HOW TO GET AND READ THE TICKET
Wow! You made it to China ! You landed in Beijing or Shanghai and are just waiting to finally start exploring. But how will you do it???
By plane? By Bus? By Car?
NO ! You will go by TRAIN, because that is the most awesome and handy way to travel China (maybe Bus too, post will come soon 😉 )
So there you are now and you are ready to get into your first chinese train to leave for your next destination, but you are lost in a Character Jungle and strange Train Names.
No worries, it is so much easier than it looks like. Let me help you =)A Guide to Chinese Train Travel. Find all the information about finding the right train and booking the ticket here. Click To Tweet
Where to get tickets?
This is a bit tricky. Usually at the train station you can get tickets up to 1 week in advancee. They usually have an English-speaking counter at least in the big cities. But to be on the safe side, let somebody from the Hostel/Hotel write down for you the destination, date and what kind of seat you want in Chinese. Sometimes they even will book the tickets for you, just ask, it never hurts 😉
The second option is booking online. At ctrip you can book the tickets for a small fee and they will even deliver, BUT that just works if you are staying at a place long enough to get them delivered (3days minimum 60 days maximum). Not such a big fan of the whole online thing, because it makes travel less flexible.
Lastly there are several selling offices in every city. Most won’t speak English, so you either need somebody who speaks a bit Chinese or have all the information written down in Chinese. Otherwise these are the simplest option to get tickets.
What do you need to book the ticket?
Not much more than the money. (Cash rules in China) and your PASSPORT. If you don’t have it with you a copy will do too, most of the times. That depends a bit on the person behind the counter. That’s all =)
Where do you find train times?
Either you check Ctrip again or you use this lovely page Traintravelguide. So far it worked perfectly. Just type in the from where to where you want to go and it will show you all the options you have, with price information too. Please do this before you go and buy your ticket, to stop a huge line forming behind you until you figure out which train you want.
What kind of trains are there?
Generally there are G, D and Z/K trains. G trains are the fastest ones, going up to 300 km/h.
D trains being close behind with up to 200 km/h. Saying out of my own experience, the D trains just take slightly longer then the G, due to the stops on the road. So I would rather take a D train and save some money. Especially if your drive is under 5 hours. The difference is usually not so much bigger.
Z or K trains and trains with just numbers are the slower trains. They often drive at night and here you can usually book a bed. More to that later.
What is the difference between Soft/Hard Seat?
Well, Soft Seat is just a bit more comfy. You will have your own seat, like you know it of regular trains in Europe. Hard Seat usually means you will sit on a bench together with two people. Opposite of you is another bench and then there is a small table in the middle.
Sometimes hard seats are also small compartments, originally a sleeping compartment and you will sit with two other people on the lower bed and your luggage has to go somehow up onto the upper bed.
When driving the fast trains you usually just will have seat options. Just for long distances beds are offered.
Where is the difference between Soft/Hard Bed
No the Hard Bed is not made out of wood, no need to worry 😉 The difference lies mostly in the privacy.
Soft Bed means it will usually be a 4 bed compartment, where you are able to look the door and it is slightly more luxurious, sometimes even with an entertainment system.
Hard Bed means the whole train compartment is open and the beds are in rows next to each other. You can choose between bottom, middle or upper bed and opposite of you is another row. There is no door, so if one person snores or one kid screams at the end of the train compartment you are very likely to hear it 😉
Little tip. Don’t go for the bottom bed ! I know it is more comfy, not having to climb and you won’t have to be scared to fall out.
But driving the train in China is a pretty social event, so expect people to sit on the bottom beds till about 9 o’clock and also in the morning again. Plus after I saw a kid pee onto the bottom bed, because they didn’t make it to the toilet fast enough, I kind of try to avoid them, because guess where all the lil’ kids are usually sleeping with their parents??? I love the upper one, got my peace and quite there, my stuff is safe and they are a tad cheaper.
So this is all the information you need to decide which train ticket you want to buy. Now before you head to the office. Here is what a typical train ticket looks like and how you have to read it.
As you can see your Passport Number is noted on the ticket. Which means you can’t simply switch it with a friend if something comes up, but you can get easily a full refund. Just head to the train station and give your ticket back. Also changing your train to another day seems to be rather simple. Friends of me just did that a couple of days ago.
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Have a lovely day and good travels =)