Traveling by Train in China
China's high-speed rail network has developed rapidly over the past few years. As a result, China now has the longest high-speed rail network in the world, accounting for more than two-thirds of the commercial high-speed rail tracks in the world, and most big cities are connected by high-speed bullet trains.
China's high-speed trains are super fast and comfortable, making them a good alternative to flying when traveling in China, especially as domestic flights are often subject to delays. This article offers a quick guide to traveling by train in China.
Types of train and ticket
China's high-speed rail network includes G, C, and D class bullet trains. G and C class trains usually travel at a maximum speed of 300 km/h but some newer G class trains can reach top speeds of 350 km/h. The D class bullet trains travel at a maximum speed of 250 km/h.
In addition to high-speed trains, China also has Z, T, and K class trains that travel at speeds of 120-160 km/h.
G and C class high-speed trains usually has three different tiers of seats: second class, first class, and business class. Second class carriages have five seats in a row, while first class carriages have four seats in a row and more legroom. Business class seats offer the highest level of comfort and space. In addition, first class carriages provide a snack box and business class carriages provide one meal. Business class travelers also have access to VIP waiting room and don't need to queue for boarding.
Most overnight trains offer hard and/or soft sleeper carriages and some may also provide deluxe soft sleepers. Although sleeping on a train is far less comfortable than in a hotel, it saves both time and the cost of one night in a hotel, making it a good choice for budget or time-conscious travelers. Be aware that sleeper train tickets for many routes are in high demand and you will need to book very early to get a ticket.
Is smoking allowed on trains in China?
Smoking is completely banned on G, C, and D class trains, so if you are taking one of these high-speed trains, you won't be bothered by second-hand smoke. On Z, T or K class trains, however, smoking is allowed in the area in between two carriages. As a result, you may be able to smell the smoke in the carriage, especially if your seat or bed is near the ends of a carriage. If you hate the smell of smoke and are worried about the health risk but have to take a Z, T or K class train, we recommend that you buy a soft sleeper or deluxe soft sleeper which ensures an enclosed cabin and can minimize the amount of smoke that gets in.
Trains between China's Top Travel Destinatinos
Beijing-Xi'an-Shanghai Triangle: There are many high-speed trains traveling between Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai. It takes around 4.5 hours for G class Renaissance trains to travel between Beijing and Shanghai or between Beijing and Xi'an and 5.5-6 hours for normal G class trains. The journey between Xi'an and Shanghai takes 6-7.5 hours on a normal G class train.
Train to Zhangjiajie: At the time of writing, there is no high-speed train to Zhangjiajie. If you plan to do a Yangtze River cruise, then you can take an ordinary train from Yichang to Zhangjiajie after you disembark from your cruise, which takes around 5 hours. Otherwise, we suggest flying into Zhangjiajie.
Train to Chengdu: The high-speed rail line between Xi'an and Chengdu commenced operations on 6 December 2017. Travel time between the two provincial capitals is reduced from 13 to less than four hours.
Train to Guilin and Kunming: There are a few high speed trains traveling to Guilin and Kunming. If you are traveling from Guangzhou to Guilin, the high-speed train is a good option since it only takes around 3 hours. If you are traveling from another city in China, particularly Beijing or Xi'an, we suggest flying to Guilin or Kunming since even high-speed trains from major cities take more than 9 hours.
Train to Tibet: There is no high-speed train to Lhasa. The ordinary train from Beijing to Lhasa takes just over 40 hours i.e. you have to spend two nights on the train.
It is often said that traveling to Tibet by train gives you enough time to adjust to the high altitude since you ascend gradually, however, on the other hand, you may not sleep well on the train, which may add to your altitude sickness. In addition, most travelers have limited time when traveling in China, so we usually suggest that our guests fly to Lhasa and stay in Lhasa for one or two days to adjust to the altitude before traveling to higher altitude destinations.
Train ticket prices and children discount
Taking the Beijing-Xi'an G class high-speed train as an example, a second class seat costs 515.5 CNY, a first class seat costs 824.5 CNY, and a business class seat costs 1627.5 CNY (similar to the full price of a Beijing-Xi'an economy class flight, around 1820 CNY). Be flexible with your plans; you may find that flight tickets are cheaper than the high-speed train during particularly quiet periods.
Hard sleeper tickets are usually the cheapest. For example, the Z class train's hard sleeper between Beijing and Xi'an costs only 254.5 CNY.
Children under 1.2m and younger than 12 years old can travel by train for free without their own seat/berth. One adult can bring one child for free. Children between 1.2m and 1.5m need to buy child tickets which enjoy a price reduction of half the seat ticket price. Ticketed children will have their own seat or berth.
Where and how to buy train tickets
After booking your train ticket online, you can go to any train station or authorized ticket office to collect your ticket by showing your order number and your passport.
You can also go to a railway station or an authorized ticket office to buy a ticket in person. No matter where you go to buy your tickets, remember to bring your passport.
The China Guide also provide booking service for train tickets. Please fill up the form below and one of our agent will contact you and book the ticket for you.
Train Ticket Booking Form
1. We charge 5 dollars per transaction plus 5% percent of the whole price as our service fee.
2. We will give you a full refund if we cannot book the tickets you want.