Beijing-Shanghai Train vs. Plane, Which is Better?

Beijing - Shanghai Train vs. Plane

The distance between Beijing and Shanghai is about 1,100 kilometers (684 mi). An overall transfer time by high speed trains is about 7.5 – 8.5 hours while by plane is around 6.5 hours. For those traveling in a hurry, flight is a good choice while for those who want to experience the high speed and beautiful scenery on land, high speed train is recommended.

Top Differences on Beijing - Shanghai Train & Plane Travel

High Speed Train Plane
Travel time is about 4.5-6 hours. Duration is around 2.5 hours.
CNY 933 for first class seat;
CNY 553 for second class seat
CNY 1,240 for full fare economy class;
but usually offered 20%-60% discount
Punctual Occasional delays
Mobile devices are allowed to use Mobile devices are allowed but with some limitation
Various land scenery Blue sky and bird's eye view of two cities

The door-to-door travel time differs not much.

Although the rail travel time from Beijing to Shanghai is longer than the flight duration, the airports in both cities are located further to downtown than the railway stations. If you include the time to travel to/from the airports, and for boarding, there is not much difference in the travel times using either the high speed G trains or a flight.
 See detailed Beijing - Shanghai High Speed Train, Beijing - Shanghai Flights
Beijing-Shanghai Train vs. Plane
 Note: Time consumed by traffic jam and flight delay excluded.

The overnight sleeper trains save daytime and accommodation fee.

In addition to the high speed G ones that travel during the day time, there are overnight connections through either high speed D-trains or normal ones; similar to the airplane services. They save one-night accommodation fee and the day time for sightseeing. They are equipped with sleepers, so passengers can have a good rest.
 See detailed Beijing - Shanghai Overnight Sleeper train

Train ticket price is generally more competitive.

Usually, train ticket is cheaper than flight ticket. However, sometimes, good discounts may be offered by airlines and the flight ticket can be quite competitive, but this mostly happens in low seasons.

Train is more punctual than flight.

Flight delay in China happens occasionally due to bad weather and air traffic control, etc. Beijing and Shanghai, as two big and busy cities in China, flight delays occur more. Comparatively, there are seldom delays with the high speed trains because they are not easily affected by weather. It is reported that, in 2016 the delay rate of Pudong airport is up to 47.6%, 42.7% for Hongqiao airport, and 39.3% for Capital airport respectively.

Train provides more pleasant travel experience.

Passengers can use mobile devices and the internet freely on rail ride, but on an airplanes, mobile phones need to be switched to the flight mode and cellular data is not allowed to use. If your battery runs low, no worry, electricity sockets are available on the train.

The rail ride awards passengers various scenery.

As one of the Eight Most Scenic Train Rides in China, traveling from Shanghai to Beijing by high speed railway will give you an opportunity to enjoy both urban landscapes and countryside scenery along the way. The fertile plain, vast fields, small quiet villages, tall buildings, bustling and prosperous big cities will leave a deep impression in your travel memory. When flying by air, one can only enjoy blue sky and a few minutes' bird's eye view of the two cities.

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