Traveling by Train in China

Trains are the major transportation service in China as they can transport a higher volume of passengers, follow a precise timetable, and have cheaper fares than other methods of travel.

As one of the cheapest ways to travel across some of the long distances in China, traveling by train is also the safest way compared with traveling by air, by coach, and by sea. This mode of travel is becoming increasingly popular with both natives and foreign travelers alike.

It is important to have a basic idea of the train system in China before you decide to travel by train. For example, the varying types of Chinese trains, the differences between trains operating in major cities and other cities, the classic train routes of China, when to avoid traveling by train, the advantages of traveling by train, and safety instructions.

Although English is not generally spoken by the staff on the trains and limited English signs are available in the railway stations, foreigners usually have no trouble in traveling by train in China due to the broadcasting system which broadcasts in both English and Chinese, and the train information which is shown on the electronic screens in the stations.

Classification of Trains in China

Generally speaking, the trains in China are classified into G-trains, C-trains, D-trains, Z-trains, T-trains, K-trains, and the ordinary trains. The speeds are lowered from the D-trains to the ordinary trains successively, and below is a basic introduction to these trains.

Classic Tourist Train Routes by Themes

The classic tourist train routes radiate from the major cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tibet, and Xi’an, being well-selected and classified according to the themes detailed below in order to meet the demands of tourists with different interests and time schedules. These include train routes to see China’s historical cities, timeless civilization, and natural beauty, as well as routes for escaping the cold winter or the hot summer.

Train Routes for China’s Historical Cities and Timeless Civilization

The train routes for China’s historical cities and timeless civilization provide passengers with an excellent opportunity to dive into China’s 5,000-year history in an appreciative way. The routes include: Beijing–Guangzhou Route (also known as the longest high-speed railway route in the world); Beijing–Xi’an Route; Chengdu–Xi’an Route;Beijing–Shanghai Route; Xi’an–Tibet Route

The major historical scenic spots are highlighted by Great Wall, Beijing’s Forbidden City, Xi’an’s Terracotta Army, the Chengdu Wuhou Temple, Shanghai Qiandeng Ancient Town, and Tibet’s Potala Palace. The Xi’an–Tibet Route also offers travelers a chance to experience the scenery along the ancient Silk Road.

Trains Routes for China’s Natural Beauty

The train routes to see China’s natural beauty offer passengers a unique way to explore the natural scenery. The routes include: Shanghai–Yichang Route; Shanghai–Kunming Route; Hangzhou–Shenzhen Route; Chongqing–Guilin Route;Shanghai–Suzhou–Nanjing Route

The picturesque natural scenic spots include Shanghai’s Huangpu River, the Three Gorges of Yangtze River, Guilin’s Li River, Hangzhou’s West Lake, and Suzhou Gardens. A cruise on the Three Gorges and the Li River is highly recommended during the daytime, and a night cruise on the Huangpu River is also an impressive experience.

Train Routes for Escaping the Hot Summer

The train routes for escaping the hot summer are the Beijing–Harbin Route and the Changchun–Jilin Route, along which the recommended highlights include Harbin Ice and Snow World, Harbin Yabuli Skiing Center, Changchui Beidahu Ski Resort, and Jilin Songhua River. These routes are especially popular among skiing fans.

Train Routes for Escaping the Cold Winter

The train route for escaping the cold winter is the Hainan East Ring High-Speed Railway, and features a seaside winter escape in Hainan Island. Passengers can immerse themselves in the beauty of Yalong Bay, Lingshui Beach, Wenchang Beach, and Wanning Beach, take a walk along the Coconut Dream Corridor by Sanya Bay, or visit the Temple of Five Ancestors and the Bo’ao Buddha Temple to explore the Buddhist culture.

Recommended Months for Train Travel in China

Generally speaking, it is suitable to travel around China throughout the year due to its varieties of climate and rich tourist resources in different months. For those who have planned to explore the essence of China by train, it is highly recommended to visit China in late April, June, July, September, and October.

However, it is also wise to avoid traveling by train during the peak times in 2015, as train tickets will be hard to book or purchase. The peak times include:

Then, it is highly recommended to book trains one month in advance, just in case.

Advantages of Traveling by Train

There are a number of advantages to traveling by train, making it the first choice for foreigners who visit China for the first time.

When traveling by train, passengers are highly advised to take G-trains or D-trains between the major cities of China, including Beijing–Shanghai, Beijing–Xi’an, Shanghai–Nanjing, Chengdu–Chongqing, Guangzhou–Shenzhen, and Hangzhou–Shanghai, where the trains are very fast with comfortable soft seats and bunks.

Tips for Train Travel in China

Below are some helpful tips when planning a trip to China: