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How to Choose Between Train Types and Seat Classes in China

Written by Fabio Updated Jan. 16, 2024

Chinese trains are classified by speed and service, represented by a train code. A train code is composed of a letter plus digits or digits only.

Train type Feature Top speed Class of seat
High-speed trains
G Fastest and best of all 350 kph (217 mph) * "Fuxinghao" high-speed train: 400kph (250 mph) Business / superior / first/ second class
D The second fastest 250 kph (155 mph) Business / first / second class / soft sleeper
C Run between neighbor cities 200 kph (124 mph) Superior / first / second class
Ordinary trains
Z Non-stop express trains or only stop at large stations 160 kph (99 mph) Deluxe soft sleeper / soft sleeper / hard Sleeper / hard seat
T Express trains 140 kph (87 mph) Deluxe soft sleeper / soft sleeper / soft seat / hard sleeper / hard seat
K Fast trains 120 kph (75 mph) Deluxe soft sleeper / soft sleeper / soft seat / hard sleeper / hard seat

China train type

High Speed Trains – G/D/C Trains

Video: Train Types and Seat Classes in China
  • G category trains – the fastest and best, with top speeds of 350 km/h, running during the day.
  • D category trains – the second-fastest trains. For some long-distance overnight D category trains, soft sleepers are available.
  • C category trains – high-speed trains running between two neighboring cities.

The G/D/C trains in China, known as bullet trains, boast some of the world's most advanced facilities. Here are key features:

  • All high-speed trains are air-conditioned and strictly non-smoking.
  • Boiled water is available at the end of each coach for passengers.
  • Dining cars offer freshly-cooked Chinese-style food, providing a convenient dining option during the journey.
  • Luggage can be stored in overhead racks or in the corridors between coaches.
  • Power outlets are provided in every coach, allowing passengers to charge their devices.
  • Washbasins are accessible at the end of each coach.
  • High-speed trains are equipped with both western and squat toilets. However, it's advisable to bring your own toilet paper for added convenience during the journey.

"Fuxinghao" – China's Newest Type of High-Speed Train

China's newest type of high-speed train "fuxinghao" made its debut on June 26th, 2017. They are faster, safer and more comfortable than the old type of high-speed train "hexiehao".

What's special on a "fuxinghao" high-speed train?

  • The fastest high-speed train
  • WiFi available
  • More space between seats
  • Each seat is equipped with 2 power sockets
  • A reading light is provided above each seat
Fuxinghao High-Speed TrainFuxinghao High-Speed Train

Seat Classes on High-Speed Trains

High-speed trains have 4 classes of seat – second class, first class, superior class and business class. The second class is basic and business class is the best. All seats face forward. Overnight D category bullet trains have soft sleeper class and deluxe soft sleeper class.

Second Class

Second class seats are the most affordable seats on high-speed trains. They have 5 seats in a row (3+2). There is not so much space between rows.

second class seats

First Class

With 4 seats in a row, first class seats are more spacious and comfortable than second class. But they are more expensive.

first class seats

Superior Class

In the high-speed trains in China, the seating arrangement for a superior coach consists of three seats in a row. The superior coach offers passengers a quieter and more private environment, thanks to a glass door that separates it from other coaches. While superior seats provide enhanced tranquility, they come at a price point higher than first class but remain more affordable compared to business class, offering a middle ground for travelers seeking a balance between comfort and cost.

Please note: Various trains in China may offer different types of superior class seats, introducing variability in this class across trains. While first class and second class seats are consistent standards on most trains, the configuration of superior class seats (such as the 2+1 seating arrangement) can vary and is subject to change. Even station staff members cannot guarantee the presence of standard superior class seats on specific trains. Interestingly, some passengers perceive first class as preferable to superior class

superior class seats

Business Class

Business class seats are the most luxurious and only available on G category trains. Seats are spacious with two meters (6.6 feet) of space between the rows. There are three seats in a row (2+1) and all seats can recline to a horizontal position.

The first row in a business class coach has only two seats (1+1) right behind the cab. These are called sightseeing seats, since you can see through the cab to the track. But the sightseeing seats provide less leg room than normal business class seats and are not beside a window.

business class seats

Soft Sleeper

On overnight high-speed trains, there are only soft sleepers, no hard sleepers. Soft sleepers on high-speed trains are quite expensive, and sometimes more expensive than discount flights for the same journey. They do, however, guarantee a comfortable overnight journey. See below for "soft sleeper" details.

Facilities: soft sleepers on a high-speed train are complete and convenient.

Bunks are wider and the sleeper back is adjustable for a more comfortable experience, if you wish to sit up to read or chat. There is an LCD TV for each bunk, and also a wired headphone and bedside lamp. What's more, passengers can adjust the compartment temperature.

Washrooms are cleaner than those on normal trains. Both Western-style and Chinese-style toilets are available. If you need help, you can press the button inside the restroom.

Soft  sleeper class

New Soft Sleeper

China's recently introduced New Soft Sleeper Class, featured on overnight high-speed trains for various routes, represents a departure from the traditional soft sleeper car design. In this new configuration, sleeper berths are arranged parallel to the hallway, with two rows of double-decker berths on each side. This innovative layout enhances comfort and privacy for passengers.

Unlike the old-style cars, there are no overhead luggage racks; instead, luggage can be conveniently stored under the lower berth. Additionally, the carriage lacks seats, meaning passengers in upper berths have the option to either sit on their berths or stand in the hallway if they choose not to sit.

Please note: D-category overnight trains in China may offer two types of soft sleepers: the traditional configuration with 4 berths in a private compartment and the new design with berths arranged parallel to the hallway. The availability of both types can vary, with some trains accommodating both designs and others featuring only one type of sleeper—either the traditional soft sleepers or the new parallel arrangement. Even after tickets have been issued, passengers may not know which type of sleeper they will get, as the decision is controlled by China Rail.

