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How to Choose Between Train Types and Seat Classes in China

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
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
Run between neighbor cities 200 kph (124 mph) Superior / first / second class
Ordinary trains
Non-stop express trains or only stop at large stations 160 kph (99 mph) Deluxe soft sleeper / soft sleeper / hard Sleeper / hard seat
Express trains 140 kph (87 mph) Deluxe soft sleeper / soft sleeper / soft seat / hard sleeper / hard seat
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 some of 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 in the corridors between coaches. Power outlets are provided in every coach.

Washbasins are available at the end of each coach. Both western and squat toilets are available on high-speed trains. But it would still be a good idea to bring your own toilet paper.

  • 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.
Fuxinghao “Fuxinghao” high-speed train

“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: G123 Beijing South - Shanghai Hongqiao and G124 Shanghai Hongqiao - Beijing South.

“Fuxinghao” is faster, safer and more comfortable than the old type of high-speed train “hexiehao”.

What’s special on a “fuxinghao” 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

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

Three seats are arranged in a row. Passengers may find the superior coach quiter, with more privacy, as a glass door separates the coach from others. Superior seats are more expensive than first class but cheaper 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 station staff members can’t guarantee which trains have standard superior class seats (2+1) in one row. Some passengers think that first class is better than 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

New Soft Sleeper Class  (berths parallel to the hallway)

China’s new soft sleeper cars have already 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 each side of the hallway. The new sleeper class is more comfortable and provides more privacy.

There are no luggage racks overhead. Luggage can be put under the lower berth. And there are no seats in the carriage. If they don't want to sit on their berths, passengers who take upper berths can only stand in the hallway.

Please note: There are two kinds of soft sleepers for D-category overnight trains- soft sleepers (4 berths in a private compartment) and new soft sleepers (berths parallel to the hallway). Sometimes those two kinds of sleepers are on a D-category overnight train. Sometimes, however, there is only one kind of sleeper, either soft sleepers or new soft sleepers on board. We don’t know which type of sleeper you will get even after the tickets have been issued. It is controlled by the China Rail.

New Soft  sleeper class

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

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 Chengdu – Shanghai, Chongqing – Beijing, etc. And they are very expensive.

Deluxe Soft sleeper

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

Ordinary trains have a much longer history than high-speed trains; their facilities, however, have lower quality, at a lower price. Usually, they feature a square locomotive and are blue, white, or green in color. Most 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 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.

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

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. 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.

deluxe soft sleeper

Special Ticket Types

Standing Ticket

Standing tickets are available for hard seat and a few second class coaches. Passengers with standing tickets have no seats. The price is the same as for hard seat tickets or second class tickets. They are only advisable for short journeys when all seat 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.

Child Tickets

  • Children under 120 cm (3.9 feet) tall and younger than 12 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 under 120 cm (3.9 feet) tall and younger than 12 years, only 1 child can travel for free. The others need to buy child tickets.
  • Children between 120 cm (3.9 feet) and 150cm (4.9 feet) tall and younger than 12 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 more than 150 cm (4.9 feet) tall need to pay full fare.
  • Children 12 or over need to pay full fare.

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Author: Kelly

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