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Overnight Trains in China

Written by FabioUpdated Jun. 24, 2021

Overnight trains in China are excellent options for long-distance journeys, offering a comfortable and safe travel experience. Choosing an overnight train can also be a cost-effective decision, as it allows passengers to combine transportation and accommodation expenses, potentially saving on a hotel bill.

The Three Sleeper Classes on Overnight trains

There are three types of sleeper classes available: hard sleeper, soft sleeper, and deluxe soft sleeper. These sleeper classes are commonly found on various types of trains, including ordinary trains such as Z, T, and K trains, as well as overnight D category trains.

1. Hard Sleeper - Less Privacy in an Open Compartment

  • 11 open-plan compartments in a sleeper coach
  • Six berths in a compartment
  • Pillow and blanket are provided for each berth
  • Luggage rack overhead across from the compartment
  • Chinese-style toilet and sink at the end of each car

Hard sleepers are exclusively available on ordinary trains, and their compartments lack doors, opening directly onto the corridor. This design can result in increased noise levels within the hard sleeper coach, especially during the day. However, to enhance passenger comfort, the train staff typically turn off the coach's lights around 9:30 pm or 10 pm, contributing to a quieter environment. While hard sleepers offer a budget-friendly option for overnight travel, passengers should be mindful of the potential noise during daytime travel and appreciate the quieter atmosphere in the evening.

hard sleeper car

There are some differences among the three bunks:

Lower bunk: A lower berth is often considered the most convenient and comfortable option in a sleeper class, as there is no need to climb up or down. However, it comes with a higher price tag. It's important to be aware that choosing a lower berth may mean sacrificing some privacy, as passengers from upper or middle berths may sit on the lower berth during the daytime.

Middle bunk: The middle berth in a sleeper class is typically priced between the lower and upper berths. While it is more affordable than a lower berth, it comes with a higher cost compared to an upper berth. Getting up and down from a middle berth is generally considered manageable and less challenging than the upper berth, offering a balance between cost and convenience.

Upper bunk: The upper berth in a sleeper class is often the most economical option, making it the cheapest bunk available. Climbing onto an upper bunk may require some agility, and there is limited headroom, preventing passengers from sitting up comfortably. Despite these challenges, the upper bunks are favored by many solo female passengers due to the increased privacy they offer.

Hard Sleeper

2. Soft Sleeper

  • 9 compartments in a sleeper coach
  • 4 berths in a compartment with a door
  • Pillow and blanket are provided for each berth
  • Each berth is equipped with a reading light
  • Luggage rack overhead inside each compartment
  • One power socket in each compartment

A soft sleeper berth in China provides a larger and more comfortable space compared to a hard sleeper, with the price typically around double that of a hard sleeper. Each soft sleeper berth comes equipped with a pillow, blanket, and an individual reading light. Soft sleeper coaches on high-speed trains are often superior and more modern than those on ordinary trains.

Soft sleepers are housed in enclosed compartments, offering passengers more security and privacy. However, it's important to note that being in a closed room with strangers might be uncomfortable for some travelers.

solft sleeper cars

3. Deluxe Soft Sleeper - Suitable for Couples

  • 8 compartments in a sleeper coach
  • 2 berths in a private compartment with a door
  • Luggage rack overhead inside each compartment
  • One power socket in each compartment
  • Private toilet in each compartment

The deluxe soft sleeper stands as the most luxurious and expensive sleeper class in China. Priced at almost double the cost of an ordinary soft sleeper, it offers unparalleled comfort and amenities. One of the most convenient features for passengers is the inclusion of a private toilet within the compartment. Some new deluxe soft sleeper coaches go above and beyond, providing LCD TVs, closets, showers, disposable slippers, and electric kettles.

With only two berths in a deluxe sleeper compartment, this class is ideal for couples or friends traveling together. The emphasis on privacy, coupled with the added comforts, makes the deluxe soft sleeper a premium option for those seeking a lavish and exclusive overnight train experience in China.

Deluxe Soft Sleeper

Hard/Soft Seat - Only If You Have No Choice

On ordinary overnight trains, there are hard and soft seat classes available. However, it's strongly advised against considering these options, as sitting all night, whether on a hard or soft seat, can be extremely uncomfortable. The lack of sleeping arrangements makes these classes unsuitable for overnight journeys.

If, during peak seasons, sleeper class tickets are unavailable, travelers should be prepared for a potentially uncomfortable night on a hard or soft seat. The discomfort associated with sitting throughout the night may lead passengers to regret choosing an overnight train without sleeper accommodations.

How To Be Less Uncomfortable in a Hard/Soft Seat Coach:

  • Take a blanket as it can be quite cold at night.
  • Take a U-shaped soft pillow.
  • Take earplugs and an eye mask to protect against the noisy environment and lights that are turned on when passengers get off.
  • Stand up or walk around, if you can, to avoid getting edema in the legs caused by sitting down for a long time.

