A child less than 1.2 meters can travel for free if sharing a seat or bed with an adult or can have a seat at a 50% discount. Children between 1.2 meters –1.5 meters must have a seat and get a 50% discount for the seat. In the case of a sleeper, the child discount depends on the train and is up to 25%.
- It is advisable to avoid train travel during peak times as the tickets are very often sold out within few minutes of being released and the website is crashing.
- Chinese parliament general assembly: no fixed dates (government puts tickets aside)
- 2017 New Year: January 1 to 3 (busy period December 29 to January 4)
- Chinese New Year and student winter holiday: January 27 to February 2 (busy period January 15 to February 19) Extremely busy, it is better to avoid this period.
- QingMing Festival: April 2 to 4 (busy period April 1 to 5)
- Labor’s Day: April 29 to May 1 (busy period April 28 to May 3)
- Dragon Boat Festival: May 28-30 (busy period May 26 to 31)
- Student summer holiday: June 25 to September 5
- Mid-Autumn Festival and National holiday: October 1 to 8 (busy period September 29 to October 10) Extremely busy, it is better to avoid this period.
- There are also a few other minor holidays as well as the beginning and end of university semesters when there is a rush for tickets.
G Train: means bullet high-speed train, which is the most modern and fast train in China. Only available between main cities. It provides business seats, first class seats and second-class seats. The washrooms are quite clean.
You can watch this excellent video of the G train between Shanghai and Beijing produced by "the man is seat 61"
C Train: is the fastest speed train only between certain short distances such as Beijing-Tianjin, Chengdu-Leshan, etc; it provides first class and second class seats. The washrooms are quite clean.
D Train: means "China Railway High-speed (CRH)". It is only available between main cities. First-class seats (soft seats) and second-class seats (hard seats) are available. The washrooms are relatively clean.
You can watch this excellent video of the D overnight train between Beijing and Shanghai produced by "the man is seat 61"
Z Train: means "Express Train". It doesn't stop or stops very few stations before arriving at the destination. It's good to travel for an overnight distance if you want to save hotel expense. There are usually only sleepers (hard/soft) available, while some only have soft-sleepers and deluxe sleepers.
T Train: means "Superior Fast". It always stops in provincial capital cities and big cities. The ticket classes include hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper.
K Train:means "Fast”. The ticket classes include hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper.
- Ordinary Train:it is named by 4 numbers, such as train 1461 (Beijing-Shanghai). It is the slowest and the cheapest in all train types as it stops at every little town. There are hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper and soft sleeper available. Most of them don't have air conditioning.
Luxury Soft Sleeper: It is the top-level sleeper, only available in a few trains. Each enclosed compartment contains only two clean and comfortable bunks (upper/lower), a western washroom, and sometimes even has a shower cubicle. The ground is carpeted, and other facilities include sofa, LCD TV, table and wardrobe.
Soft Sleeper: It is sort of a luxurious train travel. Each compartment is enclosed by a door, and contains four bunks, with two to a side. The sleepers are wider and more comfortable, the washroom is relatively clean but not in the compartment. Smoking is not permitted in the coach, but you can smoke between cars. It is advisable to buy soft-sleeper tickets for overnight and long-distance travel.
Hard sleeper: It is the basic accommodation for overnight or long-distance train travel. The coach has open compartments, in which six sleepers are arranged, with three tiers of bunks (upper/middle/lower) on both sides. There is a small difference of price between the bunks, with the upper bunk being the cheapest and the lower bunk the most expensive. A pillow and a quilt are provided for each sleeper. The washroom is tolerably clean. Smoking is not permitted in the coach, but you can smoke between cars.
First Class Seat: Only available in G, C and D train. Four seats are arranged for a row. The seats are similar to soft seats, but are wider, more modern and comfortable. Smoking is not allowed.
Second Class Seat: Only available in G, C and D train. Five seats are arranged for a row. It is a level below the first class seats with relatively smaller sitting area, but is still comfortable. The level of comfort and space would be similar to business class on a plane. Smoking is not allowed.
Soft Seat: It is one level above the hard seat. The seats are relatively clean and more comfortable. Smoking is not allowed in the coach, but you can smoke between cars. Soft seats are ok for a ride lasting a few hours.
- Hard Seat: It is the cheapest option and the most common kind of tickets. The seats are actually thinly padded. The coaches and the toilets are not very clean. It is very uncomfortable for overnight trips. It is generally overcrowded, noisy and maybe stinky. There are frequent thefts of baggage.
- No Seat—Standing: If you can’t get any other ticket, you may be issued a “no-seat” ticket so you can stand in the hard seat coaches. It is same price as hard seat but the crush of people jostling for standing and sitting space is unbearable.
Except for modern fast trains, most toilets on the train are squat style without any toilet paper.
The baggage allowance is not very strict for trains in China as long as you can carry it by yourself. Nevertheless, the official policy requires the maximum carry-on baggage allowance for each adult passenger is 20 kg and 10 kg for each child. The total length of each item can’t exceed 160 cm. The above limitation is not applicable to wheelchair, which can be brought onto the train for free. Baggage space is limited and must be stored in your coach.
A restaurant carriage is available for long distance trains. It only provides Chinese food. Also there are trolleys to sell water, instant noodle or snack food on each train frequently. However we suggest that you bring your own food and snacks.
Most train staff does not speak English. Generally there will be announcements in English when the cities are approaching. However, if the arrival city is not the terminal, show your ticket to your neighbor asking them to remind you.
You generally need to show your ticket when exiting the station. Make sure to keep it handy.
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