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Travel by train in China

The total mileage of railways open to traffic in China amounts to 100,000km, which form an extensive network with Beijing as the hub. Chinese railway service boasts domestic and international operations. The domestic service falls into such categories as quasi-high speed trains, fast trains, tourist trains, expresses, and through passenger trains. Quassi-high speed trains run mainly from Guangzhou to Kowloon and from Guangzhou to Shenzhen. Same-day fast trains shuttle between major cities.cTourist trains make the journey pleasant for those bound for major tourist cities.
The sleeping carriages running on China's railways are partitioned into compartments each containing four cushioned berths arranged in upper and lower berths. Int's Railway Through Transport International railway through transport is available on the following routes :
Beijing-Ulan Bator-Moscow; Beijing Manzhouli-Moscow;
Beijing-Pyongyang; Urumqi-Alma Ata;
Beijing-Hanoi; Beijing-Ulan Bator. On these routes express passenger trains run in both directions. Just to remind European passengers: it takes six to seven days for an express train to reach Beijing from Moscow by way of Ulan Bator or Manzhouli.

Traveling by train in China is one of the convenient ways to visit major destinationss in China and is used widely by the local population. It might aslo be your only choice to see colorful culture of minority ethinics in some remote areas.

Important Notice
Because the train suppliers are not enough in China, a train pre-booking system is not available in China now. We only provide train ticket booking service for guests who buy our package service or other tours.

Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable
Train times & route maps for almost all mainline Chinese trains are shown in the famous Thomas Cook Overseas Timetable, probably the most adventurous timetable ever published.  It's updated every two months, and has currency, visa and other travel information as well as timetables for ferries, buses & trains in China and all other countries in Asia, Africa, the Americas & Australasia.  It costs £13.99 from the bureau de change inside any UK branch of Thomas Cook, or you can buy online at www.thomascooktimetables.com with worldwide delivery.  Alternatively, you can buy the twice-yearly  Independent Traveller's edition at Amazon.co.uk also with shipping worldwide.

If you only ask us to book a train ticket, we do not offer this type of service.

4 different tickets available for Chinese Trains:
It is important to know what to expect if you decide to travel by train in China.Chinese trains link virtually all main cities and towns in China, and are a safe, comfortable & civilised way to travel, even for families or women travelling alone. 

Hard Seat: Hard Seat is used by a large percentage of the population as it is probably the cheapest way to travel in China.  Sitting only carriages, they are usually crowded and often more tickets are sold than there are seat available.   In weekend and holidays, many people stand for hours on the journey, and it will be terribly crowded for Chinese New Year Holidays.


Soft Seat: Soft Seat is available for city transfers between 1-4 hours and provides a better level of comfort.   Soft Seat is quite comfortable inexpensive method of travel for a journey of a few hours.   Many trains depart every 20 minute, and people like to use this convenient public transportation system.  Highly recommend you to take a ride to visit small towns near Shanghai.

Hard Sleeper: There are six narrow bunks to a compartment that has no door so there is no privacy. They are usually very noisy and with a squat toilet at each end of the carriage. The condition of the toilet will get progressively worse as the journey progresses. Food trolleys pass back and forth along the train so it is possible to eat quite cheaply. A blanket and small pillow are supplied with each bunk.

Soft Sleeper: There are four bunks in a compartment which has a door for privacy. Each bunk will have a blanket and pillow. Toilets are at the end of the carriage and may be a western toilet however they may not always be clean as they are used by people from other carriages. No toilet paper is provided in the bathrooms. Overnight trains are available between big Chinese cities, the most popular train travelers taking is.

Deluxe soft sleeper:  In addition to the four normal classes, a handful of trains also have deluxe soft sleepers, include Beijing-Hong Kong, Beijing-Shanghai & Beijing-Xian.  These are 2-berth compartments with private toilet.  There are only limited numbers of these 2-berth compartments are available, often booked by government officials, so by all means ask for one but don't bang your head against a brick wall trying to get one, be prepared to travel in normal 4-berth soft class if necessary.  Sharing a 4-berth really isn't a problem, it's the norm in China, and you might even meet some real Chinese people this way.





Toilets:  Chinese trains generally have both western & 'squat' toilets, but it's always a good idea to take your own supply of toilet paper.  The toilets on the modern D & Z category trains are immaculate, so no worries there!

