China Train Travel Tips

The China train travel tips are listed to help you have a smooth China train trip, including when and how to buy a ticket, how to choose a suitable train and seat class, how to take the train, where to put your valuable belongings and large luggage onboard, and other useful guide on food and toilet issues.
 

 What do trains in China look like?
There are generally two types of them: high speed trains and normal trains. Seats and berths inside them vary to meet the requirements of different passengers. See the pictures to get a general view.


 Daily Departure
Most trains here depart daily, other than the international ones, temporary ones and several running to Lhasa and Hong Kong.

See schedule of major cities in the country:
 Beijing    Shanghai    Guangzhou     Xian


China High-Speed Train
China High Speed Train

 Choose a Train
Trains are generally divided into high-speed ones and ordinary ones. High-speed ones are more comfortable and time-saving, and of course more expensive, but still they are cheaper than airplanes. Ordinary ones keep down expenses; if you take an over-night one, it saves you an accommodation fee too.
 See the details of China Train Types


 Choose a Seat / Sleeper
If taking an ordinary train, soft sleeper or hard sleeper is recommended to escape the crowded seat carriages and avoid the exhaustion of a long journey. A bottom bunk is preferable to middle or top bunk as it has a relatively bigger space.
 See the details of Hard Sleeper vs. Soft Sleeper


 Buy Tickets as Early as Possible
Passengers can buy a ticket up to 30 days prior to departure online or by phone, or 28 days prior at railway stations. During peak seasons like Spring Festival Rush and National Day holiday, it is strongly recommended to purchase tickets as early as possible because they may be sold out within minutes of becoming available.
 How to Buy China Train Tickets
 Train Travel in China during Holidays

Special Tips:
1. It is currently not convenient for foreigners themselves to buy tickets online or through phone as only Chinese service is available. For those who want to book in advance, you may ask help from reliable and professional agencies like TravelChinaGuide.com.
Here below are Booking FAQs for your reference.
2. When booking or buying a ticket, the passenger’s valid passport is required, as real-name policy is carried out to stop scalpers.

A Hard Sleeper Carriage
A Hard Sleeper Carriage
Buy tickets from ticket window of a railway station
Ticket Office in a Railway Station

 Arrive at the Railway Station Early
It is advised to arrive at the station an hour before scheduled departure time for security check, finding the waiting room, ticket check and boarding, etc. If you are going to pick up tickets at the station or travel during a peak season like Chinese New Year, it is advisable to be there at least 1.5 hours earlier.
 How to Take the Train in China
 Facts on China Train Travel - A Beginner's Guide


 Find the Right Station
There may be more than one railway station in your departure or arrival cities. For instance, Beijing has Beijing Railway Station, Beijing West, Beijing South and Beijing North. Make sure you go to or get off at the right one. The departure and arrival stations are stated clearly on the ticket.

 Useful Chinese Phrases for Train Travel


 Can I use any Engligh Map in China to guide my way to/from the railway stations?
For iphone users, the iphone map can be used in China with the English remark. But for other cellphone users, no English map can be used at the moment. 


 Waiting Room for Mother and Infant
Many stations have a special waiting room for pregnant passengers and passengers traveling with babies or small children, so that they can sit comfortably; and in most cases, they can get onboard before others to avoid crowds.
 Further Reading Train Travel in China with Kids or during Pregnancy


 Baggage Allowance
Each adult passenger can take baggage weighing no more than 44 pounds (20kg) for free and the total length of the baggage's width, length and height should be within 51 inches (130cm) on bullet trains and  63 inches (160cm) on high speed types. For excess baggage, one can use consignment service. But in reality most baggage can be taken into carriages as it is seldom weighed or measured during the boarding process, unless they are extremely large or heavy.


 Luggage Space

Left Luggage Office
Left Luggage Office

The luggage can be put on the luggage racks above the seats on two sides of the carriage or under the lower berth or table. The luggage rack of G/D/C trains is too small for luggage in large or super sizes. There are special closets for large luggage at one end or last/first row of each carriage, but the space is limited and suitcases are piled one on another. Therefore, you’d better check in early and find a place for your suitcase, and take care of the fragile items.


 Left Luggage at Railway Stations
Most stations have left luggage offices or luggage lockers, where passengers can leave their luggage for a charge based on the luggage size and storage time.


