Beijing - Guangzhou Train vs. Plane

A high speed train ride takes 8-10 hours from Beijing to Guangzhou, while flight may take 3.5 hours. If you are traveling in a hurry, flight is better. If you want to enjoy the great scenery changes between northern and southern China, high speed train is a good choice as well.

Top Differences on Beijing - Guangzhou Train & Plane Travel

Categories Trains Flights
Daytime Bullets Overnight Bullets Normal Type
Price  Second class seat: CNY862  Soft sleeper: CNY880   Hard sleeper: CNY426
Soft sleeper: CNY750 
Usually CNY950-1,300
with discount
Time 8-10 hours  10-11 hours 21.5-30 hours 3.5 hours
Punctuality Punctual  Punctual  Occasional delays  Frequent delays
Facilities Good;
Wide legroom
Sleepers to lie down 
Poor   Good;
Narrower leg room
Allowed to use Allowed to use Allowed to use Allowed to use with some limitation
5 per day  5 per day
every Fri. to Mon.
4 per day  50+ per day
 See detailed Beijing - Guangzhou High Speed Train, Beijing - Guangzhou Flights

Train ticket is usually cheaper.

A full-price economy class seat for a flight costs CNY1,910. Although in most cases, passengers are able to enjoy great discounts between 50% and 70%; it still costs around CNY 950 to 1,300. In comparison, on high speed trains a second class seat costs CNY862 and a soft sleeper costs CNY880. For budget travelers, railway may be more preferable most of the year. But sometimes in low seasons, air ticket can be quite tempting. 

Flight takes less time.

Even if both airports are located far away from the downtown area, the total air trip takes less time than a rail ride counting the transfer time to and from the airport or railway station. Only 7.5 hours or so are needed when you fly from Guangzhou to Beijing, while the high speed railway ride takes 10 – 13 hours.
High Speed Train   Flight
0.5h between Beijing West Railway Station and downtown  1h between downtown Beijing and Capital Airport
1h for boarding and 8-11h onboard 2h for boarding and 3.5h on plane
40min between downtown Guangzhou and South Railway Station  1h between Baiyun Airport and downtown Guangzhou
It takes about 10-13h in total.   It takes at least 7.5h.

Train is more reliable than flight.

Generally speaking, train is more punctual than flight because of its fixed schedule, and they cannot be easily affected by weather change, air traffic control or other external factors. As per a report, in 2016, flight delay rate at Capital Airport was up to 39.3%, and the delay rate at Guangzhou airport reached 36%.
High Speed Train
First Class Seats in a High Speed Train
Soft Sleepers on an Overnight High Speed Train
Sleepers in an Overnight High Speed Carriage

Overnight sleeper train can save one-night hotel expense and daytime.

They shuttle between the two cities from Friday to the next Monday overnight from late evening to early next morning. As they are equipped with sleepers, you are able to have a good rest onboard and rejuvenate yourself. Obviously, it can also save you one-night accommodation expenditure, and the daytime for those who are pressed for time.

More freedom can be enjoyed when making a rail trip. 

When you travel by aircraft, mobile phones should be switched to flight mode and cellular data are forbidden to use; you cannot move around casually; and the legroom is limited. However when traveling by rail, you can use your mobile devices to surf the internet, the legroom is much wider and you can move around and have a stretch.

Flights have a denser schedule.

There are about 50 flights between the two cities each day, while only five pairs of bullet trains operate on weekdays and 10 pairs on the weekend. When you take a flight, there are more choices for your convenience.

A rail trip is full of surprises and wonderful scenery.

The very long Beijing to Guangzhou high speed railway runs from the capital city to the excellent port on the Pearl River passing by several provincial capitals such as Shijiazhuang, Zhengzhou, Wuhan, and Changsha. When you travel by high speed trains during the day, the scenery along the way varies; you can appreciate historical sites, the famous Yellow River and Yangtze River, the beautiful lakes and mountains as well as fertile rural areas, and finally arrive in a city with tall buildings, bustling streets and other popular tourist destinations. In comparison, flying will be less interesting because you can enjoy nothing except the blue sky and a bird's eye view of the cities.

It is all a matter of personal preference as to which one to choose. If you are a budget traveler, the overnight sleeper trains are the best; the normal type is cheaper but not recommended for the old facilities and poor environment. If you are pressed for time, a flight should be the top choice regardless of delays. If you travel in high season or want to enjoy different scenery in a short time, the daytime G trains are recommended.

 Also read: How to Travel from Beijing to Guangzhou
- Last updated on Nov. 04, 2019 -
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