Restaurant cars:  Most long-distance trains have a restaurant car, with waiter service of drinks, snacks & meals.  The best trains on key routes such as Beijing-Shanghai have menus in both Chinese and English.

Categories of train
Trains with a 'D' in front of the train number are the top-quality trains with the most modern coaches, either 200-250km/h daytime electric trains or top-quality 200km/h sleeper trains.  The previous top-quality category, the 'Z' trains are now the second best.  Trains with a 'T' in front of the train number are the next best category ('extra fast').  Trains with a 'K' in the train number are 'fast'.  Slightly higher fares are charged for better categories of train.

Beijing - Shanghai by train
The best way to travel between Beijing & Shanghai is by train.  Choose between a high-speed daytime train or a time-effective overnight sleeper.  A sleeper train is far superior to any flight and actually saves time (and a hotel bill) compared to flying.  It's also an experience.

 Beijing ► Shanghai            

 Train number:







 Beijing (main) depart

 11:05  (day 1)

 19:38 (day 1)





 Shanghai arrive

 20:49  (day 1)

 07:06 (day 2)





 Shanghai Beijing            
 Train number:  D32   Z14  Z8 T104 T110  D302 
 Shanghai depart  10:50  (day 1)  19:32  (day 1)  19:44  20:26   21:10  21:43
 Beijing (main) arrive  20:32  (day 1)  07:00 (day 2)  07:12  09:57  09:43  07:45

Which train should you take?
Trains D301 & D302:  These are the recommended sleeper trains.  Immaculate brand-new 200km/h sleeper trains introduced in December 2008, with 4-berth soft sleepers & restaurant/bar car.  Fully air-conditioned, each sleeper berth even has its own TV screen & there are power sockets for laptops or mobiles.  An identical train (D305 & D306) runs 5 minutes later, but it isn't shown here to save space.  Expect these trains to be very punctual.  See the D-category sleeper photos below.

Trains D31 & D32:  Recommended daytime train.  Departs from/ arrives at Beijing South station, not the main station, see metro map.  This is a new D-category 200-250 km/h express electric train, introduced in April 2007.  It has 1st and 2nd class seats and bar-restaurant car.  1st class seats are 2-abreast each side of the aisle, 2nd class seats are 3-abreast one side, 2 abreast the other.  Photographs of this train, inside & out.  There are also photo on the Beijing-Shanghai train page of www.chinatripadvisor.com.

Trains Z1-Z14:  These are the next best sleeper trains and still excellent, see the Z-category sleeper photos below.  There are actually five Z-category sleeper trains between Beijing & Shanghai every night, all leaving Beijing between 19:00 & 19:30, but to save space only two are shown here.  These superb trains are soft class only (no hard class), with modern top-quality air-conditioned sleeping-cars and bar-restaurant car (with menus in Chinese and English).  Expect them to be punctual.  Each sleeping berths has its own TV, and there are power sockets for laptops & mobiles.  Trains Z13/14 & Z7/8 (but not the other Z trains) give passengers complimentary meals in their compartment.

Train T109 & T110 has deluxe 2-berth compartments with private toilet & washroom as well as soft & hard sleepers.  There are now no 2-berth deluxe sleepers on any of the 'Z' category trains, so if you insist on a 2-berth you'll need to use this train.  Train T103 & T104 has soft & hard sleepers.  If you are on a tight budget and want to save money, travel hard sleeper on one of these slower 'T' category trains.  Hard sleeper is still a comfortable and safe way to travel.  See the T category train photos above.

 Fares  Fares  Fares      
   By sleeper train...  By sleeper train...  Deluxe sleeper

(only T109/110)

 By D-category daytime train...  By D-category daytime train...
 Bought at reservations office in China:  RMB 350 ($46)  RMB 500 ($66)  RMB 921 ($122)    RMB 327 ($44)
 Booked in advance at  $65  $95  $165  $81  $69
 Booked in advance at  $100  $130  $195    

Beijing - Xian by train

The best way to travel between Beijing & Xian is by train, using a time-effective sleeper train.

