Taking a train in China

Taking a train in China is always great fun. You meet all kinds of people, get to eat 方便面 instant noodles without feeling bad about it and see a lot of the country. In my personal opinion, it is superior to any other kind of longer distance travel: planes are so impersonal and you don’t get to see much, coaches are very crowded and lack toilets, cars are like coaches with even more confined space. Depending on your stamina, you may even want to try out taking a trip during the national holidays, i.e. Spring Festival, May Holiday or National Holiday. Getting appropriate tickets will be hard if not impossible, unless you are completely flexible in where you want to travel and have planned for a bit of a budget.

old generation of chinese trains

The old generation of trains…

Getting your Chinese train tickets

You can get train tickets at official ticket sales agents all over the city. These range in size from a hole in the wall to a small office with a waiting area and several service counters. On average there is one sales office for every three blocks so there should be one within walking (at least cycling) distance of your home. You will normally be charged a 5 RMB service charge and for some trains have to take your passport. These sales offices sell tickets for all domestic routes and even those to Hong Kong.

New generation of chinese trains

…and the new

On a Chinese train

Depending on the train you are travelling on you have a choice of seats and beds. Those range from hard to soft seats and hard to soft sleepers and increase in price accordingly. The new G trains (super fast bullet trains) ordinarily come with 1st and 2nd class seats only but, to be honest, unless you have to get somewhere fast it is better to sleep in a soft sleeper for 24 hours than sitting in a 2nd class seat on a G train for 8 hours. That’s just my two cents.

hard sleepers

Even the hard sleepers are not too shabby

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