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Hard Seats & Soft Seats

Hard Seats

A hard seat on China trains only appears on K, T, Z, L and other old type trains. Inside China hard seat train carriage, two rows sit face to face with a small table in between. Each row has 5 seats, a three-seat bench and a two-seat bench on either side of the aisle. The seat back is almost vertical and cannot be adjusted; the seat is only 16 inches (40cm) wide, the smallest among all China train seats, and without any armrest. It is not recommended for a long-distance overnight trip or to foreign passengers, even though China train hard seat ticket price is the cheapest among all.

Luggage racks are above the seats at both sides of the carriage, measuring 20-24 inches (50-60cm) wide and 24-28 inches (60-70cm) high, large enough for big suitcases and backpacks. Passengers can also put their baggage under their seats.

Hard Seat
Hard Seat
Two rows of hard seats sit face to face
A hard seat carriage on a China train has 108 or 118 seats, and 180 seats in the double-decker trains. The seats are numbered and you can find the number on the signs between two rows. On the three-seat side, seats No. 5, 10, 15, 20… are by the window, seats No. 6, 11, 16, 21… are in the middle, and seat No2, 7, 12, 17…are by the aisle; on the two-seat side, No.4, 9, 14, 19… are by the window, and No.3, 8, 13, 18…are by the aisle. According to the above rule, in the first row, seats No.1, 2 and 3 should have been on the three-seat bench, and seats No.4 and 5 should have been on the two-seat bench. However, as this row is close to the door of the carriage, there are only four seats, two on either side of the aisle. So, the seats come as No.1 window, No.2 aisle, No.3 aisle, and No.4 window.

A hot water heater for drinking water is available at one end of the carriage. It is working when the red light is on, and the water is boiled when the green light is on. Passengers should be careful not to be scalded when using the heater. The toilet is also at the end of each carriage, which are of course squat type and have no toilet paper. Washbasins are both inside and outside of toilet. A dustbin is near to the washing basins outside of the toilet. The connecting area between two carriages is smoking area, where an ashtray is on the wall. Fire extinguishers are also at one end of the carriage.
Hard Seat Number
Seat Number
A hard seat carriage is usually crowded and noisy. People holding standing room tickets will stand along aisles; even toilets and washing basins are taken by people and their luggage in peak times. During holidays and festivals, it is nearly impossible for you to walk through the aisle to the toilet. Passengers in hard seat carriages are mostly students, farmers, and migrant workers. Foreign passengers are seldom seen here. If a foreigner “accidentally” boards a hard seat carriage, he or she will receive many surprise and curious looks. Some people may talk to you, but some may just stare at you from time to time.

A long journey in hard seat carriage is definitely uncomfortable and even unbearable, and is not suggested to foreign visitors, unless you really want to experience a difficult journey in China. An old saying is that 'he who does not reach the Great Wall is not a true man’, but a new one among some foreign visitors is that 'he who does not take a hard seat train trip during the Spring Festival Rush is not a true man’. For the adventurous or maybe just a short daytime journey this is acceptable as it is a wonderful way to experience something of the timelessness of the real China and its people.
Hard Seat Carriage
Crowded Carriage
The Washbasins Are Taken by Luggage
Luggage on Washbasins
1. Take care of your luggage. If you find any thieves, call for help. There are policemen on the train.
2. Bring some essential medicine with you.
3. Take a bottle and drink hot water rather than cold water.
4. Wear a pair of loose shoes. Sitting for a long period of time and wearing a pair of tight shoes will lead to poor blood circulation, which may cause blood clots in your legs.
5. Carry enough food and snacks.
6. Magazines, newspapers, and playing cards are good to kill time.
7. Pay attention to the food and drinks offered by strangers, a few may be using the offer with an ulterior motive, although this is rare.
8. When the carriage is filled with people and you are wondering how to walk through the aisle to answer the nature’s call, you can follow the food trolley that goes up and down the carriage. People will always make way for the trolley.


Soft Seat

Soft seat on China trains is more comfortable than hard seat. They are only available on a few non-high speed trains in China, including K, T, Y, and S trains. Two rows sit face to face with a table in between. Four soft seats make a row with two at either side of the aisle. Measuring 18 inches (45 cm) wide and with cushion, the seats are roomier and softer. Some seats have armrests and the backs are adjustable. The China train soft seat ticket price is about 1.5 time of that of a hard seat.
Soft Seat
Soft Seats Waiting Room
Soft Seats Waiting Room
 The facilities in a soft seat carriage are the same as those in a hard seat carriage, while their differences are listed below:
1. The soft seat carriages are quiet and clean, and will not be overloaded - only passengers holding a soft seat ticket are allowed to enter.
2. Some railway stations have special waiting rooms for soft seat passengers, which are clean, quiet and roomy. The seats are sofas rather than plastic and hard chairs in the ordinary waiting rooms. Tea or hot water is also served.
3. Chinese college students get a 50% discount for hard seat, but not for soft seat.
- Last updated on Jan. 06, 2021 -
Questions & Answers on Hard Seats & Soft Seats
Asked by john from INDONESIA | Dec. 26, 2017 23:52Reply
Choosing seat placements?
Hello, I want to ask whether the train has the option to choose the seat placement?
Answers (1)
Answered by Cecily | Dec. 27, 2017 02:32

You can not choose the location, but if you prefer a window seat etc, it is still possible for a try.
Asked by Ayu from MALAYSIA | Apr. 04, 2017 03:03Reply
Book Soft Seat
Hello, my name is Ayu from Malaysia.

I will travel from Zhangjiajie to Beijing by train on 7 of May 2017. Then, I want to ask, how to book the train for soft seat in this week? I checked the web TCG, there is not soft seat class. Please advise. Thank you.
Answers (1)
Answered by Naresh from MEXICO | Apr. 04, 2017 21:21

There seems no soft seat set up on this trip. You may choose hard seat, hard sleeper or soft sleeper.
Asked by Robert from POLAND | Jul. 23, 2015 04:47Reply
How will I know which station to get off ?
Answers (1)
Answered by Charles | Jul. 23, 2015 19:04

You can show your ticket to other local people for help. The staff will also inform about the station in advance, you can ask the railway staff as well.
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