 Beijing ► XianBeijing ► Xian  Beijing ► Xian  Beijing ► Xian  Beijing ► Xian Beijing ► Xian   Beijing ► Xian  Beijing ► Xian Beijing ► Xian 
 Train number:  T55  T41  T232 T43   Z53  Z19  
 Beijing (West)  16:50  18:27  17:33  21:36    20:28  day 1
 Xian  06:12  06:50  06:40  08:42    08:58  day 2

 Xian ► Beijing Xian ► Beijing   Xian ► Beijing  Xian ► Beijing  Xian ► Beijing  Xian ► Beijing Xian ► Beijing   Xian ► Beijing
 Train number  Train number  T232  T42  T45  Z54  Z19  
 Xian  depart  17:31  18:02  20:22    19:23  day 1
 Beijing (West)  arrive  06:20  06:28  07:28    06:53  day 2

Beijing to Xian is 1,200 km (750 miles).  All trains shown are daily.

Terracotta warriors:  These are 40-45 minutes from Xian station by bus 306 or 307, fare about 7 RMB.  Minibuses & taxis also available.

 Fares  Hard sleeper  Soft sleeper  Deluxe Soft sleeper
 Beijing-Xian one-way per person RMB 275 ($36)  RMB 420 ($56)  RMB 750 ($100)  
  Booked in advance  $50  $80  $135  
  Booked in advance  $105  $130  $175  

If you choose to travel by train, We recommends booking a soft sleeper. 

How to buy tickets at the station...
It's easy to buy tickets yourself at the station, but remember to take your passport with you.

In big cities such as Beijing or Shanghai you should look for the special ticket window for foreigners.

Reservations for the best D- or Z-category express trains open 10-20 days before departure, but reservations for other trains only open 5-10 days before departure.  You cannot buy tickets before reservations open.  If the train you want starts its journey somewhere else and calls at your boarding station already well into its journey, tickets may only be available 2 days before departure.  The exact rules vary by city and by train.

Chinese Railways don't have a central reservation system, only local computer reservation systems based in each city that aren't linked to each other.  So a station can generally only sell you a ticket for a journey starting at that station, not for journeys starting elsewhere.  For example, the ticket office at Shanghai can sell you a Shanghai-Beijing ticket but cannot sell you a Beijing-Xian ticket.  However, at major cities you can sometimes buy a return ticket for key routes - for example, in Beijing you can buy a ticket from Beijing to Shanghai and also from Shanghai back to Beijing.  But in most cases, you'll need to book your return journey when you get to your destination.

Tickets are best booked at least 2-3 days in advance, apart from peak periods (the Spring Festival, May Day 1st May, National Day 1st October) when they should be booked as soon as reservations open.

In Beijing, you can buy tickets at Beijing Main station (metro Bejingzhan), or Beijing West station (called Beijing Xi or Xizhan, metro Junshibowuguan sometimes called 'Military Museum').  At Beijing Main station, the ticketing office for foreigners is on the north west corner of the 1st floor, accessed via the soft seat waiting room.  It is open 05:30-07:30, 08:00-18:30, 19:00-23:00.  Only domestic Chinese tickets are sold, not international tickets.  At Beijing West station, ticket window 1 in the main hall is marked 'English speaking', open 24 hours.  Service here is reported as 'fluent & efficient'.  Alternatively, you can buy train tickets at BTG Travel & Tours, on Fwai Dajie between the New Otani and Gloria Plaza Hotels, open 08:00-20:00.  To buy Trans-Siberian tickets from Beijing to Ulan Bator or Moscow, see the Trans-Siberian page.  To buy tickets from Beijing to Hanoi, see the Vietnam page.

In Shanghai, the English speaking ticket window at the main station is window 43.

1:Can the train staff understand English? 
English is generally not spoken by any of the staff on the trains or in the railway stations. Limited English signage is available in the railway stations.

2:How is the new D-category Express Train? 
This is a new D-category 200-250 km/h express electric train, introduced in April 2007. It has 1st and 2nd class seats and bar-restaurant car. 1st class seats are 2-abreast each side of the aisle, 2nd class seats are 3-abreast one side, 2 abreast the other.

3:How to buy a train ticket to Lhasa? 
You MUST present a valid Tibet travel permit onboard the train. To obtain this permit, you will have to arrange a tour/hotel in Lhasa through an accredited travel agency like us.