Home How to Take a Train in China

How to Take a Train in China

China has one of the most extensive rail networks in the world. With the rapid development of high-speed railway, trains have become the best and most convenient way to travel around China at reasonable prices and in comfort.

For many travelers, taking a train in China might seem challenging and stressful with images of China’s large population, difficulties with getting tickets, and crowded train stations.

After reading the tips below, you will find taking a train in China is probably easier than you think.

1. Understand the Train Types

Chinese trains can be divided into two types: high-speed trains and regular trains. The prefixed letter in the train number usually indicates the category of a train.

High-Speed Trains

High-speed trains have three categories: G trains, D trains, and C trains.

Business, first, and second class seats are available. Some D trains don’t have business class. Overnight D trains have soft sleepers, hard sleepers, and second class seats.

  • G train: This is the fastest high-speed train, with a top speed of 300–350 kph (186–217 mph). Business, first, and second classes of seats are available.
  • D train: This is the second fastest high-speed train, with a top speed of 250 kph (155 mph). D trains usually run on middle-distance routes or they operate as overnight high-speed trains.
  • C train: This train runs on intercity rail lines, with a top speed of 200 kph (124 mph). First and second class seats are available.

Regular Trains

Regular trains have four categories: Z, T, K, and ordinary trains. These trains provide superior soft sleeper, soft sleeper, hard sleeper, and hard seat classes.

  • Z train: These are direct express trains traveling between destinations with just a few major stops and with a top speed of 160 kph (99 mph).
  • T train: These are express trains with a top speed of 140 kph (87 mph).
  • K train: These are fast trains with a top speed of 120 kph (74 mph). They stop at large and medium-sized cities.
  • Ordinary train: These are the slowest trains, stopping at almost every city along the way.

2. Choose Your Seat Class

Seat Classes on High-Speed Trains

  • Business class: This is the most luxurious and expensive class on high-speed trains. Seats are arranged as 1+2 across the car width, providing a high level of privacy and enriched travel experience.
  • First class: The seats are arranged as 2+2 in a row. The seats have more legroom and elbow room than in second class.
  • Second class: The seats are arranged as 3+2 in a row.
  • Soft sleeper: This class is available on overnight high-speed trains, which consists of private compartments with four bunks.

Seat Classes on Regular Trains

  • Superior soft sleeper: This is the most luxurious and most expensive class on regular trains and is only available on a few trains. It consists of private lockable compartments with two bunks.
  • Soft sleeper: This is the most popular class on overnight trains. There are four bunks (upper and lower bunks) in each private compartment, which has lockable doors, providing comfort and privacy at a reasonable price.
  • Hard sleeper: The ticket price for a hard sleeper is cheaper than a soft sleeper. It consists of an open-plan compartment with six bunks (upper, middle, and lower bunks).
  • Hard seat: This is the cheapest class. It is not recommended for a train journey that is longer than 4 hours. This is because the cars are always very crowded and noisy, especially during holidays, with passengers standing in the aisles and car connections.

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

3. Purchase Your Train Ticket(s)

There are several ways to purchase Chinese train tickets. Buying online in advance with a travel agency like Train Spread is recommended.

China Railway’s online reservation system opens 30 days prior to the departure date. However, it is advisable that you make your booking as early as possible, especially for train tickets needed during holidays, such as the May Day holiday, National Day holiday, summer vacation, and the Spring Festival.

Making your booking in advance will increase the possibilities for a successful purchase. When tickets become available, the travel agency can make the actual purchase as soon as the tickets are released.

All train tickets are e-tickets, you don't need to collet them at train station.

4. Go to the Right Train Station

There is always more than one train station in a large city. For example, there are four train stations in Beijing and each one is a long way from the others.

Double-check the departure station to make sure you go to the right one for your train.

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

5. Security Checks

You need to go through the security checks before entering the station building. ID document uesd for ticket booking will be checked, and all your bags need to go through an X-ray check.

6. Find the Right Boarding Gate / Waiting Lounge

In large train stations, such as Beijing South, Guangzhou South, and Shanghai Hongqiao, there are large waiting halls with several boarding gates. All passengers wait in the same waiting hall.

You just need to find your boarding gate for your train. You can find such information on the information board, or we will send the information to you if you purchase tickets with us.

In smaller train stations, there are several waiting lounges. Each waiting lounge has one boarding gate. In this case, you need to find the right waiting lounge for your train. Such information will be shown on the information board at the departure concourse.

7. Check In

Your ID document used for ticket booking will be checked again at boarding gate.

The check-in process usually starts 20 minutes and ends 5 minutes before departure.

8. Boarding

After the check-in process, follow the passenger flow to find the right platform for your train. The information will be shown on an LED board.

Then you need to find your car. The car number is shown on each car or by the door.

9. Locate Your Seat/Bunk

Find your seat according to your seat/bunk number.

On high-speed trains, baggage can be put on the luggage rack above your seat or in the luggage closet at the car connections. On sleeper trains, your bags can be put on the luggage rack at the top of the car or under the lower bunk.

10. Get Off

Pack your belongings and be prepared to get off at least 10 minutes in advance. On high-speed trains, there are bilingual announcements, which will tell you which station the train is stopping at.

On regular trains, however, there are no announcements. Please pay attention to when the train arrives at your destination.

11. Check Out

After disembarking from the train, follow the signs to get out of the station. In main train stations in China, you can follow the signs to find the subway station, taxi stands, or bus stops without going outside the building.

12. Transfer to Another Train

At main train stations, you can conveniently connect to another train via the transfer channels.

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