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Flying might be the first choice of transportation when you plan a trip to China. However, China’s railway network takes you by surprise, once you step aboard. By the year 2013, China's total mileage of railways opened to traffic topped 100,000 km, leaving only a handful of cities rail-less. Because trains go to places that are not on any flight route, and because high-speed trains can travel at speeds reaching up to 300 km/h, a train trip in China is literally flight without wings.
Related Link: High-Speed Rail in China
If you are a train connoisseur, train travel in China, especially on one of the high speed trains, is definitely one thing that will make you drool. After the retirement of the old green-painted, non-A/C and slow trains, train stations and the railway system are now new and modern throughout. A train ride can be an interesting experience with its state-of-the-art HSR speed and good service.
According to feedback from thousands of our customers, business travelers favor the Business Seat (商务座) and 1st Class Seat (一等座) for its premium services, while a 2nd Class Seat (二等座) strikes budget travelers as a delightful surprise. (What does Seat Class look like in China? ) Costing only half or 1/3 of the equivalent airfare, high speed trains meet the standards of a flight: fast, safe, comfortable, and punctual.
Outside the giant window at your side, you can watch how the landscape changes from lush greenery to forests of skyscrapers. This perk is sadly unavailable for flight travel even if you are sitting by the cabin window. With its spacious luggage and seat area, you can stretch out your legs and kick back without worrying about a “Hey man, watch out!” behind your back, which you might experience while flying.
On high speed trains you have a great chance to talk to fellow Chinese passengers, and also to have a real Western-style bathroom (not the small uncomfortable lavatory on an aircraft). The HSR system is seamlessly connected to other urban transportation in big cities. The high-speed train station is also often a metro hub or even an airport, in Shanghai’s case. Just get out of the train and within minutes you are on a subway to the city center.
If you are not so crazy about trains, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try, now would it? Get yourself a ticket from Beijing to Shanghai; and just see how it goes!
China refers to any trains with an average speed of 200 km/h or higher, as High-Speed Railway (HSR). You can identify different types of high-speed trains by their ‘letter prefixes’. ‘D’ trains are those with their highest speed below 300km/h; (动车); G-trains or ‘bullet trains’ (electric multiple units — EMU, Chinese: Gaotie高铁) can go much faster than this.
The high speed rail network consists of eight main arteries running through the country both north–south and east–west, of which the most important ones are the Beijing–Shanghai Line, the Beijing – Hong Kong Line, the Beijing–Harbin Line, and the Xuzhou–Lanzhou Line. Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou are the biggest hubs, but by the end of 2013 most provincial capitals and municipalities had been connected to the high-speed network, except for Xinjiang, Qinghai, Tibet, Hainan, and Inner Mongolia.
If you are not flying, the high-speed train is the best way to go. Providing three seat types: Business Class, 1st Class, and 2nd Class, a ticket on the high-speed rail network gets you real Western standards: spacious and comfortable seats, clean and bright compartments, polite and English-speaking crew, totally non-smoking clean air, not to mention the money you save from a flight. One thing to keep in mind, though: some cities have built their high speed rail stations far from downtown, and you need to ensure you arrive an hour before departure.
For those who like to take things slower, there are various other options. For instance: C-trains (Ultra-fast short-distance intercity trains), K-trains (‘fast’ trains), T-trains (common express trains) and Z-trains (’direct’ trains running overnight).
Not necessarily as fancy as the HSR, normal trains serve just fine if you are not picky and willing to be a bit adventurous. All the trains have air conditioning. For intercity routes lasting less than 8 hours, a hard seat is a value winner. A sleeper ticket, no matter whether soft or hard, is worthwhile for long-distance rides of more than 8 hours.
We encourage you to book your tickets at least 7 days ahead. To further enhance your train travel experience, we suggest that you check out further information in our China Guide pages.
When you read a ticket, please pay attention to the Chinese character and pinyin after a place name. Directions: north, south, east, and west are printed in pinyin on tickets instead of English, respectively Bei, Nan, Dong, and Xi. For example Beijing South Railway Station will be printed as Beijing Nan () on a ticket (see the second ticket below), Beijing East is showed as Beijing Dong (), Beijing West (Beijing Xi, ), and Beijing North (Beijing Bei, ). Please make sure you are going to the correct train station. How to Read Train Ticket?
China Railway Corporation announced a new change on its booking policy on November 15. Starting in December passengers can book train tickets online 60 days ahead of their travel date (more information here). This new change enables passengers to book tickets early for the Spring Festival travel rush season (from Feb 4 to Mar 15, 2015), during which there will be a great demand for train tickets with over 300 million passengers travelling by train.
China Highlights would recommend passengers to make travel plan early for the rush season now that the the booking horizon is extended and tickets often sell out quickly. If you book tickets for the rush season, we will do our best to get your ticket. We also ensure 100% payment refund if we are not able to offer the ticket.