types

When you’re buying China train tickets online, you’ll notice that the journey duration differs depending on which type of train you choose.

China train types can be recognized by their letter codes. G, D and C trains are high-speed trains, while Z, T and K are slower or overnight trains.

High-Speed Trains:

China’s high-speed trains run between Chinese provincial capitals and first-tier Chinese cities. G trains (high-speed trains, standing for gāotiě, 高铁) are China’s bullet trains—the fastest trains with a maximum speed of 400 km/h. Tickets for these trains are the most expensive.

D trains (bullet trains, dòngchē, 动车) are the second fastest trains in China with speeds of up to 250 km/h. D trains only stop at major cities, with some being non-stop.

C trains (chéngjì, 城际) refer specifically to the high-speed EMU trains that run short distances between cities like the 200-kilometer, 30-minute Beijing to Tianjin route.

Regular Trains:

Z trains (direct express trains, zhídá, 直达) run to all major Chinese cities and only stop at major train stations. As these are usually overnight trains, hard and soft sleeper train tickets are available. Many also offer deluxe soft sleepers. Top speed: 160km/h

T trains (express trains , tèkuài, 特快) are slower but cover longer distances. These trains head to all of China’s main cities, stopping at large Chinese towns on the way. Hard and soft sleepers as well as hard and soft seats are available when you make your train reservation. Top speed: 140km/h

K trains (fast trains, kuàisù, 快速) are the slowest and oldest of China’s trains, making the most stops. Both hard and soft seats and hard and soft sleepers are available. Top speed: 120km/h

Trains with just numbers are the slowest trains in China, running at a top speed of 100 km/h, e.g. the 2063 from Qinhuangdao to Linfen.

How to Choose Seat Class

High-speed trains in China have a few different classes of seats that are generally very comfortable but pricier than overnight trains. Overnight trains in China have hard and soft seating in addition to hard and soft sleeper options. While they're slower and make more stops than high-speed trains, overnight trains are great for travelers on a budget.

Business Class – Offered only on certain G (high-speed) trains, these are the most comfortable and expensive seats on Chinese trains, with three reclining leather seats in each row – two on one side and one on the other side of the aisle. Business class China train seats are ideal for travelers wanting to fully relax or rest during the journey.

VIP Class – Some G trains have VIP seats instead of business class seats, which are not as luxurious but are still very comfortable, with reading lamps and video facilities.

First Class – With four seats in a row and partially reclining chairs, first class China train seats are comfortable, with enough leg room for passengers. Power outlets, a pillow and a small table also come with each seat.

Second Class – These seats are the most affordable on China’s high-speed trains. Power outlets are provided. While not as spacious as other seats, second class seats are still a good option for passengers wanting a convenient journey.

Sightseeing Seats – Located in the Business Class area, sightseeing seats on Chinese trains are next to large windows and provide travelers with great views.

Soft Sleepers – Available on some long-distance overnight D trains, soft sleepers on Chinese trains consist of four bunk beds in one enclosed compartment. Deluxe soft sleepers of two beds per compartment are also available.

Facilities on both G and D trains include dining carriages and snack carts. Bathrooms are generally clean.

Hard Seats – Hard seats on Chinese trains are not actually hard, but are only thinly padded and the carriages are usually quite crowded. Passengers can smoke in these cars. Air-conditioning is not provided. As tickets for hard seats are cheap, short journeys are fine but the lack of comfort makes long-distance trips hard.

Soft Seats – Slightly more comfortable than hard seats, soft seats on Chinese trains are arranged in booths, with overhead luggage compartments. These carriages tend to be cleaner and less crowded than hard seat carriages. As air-conditioning is provided, these seats are bargains for travelers on a tight budget.

Hard Sleepers – These unenclosed bunk beds each come with a pillow, sheet and blanket. Like hard seats, hard sleepers on China’s trains are not actually hard, but offer less room than their “soft” alternatives. There are six beds per compartment, three on each side. Aside from the lack of privacy and the inconvenient positions of the beds (your bed, whether it's a lower bunk, middle bunk or top bunk has to be navigated with other passengers in mind) these sleepers are a cheap option for travelers wanting to rest during the journey.

Soft Sleepers – Each soft sleeper compartment in Chinese trains contains four beds – two on each side – that come with comfortable bedding and wider berths. Because there are two rather than three bunks on each side of a soft sleeper compartment, soft sleeper tickets offer considerably more space than hard sleepers. Over-bed and under-bed storage is available. In addition, each bunk bed has an individual LCD screen.

Deluxe Soft Sleeper – Each compartment has two beds, with a table and closet. Bathroom facilities are comparatively clean. Some deluxe soft sleeper compartments include an in-room sink and a shower cubicle.

How to buy train tickets

Unless you can read Chinese, there are only two ways to make train reservations in China:

— Online train ticket booking with a travel agency (up to 60 days before departure).

— At the train station / local ticket agency with your passport (up to 58 days before departure).

How to collect train tickets

If you made a train reservation online, you can:

— Have your train tickets delivered to your home or hotel in China;

— Pick your tickets up at the train station / local ticket agency with your passport and ticket pickup number.

How to read train tickets

When reading your train ticket, please take note of the Chinese characters and Pinyin printed next to your departure/arrival city.

Directions (North, South, East, and West) appear in Pinyin (Bei, Nan, Dong, and Xi, not English. For example, Beijing South Railway Station will be printed as Beijing Nan (北京南) on a ticket, Beijing East is showed as Beijing Dong (北京东), Beijing West (Beijing Xi, 北京西), and Beijing North (Beijing Bei, 北京北). Please make sure you are going to the correct train station.

Train Reviews

  • Peddlers everywhere and no air conditioner in the waiting room. The condition of this station is a shame for a city like Shenzhen.

  • There are trains from Yiwu to Shenzhen West. I've been there once but It's not as well known as Luohu Station and Shenzhen North.

  • It took me a while to find the station after I got out of the taxi. It wasn't as conspicuous as other modern buildings around. Shenzhen is a green city, including the station.

  • It's lively but not messy here. Good memories for me!

  • It's in Nanshan. There are many trains but the transportation there is not very convenient.

More Reviews >

Plan your trip

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Cheap Travel by China’s High-Speed Rail: Safe, Convenient and Comfortable

If you’re looking for cheap travel in China, China’s high-speed rail is the way to go. China’s high-speed railway system connects more than 300 cities across China, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Over 16,000 km (9,940 mi) long, China boasts the largest high-speed train network in the world. With speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph), train travel in China is a fast, convenient, cheap and comfortable option. Book your China bullet train ticket now! High-speed D train tickets and G train tickets can be booked a minimum of 35 minutes before departure and a maximum of 60 days before departure.

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