China has the busiest railway network in the world. According Wikipedia, China has 24% of all global railway traffic.
The Chinese network is covering a total length of 78,000 kilometres. Only the USA and Russia have larger networks.
China train tickets
Most convenient is that the hotel in China book a train ticket for you. Delivery of the ticket is at the hotel reception.
If you have an email address of the hotel, you could contact the hotel and ask them if they can make a reservation for a train ticket.
If you are staying more nights in the hotel you could ask the hotel reception when you checkin.
The hotel will charge you some money for this service. How much depends of the hotel. Likely between 20-100 Yuan per ticket.
We ordered one time in our 4star hotel in Hangzhou train tickets and they charged us 40 Yuan per ticket.
If you go to the train station yourself you will have the cheapest price. A third option is to look for one of the train ticket agencies in the city.
These offices ask a small surcharge (5 Yuan) but probably they are not easy to find or recognize.
It is also possible to make a China train booking through the internet but these tickets can be quite expensive (up to several hundreds Yuan extra per ticket).
Children in mainland China under 1.10m travel free, children between 1.10-1.40 pay half fare and children over 1.40m pay the full fare.
China train station
Tickets at the train station are sold in the ticket office. The ticket office is most times separated from the station building with its waiting rooms and platforms.
At the train station you will see English signs to the ticket office. Inside the ticket office is sometimes a special ticket window for foreigners.
Summer 2009 we traveled through China but only in Shanghai we saw clearly this counter for foreigners.
In Beijing the foreigners counter seems to be in the main building near the softseat waiting room.
If you don't see this foreigner counter with English signs go to the information desk. (it is written in English)
Good chance that the people behind the information desk don't speak English but they can point you which counter you have to queue for buying a ticket.
The queues are sometimes long but you don't have to wait very long. We didn't need to show our passports to buy tickets.
I allways wrote down the destination, class and a global time of departure.
Chinese airports and metro stations have nowadays lots of signs in English which make them quite easy to use.
However railway stations in China didn't improve much in guiding foreign tourists.
All passengers who enter the station building have to put their luggage through scanning machines just like the airport.
People who buy a softseat/softsleeper ticket and foreigners are allowed to stay in the firstclass waitingroom.
The waitingroom for the secondclass is crowded and hot in summer.
The passengers have to wait in the waitingroom till their train number on the electric information board is green.
When its green the passengers can go to the platform from where the train is leaving.
On the platform are the numbers of the train carriages written on the ground.
Do not throw your train ticket away after boarding the train: you have to show it when you exit the train station.
China train reservations
It is possible to make train reservations 4 till 20 days in advance.
If you book your train tickets 2-3 days days before you leave it should be okay. If it is a short busy connection with dozens of trains every day
(like Hongkong-Shenzhen, Shenzhen-Guangzhou or Shanghai-Suzhou) you can buy tickets at the train station and leave in a short while.
Exceptions are Chinese holidays and special events like the Olympic Games. In those cases make a reservation as soon as possible.
During our trip through China in summer 2009 we bought our train tickets at the local railway stations without many problems.
We could not allways buy the train tickets we wanted.
For example: tickets for the first class soft seat Nanjing-Beijing were not available for the other day so we decided to take the second class soft seat.
Tickets for the night train Beijing - Qingdao (popular beach resort) were sold out and not available within 48hours so we took the plane.
China train classes
There are 4 different classes in the Chinese trains:
- hard seat: cheapest fare but crowded
- soft seat: comfortable
- hard sleeper: 2x3 beds: 66 beds in carriage
- soft sleeper: 2x2 beds
The softsleeper has 4 beds in a closed compartment. Two beds are used as couch in the day: the other two are folding beds.
The hardsleeper is not closed and you will have contact with the other passengers in the carriage.
Sheets, pillows and blankets will be provided.
Shanghai Railway Station - the ticket office
food & drinks
In many Chinese trains is a dining car where you can eat a hot meal or buy some snacks and drinks.
Small foam boxes with a basic hot meal (rice/noodles) are sometimes sold in the train.
On longer train journey's it's the best to take some food, drink and vegetables with you.
Hot water is free available on the train.
Don't forget either your own cup/tea/coffee/noodles/fork/spoon/chopsticks and toiletpaper.
high speed train Beijing <-> Shanghai
June 2011, rail authorities in China told that the high-speed railway linking Beijing to Shanghai will open later this month.
Ticket prices will range from 410 Yuan to 1.750 Yuan ($63 to $270), depending on the speed of the train and the seat category .
Trains running at 250km/hour will cost 410 Yuan (second class) and go up to 650 Yuan (first class).
Trains running at 300km/hour will cost 555 Yuan (second class) and go up to 1.750 Yuan (business class).
Tickets can be purchased online.
Daily 90 pairs trains will run between Beijing and Shanghai (1318km) with a speed of 250-300km/hour.
The fastest travel time will be 4 hours and 48 minutes.
Cheapest ticket is the hardseat in the 1461-train with a journey of 23 hours.
Chongqing Railway Station - inside the ticket office (August 2009)
Chongqing Railway Station - waitingroom second class
Compare this room with a picture of the waiting room soft seat first class passengers.
Shanghai Railway Station Ticket Office
Counter number 10 was the 'english speaking counter'
China Tibet train
The Tibet China train opened in July 2006 and is the highest railway in the world.
Check the link for more information.
- Beijing - China distances
- Beijing - Chengdu (2200km - 26/31hrs)
- Beijing - Fuzhou (2200km - 19/33hrs)
- Beijing - Guangzhou (2300km - 20/22hrs)
- Beijing - Guilin (2150km - 23/27hrs)
- Beijing - Harbin (1300km - 8/11hrs)
- Beijing - Lhasa ( 4000km - 47hrs)
- Beijing - Shanghai (1460km - 11/23hrs)
- Beijing - Tianjin (135km - 30min)
- Beijing - Xian (1200km - 11/13hrs)
Beijing train stations
- Beijing Railway Station . Downtown and close to Tiananmen Square. Trains to Harbin, Tianjin, Qingdao, Shanghai, Moscow. Connected by metro/underground, line 2.
- West Train Station Trains to Chengdu, Guilin, Hong Kong, Lhasa, Xian.
- Beijing South Station (Tianjin high speed train, the daytime bullet train from Shanghai)
- Beijing Airport No train station but a metro line to Beijing downtown. Fare is ¥25.
Shanghai train stations
- Shanghai Railway Station. Trains to Beijing, Chengdu, Harbin, Kowloon, Qingdao, Xian. Metro 1,3 and 4.
- Shanghai South Railway Station. Trains to Hangzhou, Jiashan, Jinshan and Nanchang. Metro 1 and 3.
- Shanghai West Railway Station. Trains to Hangzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo and Yantai.
- Pudong International Airport Maglev High-Speed Train to Shanghai Pudong. 30km in 7 minutes. Fare is ¥50.
Chongqing Railway Station - entrance of the station
Chongqing - Chengdu bullet train
This train took us to Chengdu Railway Station.
First class tickets were not available that day so we bought second class tickets.
Compared with the first class: the secondclass carriage has 2+3 seats next to each other. There is less space for the legs.
Passengers also have more luggage and it is more noisy in the carriage than in the first class.
Travel time with this train to Chengdu was less than 3 hours. Fare was about 95 Yuan.
The speed was not higher than 210km/hour. China is working on a special high speed train network.
pictures train stations in China
- Shenzhen train station
- Beijing airport express
- Beijing central station
- Shanghai railway station
- Guangzhou East Railway Station
- Chengdu Railway Station