Discovering China by Railway

On May 25, 2012, in Tips & Ideas, Transportation, Travel Info, by Jack Li

Travelling by train in China is often a convenient and fast way to get around on your China Tours and usually train tickets are a lot cheaper than airfare. Not all routes are super quick but if you travel overnight and you can get some rest on the way you don’t really lose time and […]

Travelling by train in China is often a convenient and fast way to get around on your China Tours and usually train tickets are a lot cheaper than airfare. Not all routes are super quick but if you travel overnight and you can get some rest on the way you don’t really lose time and you can even safe one night’s accommodation. Other positive aspect about travelling by train is that you get to see more of the countryside and personally I think it’s an interesting part of any china travel experience.

One thing about train tickets is that you can’t buy them more than ten days in advance, so depending on the length of your stay you might not be able to buy the return ticket before your departure. For popular routes and especially on national holiday weekends tickets sell out quickly, so make sure to get your tickets early enough. You can buy them either directly at the train station or at special train ticket offices where you will be charged an extra 5 RMB service fee per ticket. If you don’t speak any Chinese and want to make sure to get the right ticket you should probably book it thorough a travel agency. They will also charge you a service fee but it makes things easier and safer for yourself. To buy tickets you will have to present the passports of all travelers.

The bigger cities usually have several main railway stations, so make sure you know which one to go to. Some are very modern and in many ways more like an airport than a train station and very big but well-organized. The train rides are announced on the boards and by speaker (most of the time in Chinese) and you have designated waiting areas for your train ride just like on airports. At the railway station and on the train itself you can always get boiling hot water, so you can enjoy a tea at any time of your trip and instant food where you just need to add hot water and stir is very popular. You can get food at the railway stations and usually also on the trains, most have a dining car, but it’s still best to bring your own food, just in case. During the ride you should always keep your ticket with you because you’ll have to present it more than once during your journey, often again when you get out of the train station once you’ve arrived. Before entering the train you will also have to present your passport which you have used to book the ticket.

There are different train ticket categories: hard seats (might sound uncomfortable although they are just like normal train or plane seats), soft seats (first class seats, softer, bigger and with more leg room) and then there are two different ‘bed’ categories, called hard sleeper and soft sleeper. Hard sleeper compartments are open and have six bunks; sheets and pillows are provided. It can be noisy at times but still this way of travelling is very cost effective. The soft sleeper category is more comfortable with only four bunks in separate compartments with a door towards the aisle. Depending on your budget and your need for comfort you can choose which train category is best or if you still prefer the China Flights.

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Types of Trains and Classes of Train

On November 17, 2011, in Cultural Experience, Tips & Ideas, Travel Info, by Jack Li

Let’s say you are in Beijing and you plan to travel to Xi’an you don’t want to take a China flight because it cost too much so you choose to travel by train. The first thing you need to know is that there are five kinds of trains they are regular (only have numbers), fast (K/N), […]

Let’s say you are in Beijing and you plan to travel to Xi’an you don’t want to take a China flight because it cost too much so you choose to travel by train. The first thing you need to know is that there are five kinds of trains they are regular (only have numbers), fast (K/N), express (D/T), direct (Z), tourist(Y) and temporary (L). Second thing you need to know about trains is that there are different class hard seat, hard sleeper, soft seat and soft sleeper.

Kinds of Trains

Direct Express Train (Z) or Zhida in Chinese can reach up to 160km per hour as their top speed. The (Z) trains only have soft sleepers and soft seats so this train is ideal for long distance travel. Some (Z) trains will have several stops while others will have only one stop. Express Train (T) or Tekuai in Chinese have limited of stops on their route but these stops are usually in major cities. Express Train top speed is 140km per hour. The (T) trains are equipped with soft/hard seats and sleepers.

Fast Train (K) or Kuaiche in Chinese is slower the (Z) and (T) trains. The top speed of (K) train is only 120km per hour. This train has multiple of stops. The good thing about this train that it has air condition and four classes of train berths. Temporary train (L) also known as Linke in Chinese is only used during holiday travel time such as Chinese Spring Festival and National Holiday. You can find this train listed in the official fixed train schedule. Try not to take (L) train since they are known for delays. The (Y) train is for the tourist. If you want to travel to popular sights or destinations then you can travel by a (Y) train. For example a (Y) train will take people to the Great Wall.

Classes of train

There are four classes of Train seats one soft sleeper, two hard sleeper, three Soft seat and fourth hard seat. The soft sleeper has two bunks in each compartment. Each compartment has a door allowing separate access plus they come with slippers, cloths brush, tea cups, trash can. If you need to plug something in don’t worry each compartment has a wall socket. The toilets will be the clean and have toilet paper. If you travel by a sleeper train the price will be higher.

