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How to Choose Between Train Types and Seat Classes in China

Chinese trains are classified by speed and service in China, 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 train
G Train Fastest and best of all 350 kph (217 mph)    
* “Fuxinghao” high-speed train: 400kph (250 mph)
Business / superior / first/ second class
D Train The second fastest 250 kph (155 mph) Business / first / second class & Soft sleeper
C Train Run between neighbor cities 200 kph (124 mph) Superior / first / second class
Ordinary train
Z Train Non-stop express trains or only stop at large stations 160 kph (99 mph) Deluxe soft sleeper / Soft sleeper / Hard Sleeper / Hard seat
T Train Express trains 140 kph (87 mph) Deluxe soft sleeper / Soft sleeper / Soft seat / Hard Sleeper / Hard seat
K Train 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

G/D/C trains are bullet trains with the most advanced facilities in the world. All the high-speed trains are air-conditioned and totally non-smoking.

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 corridors between the coaches. Power outlets are equipped in every coach.

Washbasins are equipped at the end of each coach. Both western and squat toilets are available on a high-speed train. But it is a good idea to take your own toilet paper.

  • G category trains - the fastest and the best, with the top speed of 350 km/h, running during daytime.
  • 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 run between two neighboring cities.
Fuxinghao “Fuxinghao” high-speed train

“Fuxinghao”-China’s Newest Type of High-speed Train

China’s newest type of high-speed train “Fuxinghao” made the first appearance on June 26th, 2017: G123 Beijing South - Shanghai Hongqiao and G124 Shanghai Hongqiao - Beijing South.

Compared to the old type of high-speed train “Hexiehao”, “Fuxinghao” is faster, safer and more comfortable.

What’s special on a “Fuxinghao” high-speed train?

  • WIFI covered
  • More space between seats
  • Each seat is equipped with 2 power sockets
  • Reading light is equipped above each seat

Classes of Seats on High-speed Trains

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

Second Class Seat

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

second class seats

First Class Seat

With 4 seats in a row, first class seats are more spacious and comfortable than second class seats. But the price is higher.

first class seats

Superior Class Seat

Three seats are arranged in a row. Passengers may find the superior coach more quite and have more privacy as there is a glass door separates the coach from others. The price is higher than first class but lower than business class.

Please note: Different trains offer different types of superior class seats. First class and second class seats are standard on most trains but superior class seats are always changing. Even the station staff members can’t guarantee which trains have standard superior class seats (2+1) in one row. Some of passengers think the first class is better than superior class seat.

superior class seats

Business Class Seat

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 the seats can recline to a completely float position.

The first row of business class coach has only two seats (1+1) right behind the cab. They are called sightseeing seats since someone can get a view through the cab to see rail track. But the sightseeing seats provide less leg room than normal business class seats and doesn’t beside a window.

business class seats

New Soft Sleeper Class  (berths are paralleled to hallway)

China’s new soft sleeper cars have been put into service on overnight high-speed trains between Beijing and Shanghai.

Unlike the old-style soft sleeper car, the new sleeper berths are parallel to the hallway. There are 2 rows of double-decker sleeper berths on both sides of the hallway. The new type of sleeper class is more comfortable and provides more privacy.

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.

New Soft  sleeper class

Soft Sleeper

There are only soft sleepers on overnight high-speed trains, and no hard sleepers. The price for soft sleepers on high-speed trains is quite expensive, and can sometimes be higher than the price for a discounted flight for the same journey. However, it's a good choice for a comfortable overnight journey. See below for "soft sleeper" details.

Facilities: inside 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 would like to sit up to read and chat. There is an LCD TV for each bunk, and also a wired headphone and a bedside lamp. What's more, passengers can adjust the temperature of the compartment.

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

Soft  sleeper class

Deluxe Soft sleeper

Two berths (lower + upper) are in a private compartment, with a lockable door. There is also a sofa, a wardrobe, back cushions and slippers provided in the compartment. 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 sleeper class is only available on a few high-speed trains, such as Chengdu – Shanghai, Chongqing – Beijing, etc. And the price is very expensive.

Deluxe Soft sleeper

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

Ordinary trains have a longer history than high-speed trains; however, they have a lower standard of facilities, with lower price. Usually, they feature a square locomotive and are blue, white, or green in color. Most of the ordinary trains are air-conditioned.

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 equipped 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 there is no toilet paper provided.

Smoking is not allowed in the coaches, but it is allowed in the corridors between the coaches. Even so, there can be smell of smoke in the middle of the coach. You may also find someone smoke in the seats even though there is no smoking sign.

Classes of Seats on Ordinary Trains

Hard Seat

Hard seats are the cheapest and they 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 and during peak seasons.

hard seats

Soft Seat

Soft seats are larger and more comfortable than hard seats. They are suitable for short 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 both sides. A pillow, sheet, and blanket are provided for each berth. It is noisy during the day but much better when the lights of the car are switched off by the train staff after 9:30pm or 10pm.

Upper berth and middle berth are not recommended for someone who’s tall due to the limited vertical space. 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 other’s lower berth 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 and can be closed. Soft sleeper on D category trains are the same as they are on the 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 toilet is equipped in the compartment. It is perfect for traveling couples as it has the most privacy and security.

Deluxe soft sleeper is available on both ordinary trains and high-speed trains. Coach’s facilities are outdated on ordinary trains, in contrast with high-speed trains.

deluxe soft sleeper

Special Ticket Types

Standing Ticket

Standing tickets are also available for hard seat and a few second class coaches. There is no seat for passengers who hold standing tickets. The price is the same as hard seat tickets or second class tickets. It is only advised when all the seat tickets are sold out and for short journeys.

For many train routes, especially popular train routes, standing tickets are the only class left during peak periods (summer holiday, Spring Festival, National Day, etc.). So it is advised that you make the booking as early as possible for those periods.

Child Ticket

  • Children under 120cm (3.9 feet) and younger than 12 years old can travel by train for free without their own seat/berth. A child ticket is needed to buy if a seat/berth is required. One adult can take a child for free. If there are 2 or more children under 120cm (3.9 feet) and younger than 12 years old, only 1 child can travel for free. The others need to buy child tickets.
  • Children between 120cm (3.9 feet) and 150cm (4.9 feet) need to buy child tickets. The seat ticket price is half of the full fare and the sleeper ticket is 75% of the full fare. Children will have their own seats/berths.
  • Children more than 150cm (4.9 feet) need to pay full fare for train tickets.
  • Children above 12 years old (including 12 years old) need to pay full fare for train tickets.

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Author: Kelly

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