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.Plan Your Journey

Decide where you want to travel to and from. Know the names of the stations or cities involved in your journey. Then visit the website or app of your local train service provider to view the schedules. Look for the departure and arrival times of the trains that operate on your intended route. 

Decide when you want to travel. Consider your preferred departure and arrival times, as well as any time restrictions or preferences you may have. Different trains may have different features and ticket prices. Consider factors such as speed, comfort, and availability of services when choosing the type of train you prefer.

2. Choose Your Seat Class

The choice of seat class on a train depends on your preferences, budget, and the available options. 

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.

business class seat on bullet trains

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 15 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. Just use your passports or ID card to board the train. 

4. Go to the Right Train Station

In a large city, such as Beijing, there are typically multiple train stations, with each station located quite a distance from the others. For instance, in Beijing, there are four train stations spread across different areas.

To ensure that you board the correct train, we strongly advise double-checking the departure station mentioned on your ticket.

For a hassle-free journey, we recommend arriving at the station at least 1 hour before your scheduled departure time. This will allow ample time for ticket validation, security checks, and finding your platform without rushing.

shenzhen north railway station for bullet trains

5. Security Checks

Security checks at train stations play a crucial role in ensuring the safety and security of passengers and the general public. Before entering the station building, it is necessary to undergo these security procedures.

During the security check, your identification document, which was used for ticket booking, will be inspected. This is done to verify your identity and ensure that the ticket corresponds to the traveler. Additionally, all bags and belongings will go through an X-ray check. This step helps to detect any prohibited or potentially dangerous items that may pose a threat to passenger safety.

These security measures are in place to create a safe environment for everyone traveling by train. By complying with these procedures, we contribute to the overall well-being and peace of mind of all passengers.

6. Find the Right Boarding Gate / Waiting Lounge

In major train stations like Beijing South, Guangzhou South, and Shanghai Hongqiao, there are spacious waiting halls with multiple boarding gates. Passengers from different trains gather in the same waiting hall.

To locate your specific boarding gate, you can refer to the information board within the station. Alternatively, if you purchase your tickets through us, we will provide you with the relevant information in advance.

In smaller train stations, there are usually several waiting lounges, with each lounge assigned to a specific boarding gate. In such cases, it is important to identify the appropriate waiting lounge for your train. The information regarding the waiting lounges and their respective boarding gates can be found on the information board at the departure concourse.

7. Check In

Your ID document used for ticket booking will be checked once again at the boarding gate. This step is crucial in maintaining the security and integrity of the boarding process.

It's important to note that the check-in process typically commences 20 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time and concludes 5 minutes before departure. Therefore, it is advisable to arrive at the boarding gate within this timeframe to allow for a smooth check-in experience. Prompt arrival ensures that any necessary procedures can be completed in a timely manner, allowing you to board the train without any last-minute complications.

boarding gates

8. Boarding

Once the check-in process is completed, you can follow the passenger flow towards the platform designated for your train. The platform information will be clearly displayed on an LED board within the station.

Upon reaching the platform, it is important to locate the specific coach assigned to you. Each coach will have its car number displayed prominently, either on the side of the coach or near the entrance door. This helps passengers find their designated seats easily and ensures smooth boarding.

By paying attention to these details and following the displayed information, you will be able to navigate the train station effectively, find the appropriate platform, and locate your assigned car without any confusion or delays.

9. Locate Your Seat/Bunk

Once you have located your assigned train car, it is important to find your specific seat or bunk based on the seat or bunk number indicated on your ticket.

For high-speed trains, there are luggage racks above the seats or in the luggage closets located at the connections between train coachs. You can place your baggage either on the luggage rack above your seat or in the designated luggage closet.

On sleeper trains, there is usually a luggage rack at the top of the coach or underneath the lower bunk. You can securely store your bags on the luggage rack provided, ensuring they are out of the way and leaving ample space for you to move comfortably within the cabin.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that you find your designated seat or bunk and store your baggage appropriately, making your journey on the train more comfortable and convenient.

10. Get Off

To ensure a smooth departure, it is advisable to pack your belongings and be ready to disembark from the train at least 10 minutes prior to your scheduled arrival time. 

On high-speed trains, you will benefit from bilingual announcements that inform passengers about the upcoming station stops. These announcements will help you identify and prepare for your specific station arrival.

However, on non-bullet trains, there may not be any announcements. In this case, it is crucial to remain attentive and keep track of the train's progress. Refer to the timetable or consult fellow passengers to determine when the train is approaching your destination station. Being mindful and aware of the journey's progress will enable you to disembark at the correct station without any inconvenience.

11. Check Out

After disembarking from the train, follow the signs within the train station to find your way out. In major train stations in China, you will typically find clear signage directing you to various facilities without having to leave the station building.

These signs will guide you towards the subway station, taxi stands, or bus stops conveniently located within the train station premises. This allows for easy access to different modes of transportation without the need to venture outside.

12. Transfer to Another Train

At major train stations, there are transfer channels available to facilitate seamless connections to other trains. These transfer channels provide a convenient way to transition between different train services without the need to exit the station.

By utilizing these transfer channels, you can easily navigate the train station and quickly transfer to your next train. This eliminates the hassle of having to navigate through crowded areas or searching for separate entrances.

Whether you are switching to another high-speed train or transitioning from a high-speed train to a regular train, these transfer channels within the train station will ensure a smooth and efficient transfer experience.

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