 Announcements at Railway Stations
In some big cities, like Beijing and Shanghai, English is used while in some small cities, only Chinese is available!


Announcements Onboard
These are generally in Chinese only, while those in English may also be available on bullet trains. It is suggested you remember your arrival time so that you do not miss your stop, especially when you get off at an intermediate station.


 Eating Onboard
Food, snacks, drinks, and fruit, etc are available onboard, either in the dining car or on moving trolleys. But they are more expensive and mostly in local style. If possible, prepare some before departure.
 See details of Food Onboard

Dining Car on A Train
Dining Car Onboard
Snack Trolley Onboard
Moving Food Trolley Onboard


 Drinking Water
Tap water is not fit for drinking in the country, neither is it in rail carriages. Buy some bottled water before boarding; or bring a cup, there is free boiled water onboard.


Toilet on Bullet Train
Toilet on Bullet Train

 Toilets

Toilets are at two ends of each carriage. The ones on an ordinary train are mostly squatted type without toilet paper and hand lotion. They void directly onto the tracks; so take care of your cell phones and other belongings when using them. They are usually closed when the rail carriages are stopped at platforms.

Toilets on high-speed trains are usually seated type. Although toilet paper and hand cleaner is provided they can be used up soon after setting off. It is advisable to bring some on your own.
 See details of Facilities Onboard


 Bring a Carry-on Bag with You
Put important documents like passport and other valuable personal belongings inside the bag and always keep the bag with you. You can also prepare another bag to put what may be needed during the journey inside, like a cup, toilet paper, and snacks. It is inconvenient and dangerous to take bags off from luggage shelf on a moving vehicle.


 Bring Wash Supplies if Traveling Overnight
Washing supplies like a towel and tooth brush are not provided onboard, even if in sleeper carriages.


 Take a Pair of Earplugs
They help to block noise from the moving wheels and people’s talking, and ensure you a quiet journey or sleep environment.


 Sleep with Underwear on
On the one hand, you are in a public space; on the other hand, the bedding may be not that clean.


 Travel with Pets
Animals (excluding guide dogs), are not allowed in passenger carriages, but can be consigned from the departure station on trains which have a freight carriage. The animals must be caged and consigned four hours prior to the departure time with quarantine and health certificates.

Tip:
1. Some cities’ railway stations do not accept animal consignments, such as Shanghai. In order to make your trip smooth, we suggest you do not to take any pets on your journey.
2. For those who travel with guide dogs, inform staff to get a suitable seat or berth when purchasing the ticket and contact railway staff over twelve hours before departure or upon arrival at the station for assistance. When boarding, please bring your ID card used for purchasing the ticket and the certificate of disability, as well as the dog’s work permit and animal health immunization certificate. During the trip the dog should wear a guide harness and be chained.


 Can I take my bike on a China train?
Bikes are not allowed to take onboard. Passengers can consign the bicycle or deliver it via China Railway Express. At some stations, passengers may be allowed to take disassembled bike onboard, but in a hard box or case that does not exceed 63 inches (160 cm) cubed.


 Miss the Train
Get to the booking office of the railway station immediately to see if you can have your ticket changed. Generally speaking, a ticket cannot be refunded after the scheduled departure time, but can be changed to another one with the same departure date. The change should be handled before 24:00 of the departure date on the ticket.


 Lost the Ticket(s)
If you lost the ticket before departure, you should report the loss at any railway station by presenting your passport and pay for a new ticket for the same seat/berth on the same train. A service fee of CNY 2 is charged. After you get onboard, you should tell the conductor that you lost your ticket and have bought a new one, and then the chief conductor will give you a passenger transport record before you reach your destination. With the record, the new ticket and your passport, you can have the new ticket refunded and get the money back within 24 hours after you arrive at your destination.

If lost onboard or before checking out at the arrival station, you should handle the procedures onboard or at the ticket office of the arrival station.


 Adventures by Rail:
Soul of Beijing & Shanghai: 6 Days of Beijing - Shanghai
 Xian - Luoyang Rail Tour: 1 Day of Xian - Luoyang - Xian
5 Days China Tour: Shanghai - Suzhou - Zhouzhuang - Shanghai