Overnight trains are a great way to travel in China. Firstly, traveling at night means that you save that night’s hotel accommodation. Secondly, you use valuable daylight to visit attractions rather than for travel.
Types of sleepers on China trains
There are three sleeper classes on China trains. The best one is the deluxe soft sleeper. You get a private compartment for two people (one upper and one lower sleeper) with your private toilet. You can close and lock the door ensuring privacy and a good night’s sleep. Only a few trains have deluxe soft sleepers.
The next best, and the most popular with international tourists, is the soft sleeper class. This type of compartment has four beds (two upper and two lower sleepers) and you can lock the door. If you are a family of four, you can get your own compartment and have a quiet night and privacy. If not, you are likely sharing with strangers. This is not a problem unless the other guest is snoring loudly. In addition, your compartment companions may be getting on or getting off at intermediate stations in the middle of the night. This will disrupt your sleep. Note that a group of two or three passengers can book a whole compartment by buying all four tickets. (please send us the special request, we will explain how to do it)
The cheapest class of sleeper is the hard sleeper. They are open compartments consisting of six beds, three on each side (one lower, one middle and one upper sleeper). The beds are narrower than those in soft sleepers and the compartment have no door and so they open on the corridor. These are obviously more noisy on top of being less comfortable. Visit this page for more details on the various classes on China trains.
Lower sleepers are more practical and cost more than upper sleepers. We find that the middle berths in the hard sleeper class to be the most inconvenient.
Safety on China sleeper trains
While China is a very safe country, you need to be prudent with your valuables when on a night train. Do not leave any valuables in your suitcase. Even though it may be close to you, you can’t monitor it in your sleep. Pay special attention to your wallet and cellphone. Keep them on you and keep in bed any other valuable such as a camera.
Should we mention toilet? Chinese toilet, bring your own toilet paper
Improve your sleep on China overnight trains
Some people can sleep like a rock, anywhere anytime. If it is not your case, bring some earplugs. Also wear comfortable pants, possibly sweatpants. You can change before going to bed. Sometimes the air conditioning can be too strong, so keep a sweater close by. Many hotels in China give free cheap slippers. Keep a pair for your train ride. You can take off your shoes to be more comfortable and will be able to walk around without needing to put your shoes back.
Finally, you may want to bring some snacks on the train. Some food is available from the dining car, but the selection may not be to your taste. For a longer train rides, better to bring your own food. For drinks, beer and soft drinks are usually available on the train. Boiled water is available in every car, which is why instant noodles are so popular with train travelers. And keep your toothbrush and toothpaste easily accessible and possibly a hand towel so that you can freshen up in the morning. There are usually sinks at the end of each car.
Enjoy your trip!