Home Top 8 Useful China Train Travel Tips

Top 8 Useful China Train Travel Tips

Traveling by train in China has long been popular, and it’s increasingly so with HSR (high-speed railway) developments. However, for those who are new to train travel in China, it can present challenges and unfamiliar situations. To help you make the most of your China train journey, this article provides 8 invaluable tips.

To help you have a smooth trip in China, here we list the top 7 useful tips about traveling by train in China.

1. Choose Appropriate Train Type and Seat Class

When planning your train journey in China, it is crucial to select the appropriate train type and seat class that best suits your needs.

High-speed/bullet trains and normal trains are available in China. There are seven train types:

  • G-category trains have an average speed of 300–350km/h (186–217 mph). The top speed is 400km/h (249 mph).
  • D trains and C trains have an average speed of 200–250km/h(124–155 mph).
  • Z, T, K, and no-letter trains are the “normal trains”. Their top speed is 160 km/h (99 mph).

china high speed train

The seat classes (carriages) on China trains vary with train type and journey length (daytime or overnight).

  • Daytime high-speed trains have Business, First Class, and Second Class seated carriages. Second Class and First Class seats are the most popular among travelers. Business Class seats are the most expensive and the most comfortable.
  • Overnight high-speed trains have Soft Sleeper, Hard Sleeper, and Second Class Seat cars.
  • Regular (usually overnight) trains provide Superior Soft Sleeper, Soft Sleeper, Hard Sleeper, Soft Seat, and Hard Seat class cars, as well as Standing class tickets for Hard Seat cars.

For more, see Train Types and Seat Classes in China.

2. Book Your Ticket Online as Early as Possible

You can book your China train tickets once your travel plan has been confirmed. For a smooth trip, you are strongly advised to book your tickets in advance. High-speed train tickets especially tend to run out quickly in China at peak times.

Before Chinese New Year and other major holidays, ticket queues are huge and you should purchase your train ticket as soon as you can. Train tickets are usually put on sale 30 days in advance.

There are different ways to buy train tickets in China, including booking online with a reliable travel agency like Train Spread, at a train station, or at a ticket office.

The best and most convenient way is to book online via Train Spread. We provide a helpful and professional one-to-one service as well as 24/7 after-sales support. We can take very early bookings and will purchase tickets and confirm the booking once the tickets are put on sale.

It may be difficult for you to book your train tickets straight from China Railway’s official website because it is only in Chinese and only Chinese bank cards are accepted.

Purchasing your tickets when you arrive in China or on the day is not a good idea either. Tickets are sold out very quickly and there are language issues because most staff members at train stations only speak Chinese.

3. Keep Important Documents Handy

Make sure to keep your passports readily accessible during your train journey. You may need to show them at various checkpoints.

China has introduced e-ticketing for train travel. The e-ticket system allows passengers to book train tickets online and receive an electronic ticket instead of a physical paper ticket. Foreign passengers traveling in China can conveniently board the train without the need to pick up paper tickets. Instead, they only need to show their passports for verification prior to boarding. 

In addition, it is essential to have your train information readily available on your electronic device, as there are no physical paper tickets involved. Make sure to check and have access to your train and seat numbers before boarding. This will enable you to seamlessly locate your designated train and seat, ensuring a smooth and organized travel experience.

4. Bring Your Own Snacks and Drinks

Trains in China have dining cars, and Chinese packaged meals and snacks are provided. You can also buy soft drinks like tea, milk, and bottled watered in the dining car.

You're allowed to bring your own snacks and drinks on Chinese trains. Food and drinks on trains and in stations is more expensive than outside and what you want may not be available. Bringing your own is highly recommended. 

Train carriages provide free hot water. You should take your own cup/flask for hot water.

5. Keep your Baggage Light and Safe

taking a high-speed train in China

Free baggage allowance on Chinese trains is 10 kg (22lb) per child, 20 kg (44lb) per adult and 35 kg (77lb) for diplomats.

Baggage space on trains in China is limited, and it is better to store your baggage near you in your car, so it is recommended to travel “light”. Your luggage must fit safely on the overhead racks with no parts or straps overhanging. Loose items, like water bottles, that may fall out of a bag or off the rack are routinely required to be repacked or held.

If you are traveling during the Chinese holidays, be prepared for crowded trains. Then, it’s advisable to have your backpack close and visible among all the luggage.

6. Get to the Station Early

To guarantee a smooth trip, arrive at the station at least 1 hour before departure.

If you didn’t purchase your ticket beforehand, we suggest you arrive at the station at least 1½ hours ahead of the stated departure time to allow enough time to queue up, buy a ticket, and pass through the security and ticket checks before entering the departure lounge.

The boarding gate opens 30 minutes before departure at origin stations and 15 minutes before at intermediate stations. It will close 5 minutes before the departure time.

7. Bring Your Own Toilet Paper

It is recommended to bring your own toilet paper when traveling on trains in China. While some trains may provide toilet paper, it is not always guaranteed, and the quality can vary. It is a good idea to take your own toilet paper. Additionally, it's a good idea to pack some hand sanitizer or wet wipes for additional cleanliness.

If you travel overnight by normal trains for a long-distance trip, you should bring your own washroom supplies like a towel, tooth brush, soap, and shampoo. 

8. Be Prepared to Get Off Your Train

Get prepared to get off your train 10 minutes in advance if you need to get off at an intermediate station. Take your luggage to an exit and get ready to get off the train. Most trains arrive at their stops punctually, so it is advisable to remember your destination and arrival time with your ticket.

Broadcasts inform passengers about arrivals about 5 minutes in advance. You can also ask the conductor or other passengers to remind you to get ready for your stop.

If your arrival station is the terminal station, you can take your time and move slowly. The train will stop for a quite long time, so if you’re not pressed for time, you could just get off after the other passengers to avoid the crowds.

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