Overnight High-Speed Trains in China

On overnight D category high-speed trains in China, there are typically two classes of accommodations available: soft sleeper and second class seat. These trains operate primarily between large cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an. Unlike ordinary trains, overnight high-speed trains are known for their speed, punctuality, and modern amenities.

The facilities on these trains mirror those found in ordinary trains, featuring amenities like a dining car and mobile trolleys providing food services. Complementing the journey, each train car provides free boiling water and is equipped with power sockets for passengers' convenience. The availability of both western-style and squat toilets accommodates diverse preferences.

China's deluxe soft sleeper type on overnight high-speed trains:

Compare to the old-style soft sleeper, the deluxe type of sleeper class is more comfortable and provides more privacy. Currently, the deluxe soft sleepers are only available on some long-haul high-speed trains and tourist trains, such as D931 from Shanghai Hongqiao to Guangzhou South, D377 from Shanghai Hongqiao to Shenzhen North, T35 Beijing to Hefei, K53 from Beijing to Shenyang North, Y667 from Lanzhou to Dunhuang, and Z6516 from Urumqi to Kashi.

What's special about the new type of sleeper class?

  • Double-decker berths parallel to the hallway
  • 2 rows of berths on both sides of the hallway
  • Each berth is in a small compartment
  • Each berth is equipped with a small table, a reading light and a power socket
  • Upper berth has more sitting space
  • Each berth is beside a window

There is no luggage racks overhead. Luggage can be put under the lower berth. And there is no seat in the carriage. Passengers who take upper berths can only stand in the hallway if they don't want to sit on the berth.

soft sleep in highspeed train

Getting On and Off a Sleeper Train Smoothly

Make sure you go to the right train station for your train. Read your train ticket carefully and reach the train station at least 30 minutes before departure.

After you get on the train and find your berth, a staff member will exchange your train ticket for a plastic "bunk card" after departure. About 1 hour before arrival, he/she will exchange your bunk card for your train ticket and remind you to get off at the correct station. Make sure you do not throw the ticket away because sometimes you need it to get out of the station. Make sure you do not throw the ticket away because you will need it to get out of the station.

There is no broadcasting service after 22:00 for arrivals at night. Set an early alarm on your phone according to the arrival time on your ticket. Sometimes trains run (very) late, so confirm you have actually reached your station before getting out.

Tips for Taking an Overnight Train in China

  • Soft sleeper and deluxe soft sleeper are recommended rather than hard sleeper. It is quieter in soft sleeper and deluxe soft sleeper compartments and more privacy provided.
  • If you take a lower berth for hard sleeper, upper/middle berth passengers might sit on your berth during the day. And you may find it awkward facing a stranger in the adjacent berth. To avoid the situation, you can book a middle berth instead of a lower berth.
  • You can buy food from the moving trolley or eat at the dining car. But only Chinese-style food is available with limited choice. It is advisable to bring your own food on board. Instant coffee is also a good choice to be brought on a train.
  • The luggage rack can accommodate suitcases smaller than 60cm x 41cm x 23cm. Bigger suitcases can be put under the lower berth.
  • Keep your wallet, passport and other valuables safe from theft. Place all your luggage close to you.

Packing List - Toiletries, Food/Water, Clothing, Bedding, Entertainment

Toiletries

toiletries

A cup, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a shaving gear, a comb: for your pre-bed and getting up routines.

Toilet paper: there is no toilet paper provided on Chinese trains.

Wet wipes / hand sanitizer / soap: Hand washing liquid is not available on a train.

Towel and washcloth: There is nothing to wash your face or dry your hands with on a train.

Sandals: sandals can make you overnight train journey more convenient and comfortable.

Food/Water

food and water Bring snacks and bottled water.

Food and snacks: food on the train are with limited types and expensive. It is recommended that you buy food and drink before you get on a train, such as vacuum-packed tuna, crackers, pretzels, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, tea, and instant coffee.

Water: Boiled water is provided on a train. You can use it for making a cup of tea or a quick bowl of noodles. Bottled water is buyable for drinking, so you don't need to wait for the boiled water to cool down. You might want to use bottled water for brushing your teeth too.

Clothing

Clothing: Sometimes the air-conditioning on the train is too strong. Take a long-sleeved lightweight cardigan in case you feel cold on the train.

Bedding

Sleeping mask: In a hard sleeper car, the light can only be put out by the staff members after 9:30pm or 10pm. If you want to go to bed before that time, it is nice to have a sleeping mask.

Entertainment

It could be boring on a train if you can't sleep. So take books for reading or fully charge your phone/I Pad to kill time. You might want to take a portable charging pack.

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