Traveling by train in China has long been popular, and it’s increasingly so with HSR (high-speed railway) developments. China is famous for having the world’s biggest and fastest train network. A train ride is highly recommended for most China itineraries.
To help you have a smooth trip in China, here we list the top 7 useful tips about traveling by train in China.
High-speed/bullet trains and normal trains are available in China. There are seven train types:
The seat classes (carriages) on China trains vary with train type and journey length (daytime or overnight).
For more, see Train Types and Seat Classes in China.
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 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.
Identification: Remember to bring your passport.
Train tickets: If you booked a ticket online, make sure you have your e-ticket on your electronic device.
Toilet paper is provided on trains, but always runs out. It is a good idea to take your own toilet paper.
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.
And remember to bring entertainment like a book, a movie, or some good music, which can help you pass the time.
You should choose clothes that are suitable for the season and consistent with the weather and climate of your next destination.
Food and drink for the journey…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sleeper trains between China and Vietman connect Beijing/Nanning and Gia Lam, Hanoi.
Two international trains running between China and Russia including Trans-Mongolian Railway.