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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A Short First Timers Guide to Trains in China

On September 20, 2011, in China Travel Gossip, Tips & Ideas, Travel Info, by Jack Li

During your China travel adventure, You may consider venturing out on the train for an interesting cultural experience, a day trip to somewhere new or simply as a method of transport from point A to B. Less hassle than catching a flight or taking a bus, the trains in China cover most of the important […]

During your China travel adventure, You may consider venturing out on the train for an interesting cultural experience, a day trip to somewhere new or simply as a method of transport from point A to B. Less hassle than catching a flight or taking a bus, the trains in China cover most of the important tourist destinations alongside local areas so you can travel to Xian, Shanghai, Guilin, Tibet, Guangzhou and more depending on your itinerary.

 

Train Categories in China

Trains in China have multiple categories, distinguished by a letter (this precedes a number which corresponds to the route). ‘K’ and ‘T’ are the oldest and therefore slowest train types, with the middle category being the ‘Z’ train. Trains starting with a  ‘C’, ‘D’ or ‘G’ are the newest and fastest trains, usually with the highest prices, although this is worthwhile if you are short of time and far from the price you would pay for the same distance in a western country.

 

Seat and Sleeper Classes in China

There are a variety of seat and sleeper classes on Chinese trains, however some are restricted to certain trains, for example long distance or popular routes. The types available are: Soft Sleeper, Hard Sleeper, Soft Seat, Hard Seat and the less often seen Deluxe Sleeper.

Soft sleeper is a 4 bed compartment with a lockable door, car attendant and occasionally, TV screens and power supplies. This is the most popular category for western tourists and nicely fits a family of four. The two lower bunks convert into sofa’s for daytime use. Hard sleeper is an open plan 6 bed partition and has no lockable door. These berths are popular with the backpacker crowd and travellers with a lower budget.

Soft and hard seats are similar to those on western trains, soft is slightly larger and more padded being equivalent to first class back home, whilst second class are cheaper and adequate, like standard train seats in Europe and America.

Deluxe sleepers are usually found on long distance overnight trains and consist of a private 2 bed compartment with private bathroom area. Travellers use these less often, as they are usually equivalent to the cost of a flight and generally occupied by government employees.

Train facilities

All except the oldest ‘K’ and ‘T’ trains are fully air conditioned and generally have both western and squat toilets available. Toilet paper is very rarely supplied so be prepared to bring your own supply for the journey. Smoking is only permitted outside of sleeping compartments and aisles, however the newer model trains have a non-smoking rule.

All long distance trains and those running a popular route have restaurants on board. They are housed in a restaurant car and those heading to or from major tourist orientated towns and cities will likely have an English menu. There are snacks, drinks and hot meals available. In addition to this there are usually hot water dispensers situated throughout the train should you wish to make your own hot drinks, soup or pot noodles.

 

Booking and Purchasing Tickets

You can purchase tickets prior to your arrival in China or through an agent, this is a stress free easier method especially if you don’t have a very flexible itinerary, however there will be an added fee for the convenience.

It is simple enough to book tickets yourself and large cities generally have an English speaking booth available. Tickets for the popular high speed trains usually come on sale up to 20 days before departure however the older and less used trains often leave it until 5 to 10 days before. It is recommended to take your passport as for certain routes and trains it needs to be presented in order for you to book a ticket. Another point to be aware of is you are only able to book a journey departing from the station you are at, so you cannot book a journey from Beijing to Xian if you are at Shanghai Central Station.

A recommended website for train travel throughout China (and other cities) with all other vital information including photographs is Seat 61. You can also book many train journeys within China online at China Travel Depot.

 

Beijing Train system

On October 20, 2010, in Beijing, Cultural Experience, Getting Around, Transportation, by Jack Li

Taking a trip on the subway is a must for anyone who wants to experience real Beijing, It’s very easy to navigate with signs and online announcements in English and Chinese. Also onboard some of the newer modern trains there are LED displays which indicate the current position or the train. I would suggest for […]

Taking a trip on the subway is a must for anyone who wants to experience real Beijing, It’s very easy to navigate with signs and online announcements in English and Chinese. Also onboard some of the newer modern trains there are LED displays which indicate the current position or the train. I would suggest for those people who want to avoid getting squashed or the claustrophobic among you to avoid rush hour as this is the busiest time on the subway and when I say busy I mean it you cannot move and its really hot!  I think Chinese people missed the memo about personal-space!

The subway Train

The subway system is the oldest and busiest subway in mainland China, however it has recently undergone a major revamp and extension mainly thanks to the olympics. There are currently 11 lines in operation with 100 stations servicing 5 million people daily. The extension work is still ongoing estimated completion 2015, the planned work will allow a whopping 3million more people to get the train and will be 561 km of track making it bigger than most other major cities including London and New York. On April 30, 2010, the subway delivered a record 6.4 million rides making it the busiest of its kind.

The subway is very cheap at a flat far rate of only 2.00RMB regaurdless of where you go or how many changes are made. Apart from the newly installed airport Express which costs 25 RMB one way, children below 1.2m in height ride for free when accompanied by a paying adult. If you are staying in Beijing for a long period I would suggest to get a top up card for the subway. This card will make it easier and quicker to multiple trips. It is 20 RMB deposit which is refundable plus whatever amount you want to top up the card with. This can be very useful as sometimes during rush hour the line to get tickets can be up to an hour long.

Waiting for the train

The subway is very reliable and can be very useful when in a hurry especially at rush hour, it beats getting on the road and can be much faster than a taxi. Keep in mind the subway is generally closed after midnight, unless some special occasion prompts extended operating hours.The first trains depart terminals at around 5 am and the last leave at around 11 pm on some lines this can be as early as 10.30pm. For precise hours and frequency of service, check the official schedule.

The Beijing Subway system is also a great for anyone who is on a budget and wants to do some cheap sight seeing as it does connect some of the major tourist destinations such as Tiananmen Square/Forbidden City, Wangfujing, the Lama Temple,  the main train station and the Olympic Park.

Beijing subway map


Beijing’s subway lines generally follow the checkerboard layout of the city. Most lines run parallel or perpendicular to each other and intersect at right angles

If this account has inspired you to want to travel Beijing but don’t know where to start for some great low cost travel idea’s go to China Tours. Or if you need advice on hotels go to China Hotels

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