New soft sleeper class

Deluxe Soft Sleeper

In the deluxe soft sleeper, there are two berths (lower + upper) in a private compartment, with a lockable door. A sofa, a wardrobe, back cushions and slippers are all provided. A western-style toilet and washbasin are available at the end of the carriage. Toilet paper is available, but always bring your own toilet paper in case it runs out.

Deluxe soft sleepers are only available on a few high-speed trains, such as Shanghai Hongqiao to Guangzhou South D935, Shanghai Hongqiao to Foshan West D931, Shanghai Hongqiao to Shenzhen North D907.

Deluxe Soft sleeper

Ordinary Trains – Z/T/K & Digit Only Trains

Ordinary trains in China boast a longer history than high-speed trains, offering a more budget-friendly option with facilities of lower quality. These trains typically feature a square locomotive and are identified by their distinctive blue, white, or green colors. Despite the lower quality, most ordinary trains are equipped with air-conditioning, providing a basic level of comfort for passengers at an affordable price.

Boiled water is provided at the end of each coach. And there is a dining car serving freshly-cooked Chinese-style food.

Luggage can be put in the racks overhead or under the seat/lower berth.

Washbasins are provided at the end of each coach. Only squat toilets are available on ordinary trains. And they are not always immaculate. Always bring your own tissue, as toilet paper is not provided.

While smoking is prohibited within the coaches of trains in China, it is allowed at the junction points between coaches. However, this practice may result in the smell of smoke permeating the middle of the coach. Despite the presence of no-smoking signs, there could be instances where passengers choose to smoke in their seats.

Seat Classes on Ordinary Trains

Hard Seat

Hard seats are the cheapest and are usually crowded. The coaches are not very clean. It is not recommended to buy a hard seat ticket when there are other options available, especially not during peak season.

hard seats

Soft Seat

Soft seats are larger and more comfortable than hard seats. They are suitable for train journeys less than 5 hours.

soft seats

Hard Sleeper

A hard sleeper compartment is communal and opens onto the aisle, with three berths (upper/middle/lower) on each side. A pillow, sheet, and blanket are provided for each berth. It is noisy during the day but much better after 9:30pm or 10pm, when the lights of the car are switched off by train staff .

Upper berth and middle berth are not recommended for someone who's tall, due to the limited vertical space. You are not able to sit up straight in the middle and upper berths. The vertical space of the upper berth is smaller than that of the middle berth.

A lower berth is more comfortable and you don't need to climb up. Please be aware that upper and middle berth passengers may sit on the lower berths of others during the daytime.

hard sleeper

Soft Sleeper

There are 4 berths in a soft sleeper compartment, with two on each side, each supplied with pillow, sheet and an individual reading light. The berths are wider and more comfortable than hard sleepers. Each soft sleeper compartment has a door, which can be closed. Soft sleepers on D category trains are the same as on ordinary trains.

soft sleeper

Deluxe Soft Sleeper

This is the top level and the most expensive class of a sleeper train. Each enclosed compartment contains two berths. Private toilets are provided in the compartments. This is perfect for traveling couples, with the best privacy and security.

Deluxe soft sleeper is available on both ordinary trains and high-speed trains. The coach facilities are outdated on ordinary trains, compared with high-speed trains. Currently, the ordinary trains equipped with deluxe soft sleeper coaches are:

Trains between Beijing and other destinations:

  • Beijing station to Harbin station Z15, and Z16 for return trip
  • Beijing station to Nantong station Z29 and Z51, and Z30 and Z52 for return trip
  • Beijing West to Zhangjiajie West Z295, and Z297 for return trip
  • Beijing West to Lanzhou station Z55, and Z56 for return trip
  • Beijing station to Changchun station Z61, and Z62 for return trip
  • Beijing station to Jilin station Z117, and Z118 for return trip
  • Beijing West to Sanya station Z501, and Z502 for return trip
  • Beijing Fengtai to Hefei station Z225, and Z227 for return trip
  • Beijing station to Shenyang North K53, and K54 for return trip
  • Beijing West to Zhengzhou station K179, and K180 for return trip

Trains between Shanghai and other destinations:

  • Shanghai station to Urumqi station Z40, and Z42 for return trip
  • Shanghai station to Taiyuan station Z196, and Z198 for return trip
  • Shanghai station to Hohhot station Z268, and Z267 for return trip

Xinjiang tourist trains:

  • Urumqi station to Kashgar station Z6516
  • Kashgar station to Urumqi station Z6518

deluxe soft sleeper

Special Ticket Types

Standing Ticket

Standing tickets are an option for hard seat and a limited number of second-class coaches. Passengers holding standing tickets do not have designated seats, and the ticket price is equivalent to that of hard seat or second-class tickets. This option is typically recommended for short journeys when all seated tickets are sold out.

For many train routes, especially popular routes, standing tickets may be the only class left during peak periods (summer holiday, Spring Festival, National Day, etc). So you are advised to book as early as possible for those periods.

Children Ticket

  • Children, who are younger than 6 years, can travel by train for free without their own seat/berth. If a seat/berth is required, you need to purchase a child ticket. One adult can accompany only one child for free. If there are 2 or more children younger than 6 years, only 1 child can travel for free. The others need to buy child tickets.
  • Children, who are older than 6 years and younger than 14 years, need to buy child tickets. Seat ticket prices are half the full fare and sleeper ticket prices are 75% of the full fare. Children will then have their own seats/berths.
  • Children, who are older than 14 years, need to pay full fare.
  • Children, who take a train for free or enjoy children's tickets price, are not allowed to travel to a further station than the adult, who is accompanying them. 
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