When you are in China for a longer time there is a big chance that you’ll want to travel through China. There are many amazing things to see and do in China; riding horses in the grasslands (or camels in the deserts), seeing the terracotta army, visiting big cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, climbing the great wall, cruising on the Yangtze river and much more! But how are you going to get to those places? You can book a flight and take the plane, or maybe take your own car, a long distance bus and another great option is taking the Train. Here I’ll explain a bit more how the train system in China works, the different classes that the trains have and how and where to get your tickets. Taking the train in China is great, whether you’re travelling for vacation, travelling for business or just travelling to experience a Chinese train.
China’s Train System
China has a very good railroad infrastructure and you can take trains to virtually all of the bigger cities and usually also to smaller second tier cities and towns. China actually has one of the biggest and also busiest railroad networks in the world. Taking the train in China is a safe, cheap and comfortable (depending on the class you are in) way of transport. So which classes are available in Chinese trains?
The most expensive, and also most luxurious class that is available is the soft sleeper class. Booking a soft sleeper will grant you a 4 bed compartment (2 upper beds and 2 lower beds) a small table with a tablecloth and even a jug of hot water. The compartments have lockable doors and if you are not travelling with 3 other people, you’ll be sharing the compartment with other travellers. I have travelled through China in a soft sleeper compartment twice (about 10-12 hour trip) and I found the compartment very comfortable.
As the name already says, this class still provides you with a bed, but it’s a bit harder to sleep in these beds. If you have a hard sleeper train ticket you’ll be placed in ‘semi-compartments’ with 6 beds (2 lower, 2 middle and 2 upper beds). These beds are a bitt smaller than the soft sleeper beds and also a bit harder. The compartments do not have a door but you’ll still have a small table available. Everything may sound a little harsh, but the hard sleeper class really isn’t that bad and there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t take it. I have travelled through China in a hard sleeper bed twice as well (one 7 hour trip and one other trip, which I will tell you about later on in this article), and both times I slept perfectly fine.
Hard seat & Soft seat
These are the equivalents to the first and second class seats you’ll find in european trains. Even though you might not expect it from the name, the hard seats are usually still padded. Taking this class means that you will be sitting upright for the entire trip, there will be Chinese people sitting on the floor, standing in the walkway (because the train is overbooked) and it will be more busy than the sleeper compartments. I have travelled through China having booked a hard seat once. This was a 30 hour trip from the south of China back to Beijing. Me and my friend had to take the hard seats as these were the only tickets available (I was travelling during Chinese new year, more on the availability of tickets later in this article). Halfway during the trip we decided that we couldn’t last anymore and asked for an upgrade to a Hard sleeper. So the second half of the trip was spent in a bed that felt extremely comfortable after having spent 15 hours in a chair in a busy Chinese train.