Taking an overnight train is a good way for traveling in China, as it is cheaper than taking a flight and also a kind way of saving your time. You can disembark to your destination after a night’s sleep on a train.
As you need to sleep on a train, washing and brushing teeth can’t be avoided. There is no toiletry provided on a train. Therefore bring a cup, a toothbrush, toothpaste and a washcloth with you. Aside from the toilets, there is also a place with sinks and a mirror for washing and brushing teeth.
Sandals – it is very important for taking an overnight train, especially when you bought a top sleeper. Even though you bought a lower sleeper, wearing sandals is much more comfortable for a long-time train travel.
A long-sleeved lightweight cardigan – All sleeper compartments on a train in China are equipped with air-conditioning. Sometimes it can be too cool in summer on a train as the air-conditioning is working too strong. Wearing a long-sleeved lightweight cardigan can solve the problem.
Comfortable public pajamas – very essential for a good sleep on a train
Beddings on a train are disinfected after every use. In case the sheets aren't as nice as you hope, you can use your own.
In a hard sleeper car, the light can only be put out by train staff after 21:30 or 22:00. If you want to go to bed before that time, it is nice to have a sleeping mask.
Tissues - Most toilets on a train don't provide it.
Wet wipes and hand sanitizer – washing liquid is not available on a train.
Towel and washcloth - there is nothing with which to bathe or dry your hands on a train.
Though there are staff with carts heading up and down the train selling drinks, snacks and fresh fruit, the food and snacks are less in varieties and higher in prices. It is suggested that you bought what you like to eat and drink before you take a train, such as vacuum-packed tuna, Crackers, pretzels, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, tea and instant coffee.
There is only boiled water provided on a train. You can use it for making a cup of tea or a quick bowl of noodles. Bottled water is for drinking and you don’t need to wait for the boiled water becoming cool.
Generally speaking, there are four classes on an overnight trains: hard seats, soft seats, hard sleepers and soft sleepers. Hard seats and soft seats should not be considered as one can image that sitting all night long is hard to bear no matter the seat is hard or soft.
An open compartment with 6 bunks, three tiers bunks on each side. A hard sleeper is about half price of a soft sleeper, as it has less room, less privacy and no en-suite bathroom. And there is no western-style toilet in a hard sleeper car. Only squat toilets are available. Many backpackers, young travelers and students tend to choose a hard sleeper. A hard sleeper car may be clamorous; but much better, even very quite after the light of the car put out by train staff at 21:30 or 22:00. There is a small light on a bunk.
There is a small different in price among the three bunks (upper, middle and lower). A lower sleeper is the most expensive, as the room of a lower sleeper is the largest and there is no trouble for getting up and down. The room refers to the room between bunks, not the bunk itself. You can stretch all the way out when you sit on a lower sleeper, while you can’t do it on a middle sleeper or an upper sleeper. Though it is an overnight train, you may not want to sleep all the way. You may want to sit on the bunk to read a book or surf on the internet smoothly with China potable 3G Wi-Fi. Therefore a lower bunk is the most convenient and comfortable bunk among hard sleepers.
Though you can’t sit up on a middle sleeper, the room is bearable. And you can also choose it if you travel with your friends who bought a lower sleeper. Or you can sit on a seat at the aisle beside the compartment when you need. And it is not difficult for getting up and down. There are steps for you to climb and a safety rail is on the bunk to prevent you from failing out at night.
You may need to be spry to climb onto an upper sleeper and the room is the smallest. But it relatively gains the most privacy, as you are on the highest place. If you can bear the former two points, it can be your choice.
An enclosed compartment with four bunks with decent beddings. It provides more security and privacy. A soft sleeper compartment is larger and more comfortable than a hard sleeper and the price is about twice.
Two types of toilets are available in a soft sleeper car, squat toilets and western-style toilets. There is an LCD TV for every compartment and even a sofa and en-suite bathrooms on some high-speed trains. Generally speaking the equipment of a soft sleeper compartment is related to the newness of the train itself.
If you travel with friends and you feel more comfortable that having only people you know in you compartments; or you are a lady travel alone and wants more security and privacy, a soft sleeper compartment is recommended. And people who choose a soft sleeper of travel in China are mostly businessmen and they may speak English. If you want, you can talk with them about travel in China, Chinese history or customs. It can be an interesting experience.