Hard Sleepers are not as comfortable as a soft sleeper. Each compartment has six fix bunks; there is no door so it will be noisy. Each bed will come with a pillow blankets and sheets. If you want to be more comfortable then sitting on a seat then hard sleeper is want you want it will also be cost effective.

Soft seats are nice and comfortable seats. They do have cushions. There will be five seats in a row each one will have a folding table. Hard seats are the lowest price. They are not comfortable if you going on a long or overnight train. The carriage will be noisy and crowed. The toilets are unclean and cramped and will not have toilet paper. If you want to be adventurous or travel like a local then the hard seat is a wonderful way to travel.

Your China tour should include at least one train ride. It will help you make your vacation more exciting. It will also help you save money on travel since it will cost you less then a plan ticket. Remember there are different trains and different classes just pick the one you want to experience.

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Part 2- A Quick Guide to China Trains

On November 16, 2011, in Tips & Ideas, Travel Info, by Jack Li

The best way to get around on your China Tour is by trains. Some people might not like traveling by trains because they don’t know the basic information on trains. My “Part One of a Quick Guide to China Trains” talked about how to buy tickets and where you need to go to buy tickets. This […]

The best way to get around on your China Tour is by trains. Some people might not like traveling by trains because they don’t know the basic information on trains. My “Part One of a Quick Guide to China Trains” talked about how to buy tickets and where you need to go to buy tickets. This article will be on the Train Reservations and train’s stations. By the time you are finished reading these articles you will want to leave your China hotel so that you can experience the joy of riding a train.

Train Reservation

Before you buy your ticket you need to know when you can reserve it. You can buy your train ticket Ten to five days before you depart. Most train tickets will be put on sale ten days before the train departs. If you feel like it a busy destination then you will want to go buy your ticket on the day they start to sell them to make sure you get your ticket before they sell out.

Train Station

As you enter the train station be ready to put your luggage through a scanning machine. A number of train stations in China have first class waiting room or second class waiting room. If you have a soft-sleeper or a soft seat then you can wait in the first class waiting room. If you have a hard seat or a hard-sleeper then you have to wait in the second class waiting room. Make sure you get to the train station early so you have enough time to find your waiting room and you also have enough time to board your train. It is also a good idea to arrive early so that you can have a seat in the waiting room or you will be standing or sitting on the ground, seeing as the train stations get very busy.

At each train station there will be an electric panel with train numbers and where it’s headed. Each electric panel has two colors red and green; when the electric panel turns green that will be your signal to board your train. To find your train carriage you will need to look at the carriage to see if it has a number or letter if it not there look at the ground next to the carriage it will be written there. Make sure you do not throw away your ticket because you will need it to exit the train.

Taking a train will be enjoyable because you have the opportunity to look out the window and see what China is really about. Looking out the window will show you how different each place is from how people live and what types of houses they live in. You will also be able to see different landscapes. Some of the most beautiful sights you will see will be from your train window. As soon as you plan your China Travel make certain that you plan on traveling by a train.

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Part 1- A Quick Guide to China Trains

On November 15, 2011, in Tips & Ideas, Travel Info, by Jack Li

If you are planning on a China tour and you want to travel by train but you have no idea on how to get a train ticket, look no further this article will tell you all you need to know about booking a train ticket. One of the cheapest ways to get around China is […]

If you are planning on a China tour and you want to travel by train but you have no idea on how to get a train ticket, look no further this article will tell you all you need to know about booking a train ticket. One of the cheapest ways to get around China is by traveling by trains. Traveling by train will help you save money on your China travel.

Train Tickets

There are many ways to get a train ticket you can go through your hotel, or you can go to the train station, or go to a train agency, or buy it online. The most convenient way is to go through your hotel. The hotel staff can help you book your ticket. Then the ticket will be sent to your hotel. If you don’t want to talk to anyone then you can email you hotel and ask them to do it for you. Hotels will charge you extra if you book your ticket through them.

If you want a cheap ticket the best way to do that is by going to the train station. In most stations the ticket office is separate from the waiting area. At the Beijing Station the ticket office is off to the left of the main part of the station, in big letters it says Ticket Office. If you are a foreigner make sure you go to the window that says Foreigners Window. To make it easier for you and the person helping you, write down where you want to go and what time you want to leave and what kind of train you want to go on. This way the person who is booking your ticket clearly understand what you want and it will be easier for them help you get the ticket you want. When you go to the train station make sure you take your passport with you. No passport no ticket.

The third place you can go to get a ticket is from a ticket agency. These agencies will be located in small offices around big cities. Some of these agencies will be hard to find and too recognized. The people working at these agencies might not know how to speak or read English so it might be helpful if you take a local with you to buy your ticket or if you know someone who can speak Chinese you can call them and have them translate for you. Another way is to have someone write down what you want in Chinese then all you have to do is show the piece of paper to workers and they can help you buy your ticket.  These agencies do have a small charge so be prepared to pay at least five Yuan.

