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China Train Hard Sleeper vs. Soft Sleeper

Both hard sleepers and soft sleepers on China trains are popular for long-distance journeys, especially overnight trips as they save accommodation fee and daytime. But in general, hard sleepers are more popular among budget travelers because of the lower ticket price while soft ones are recommended to big passengers, and those who have sleep problems and prefer more privacy.

Hard sleeper costs less compared with soft one.

Usually, a soft sleeper berth is 50% more expensive than a hard sleeper berth for the same trip.

Soft sleeper compartment provides larger beds and wider moving space.

A soft sleeper compartment is equipped with 4 berths, while a hard sleeper compartment has 6 berths. Beds of hard sleepers are narrow and short, 60cm (24 inches) wide and 180cm (71 inches) long; and the passengers of the middle and upper berths cannot even sit straight. If you are bigger than the bed, then it may be embarrassing and rather uncomfortable. In contrast, soft berth is wider and longer, 30 inches (75cm) and 75 inches (190cm) respectively, making it more comfortable. It will be a good choice for those sharing beds with kids, or those who are bigger in size.
Hard Sleepers
Hard Sleepers
Soft Sleepers
Soft Sleepers

Lockable doors make soft sleepers more secure and quiet.

Each compartment inside soft berth carriages is equipped with a sliding door to keep the noise and peep from the aisle, making it quieter and providing more privacy. Those having sleep disturbances are advised to choose the soft ones. Hard sleeper without doors is open to the aisle and may be noisy. The snore of neighbors, other passengers going the toilet, detraining or getting onboard during midnight may wake you up any time or you may even be unable to fall asleep at all. In order to have a good rest in hard berth carriage, you are advised to bring eyeshade and earplug.

Hard sleepers are filled with more local life atmosphere.

As the compartments are open, you may learn how strangers with different jobs and ages from different places get familiar quickly and chat like friends, how they kill the time by eating flower seeds or playing poker, how they feed themselves with instant noodles during the meal time… The scenes can hardly be seen in other situations. It is a great chance to get closer to locals' life style.

Luggage closet inside soft sleeper compartment is safer.

Soft berths provide respective luggage closet in each compartment, making your belongings in a safer place. In most hard berth carriages, only a long luggage rack is provided above the aisle outside the compartment, out of some passengers’ eyesight. Of course, if getting onboard early, one can put the luggage under the lower berth or the table inside the compartment.

One thing to note is that whatever you take, it is advised to take valuables and important documents with you.
Soft Sleeper Luggage Closet
Hard Sleeper Luggage Rack

More sockets are available in soft sleeper carriages.

Inside soft berth carriages, each compartment has one socket, while only a few sockets are scattered on the aisle inside hard berth carriages, making it hard to satisfy the needs of passengers. Thus, you are advised to bring portable charging devices in case that no socket is available.

Soft sleepers are equipped with western-style toilets.

Generally speaking, soft berth carriages are equipped with both western style and squat toilets. Only squat toilets can be found in most hard sleeper carriages and they may be smelly.
Hard Sleeper Toilet
Soft Sleeper Toilet

Soft sleepers are better equipped with other facilities.

Aside from what mentioned above, soft berths also have other facilities. You have a place to hang clothes on the way. A bed lamp makes it easy to find your way or do some reading without affecting others. You can also regulate the temperature through air conditioner controller and adjust the light or broadcasting volume.

Separate waiting room may be provided for soft sleeper ticket holders.

In some railway stations, there is a separate waiting room for soft berth ticket holders where sofas are provided; and usually, fewer passengers are waiting there, not crowded. Most importantly, soft berth ticket holders can get board in advance to avoid the passenger flow.
- Last updated on Nov. 04, 2021 -
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    Posted on Mar. 23, 2023
    Everything was okay and we had a fabulous trip from Shanghai to Shenzhen, Guilin and back. Every city has its own color and lifestyle. We tried regular trains, high speed ones, different local dishes and street food. The natives of Guilin are very welcoming and always happy to introduce their highlights in English. You can feel their strong passion for life and friendliness. That was wonderful.
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    I travelled around China by using many different trains. Some of my first choice trains and classes were not available and in each case the staff gave me several alternative options, I also made a connection to secure my trip. Now, I have finished all my trips and everything went very well in order, no matter at station or on the train. I like traveling by train in China. I will book with them again for my next trip.
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