A quick way to book a train ticket is by doing it online. Train tickets are usually expensive if you book online. There is a number of travel agency that sells train tickets for example ChinaTravelDepot is one. Just go to travel agency home page and click on tab that says “Trains”. Then type what city you are departing from and where you are arriving.  A list of schedule trains should pop up. Then pick a train that best fits your needs.

Traveling by train will be a lot cheaper then traveling by a China flight. Just remember there are lots of ways to get a train ticket. If you want quick and easy then go online or book through your hotel, but it will be more expensive. If you want cheaper then go to the train station or a train agency. Remember booking a train ticket is not hard to do.

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Train Travel with China Maps

On November 4, 2010, in Adventure Trip, Cultural Experience, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

Today, I am going to describe China’s train travel across China. Trains are hugely popular and are spread across the whole of China and connects the different provinces with one another. I would recommend using China Tours to organise your trips in China and China Hotels for your accommodation. There are four types of train class […]

Today, I am going to describe China’s train travel across China. Trains are hugely popular and are spread across the whole of China and connects the different provinces with one another. I would recommend using China Tours to organise your trips in China and China Hotels for your accommodation. There are four types of train class and style for the comfort of passengers and price. These include soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft or hard seat, 1st and 2nd class, 2-berth soft sleep, and deluxe soft sleeper. Most westerners use the soft sleeper trains as it more similar to their customs and comfortability but as with everything, varies in price which I will talk about later in this article.

Train Map of China

The trains are mainly distributed in the eastern areas of China, having more train lines connecting more provinces together there. The reason for this is because of the amount of people being distributed around China more recently and also due to economic prosperity within these areas.

Outside Train

Most trains are equipped with toilets, sometimes restaurant foods, and smoking facilities. A lot of long haul trains are equipped with beds to sleep on for overnight journeys which are very convenient and cheap to travel with.

Train restaurant

In Beijing, the trains are very busy at peak times and so busy that you will not be able to move due to the excessive amount of people trying to get on board. Get to train stations  in good time and be early to avoid being unable to find your train and the masses of people trying to get in front of you. There is plenty of space on the trains to put your luggage and items for your travels but it is advised you choose a soft sleeper ticket for room space. If in doubt then purchase your tickets through China Travel who will sort everything out for you. Enjoy your journeys across China.

More trains to Lhasa in time for summer demand

On July 5, 2010, in Lhasa, Tours, Transportation, Travel Info, by Jack Li

Travel agents in Shanghai have hailed the increase in the frequency of direct trains between Shanghai and Lhasa as demand for tours to the Tibet Autonomous Region increases. From today, there will be a train departing at 8 pm daily for Lhasa from Shanghai Railway Station, arriving two days later. Previously, there was one train […]

Travel agents in Shanghai have hailed the increase in the frequency of direct trains between Shanghai and Lhasa as demand for tours to the Tibet Autonomous Region increases.

From today, there will be a train departing at 8 pm daily for Lhasa from Shanghai Railway Station, arriving two days later. Previously, there was one train every two days. The most expensive berth costs around 1,400 yuan ($209), and the cheapest seat 406 yuan ($60).

Summer is the best season for visiting Tibet, according to an agent surnamed Liu from Shanghai Travel Agency, and the newly-added trains could bring a 20 to 30 percent hike in the number of Tibet package tours his agency sells.

“Most of our customers choose to take the train to Tibet not only because it’s cheaper than flying, but also as a way to gradually adapt to the higher altitude,” Liu said. “The scenery along the route is also very beautiful.”

Travel agencies in Shanghai offer tours from six to 12 days in length, at prices of up to almost 6,000 yuan ($896).

According to information on the Lhasa Railway Station website, trains from Shanghai to Lhasa in the next two weeks are fully booked.

The 40 hotels in Tibet listed on Chinese travel booking website Ctrip.com have taken 32 percent more bookings in the second half of June than during the same period last year, according to statistics provided by Ctrip.com.

Yu Nengda, an events manager from Hunan, went to Tibet in 2008 without using a travel agency, as he believed the package tours would not be a good option.

“I made many enquiries with agencies, but I did not think their itineraries were interesting,” said Yu. “Tibet is more about the culture, which is rooted not only in the palaces and temples, but also in the lives of local people. However, I didn’t see any packages that would allow me to spend time with locals,” Yu said.

Yu added that he lived in a Tibetan house during his travels, and that his hosts had been very kind and willing to tell him many things about their culture.

However, Zhang Wu’an, a spokesman from Spring International Travel Agency, told the Global Times that agencies can not offer such tours so easily.

“If there were a misunderstanding between our customers and locals because of their cultural differences, it could be a very serious headache for our travel agency,” Zhang said.

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