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Train Travel in China: A Complete Guide

About the author, Vera Zhao
Vera Zhao is the product manager at Odyssey Tours. She has been in the line of Asia travel for 10+ years and stacks up helpful tips for tours to China, Southeast Asia and South Asia.
Write to odyssey@tangdynastytours.com for any questions or read more tips by Vera Zhao >>

China has one of the most complex and busiest rail networks in the world. The trains link almost every town and city. Trains are a safe and cheaper way to travel around China, and that journey is quite an experience in itself.

Different Types of Trains in China

In China, passenger trains are numbered with special character and/or numbers, different train numbers are designated into different classes. 

G train 

The fastest high-speed EMU bullet train; it runs on newly built high speed railways at top speed 350km/h.

Note: Equipment and ornaments of G trains differ in different cities.

G train of China

G train CRH (China Railway High-speed)

the business class seats of G train

The business class seats of G train

the first class seats of G train

The first class seats of G train

the second class seats of G train

The second class seats of G train

Lavatory in the train of G train

Lavatory in the train of G train

Lavatory in the train

C train

Intercity high-speed train operated between two big cities, for instance, Beijing and Tianjin. It runs as fast as a G train.  

D train 

MU (Multiple Units) high-speed bullet train runs in daytime and has a top speed of 250km/h. Normally, it covers short distance (around 200kms). However, there are also some long lines available. 

D train of China

D train of China

The first class of D train

The first class seats of D train

Second Class Seat on D Train

The second class seats of D train

The normal class of D train

The second class seat of D train

Z train

Overnight express, with few or no midway stops. 

Z train engines and carriages

Z train engines and carriages

The soft sleeper booth of Z train

The soft sleeper booth of Z train

The hard sleeper booth of Z train

The hard sleeper booth of Z train

T train

Extra fast express that runs on most railways in China, with stops only at major stations. It’s a bit slower than Z train for it has more stops. 

How to take the train if I book a trip through Odyssey?

1. Get the Ticket 

If you book the train ticket through us, your ticket will be issued 3-10 days prior to the departure date according to your tour itinerary. You will get the train ticket from your local guide. And your guide and driver will escort you to the railway station in time.

2. Get to the Railway Station

Your guide will see you off before the security check and indicate you how to board the train. 

3. Find the Right Waiting Room 

After entering the railway station, you should find the electronic departure boards and check which waiting room is the appropriate one. 

4. Get into the Platform

When the check-in process starts, you should stand in a queue and go through the ticket barrier. At the barrier you need to present your ticket and passport. About 5-10 minutes before departure, the barrier is closed and the check-in stops.

5. Board the Train

The train number and the carriage number are shown outside the train clearly. Therefore, it is easy to find your carriage. There is a railway staff at the door of each carriage to whom you are requested to show your ticket.

6. Ready to Get off

Listen to the destination broadcast or ask someone or the attendant. Get your gear packed and down off the rack. There will be time, so no rush.

7. Exit the Train and Station

Get off the train and follow the crowd to the exit, probably below or over other tracks to the station outlet. You will be met by your local guide at the specific exit. 

Recommended Train Routes

*for specific information on distance and running time, kindly consult your travel consultant.

G Train
Departure CityArrival CityRunning TimeDistance(KM)
Beijing Shanghai5h30m 1318
BeijingXian5h40m1216
BeijingTaiyuan2h52m505
ShanghaiHangzhou1h10m162
ShanghaiWuhan4h56m811
XianLuoyang1h44m 387
D Train
Departure CityArrival CityRunning TimeDistance(KM)
ChengduChongqing2h10m313
T Train
Departure CityArrival CityRunning TimeDistance(KM)
LhasaBeijing42h31m3761


Tips on traveling China by train

1. Soft sleepers are a good option for overnight train travel and the surroundings are usually very quiet. The air-conditioned soft sleeper car has comfortable 4-bunk compartments (2 top bunks and 2 lower bunks) with full bedding provided. You will share the compartment with other passengers unless you pay for the entire compartments (4 bunks). Each soft sleeper car has a public washroom and a public toilet, but no shower. 

If you are traveling with your partner and want more privacy and comfort, we'll recommend a deluxe soft sleeper compartment (lockable, available on K, T, Z, L and some overnight D trains) whose price is almost double that of an ordinary soft sleeper. The compartment comes with two beds (one upper, one lower), a sofa, a table and a closet. Each has clean bathroom facilities; some even contain an in-room sink and a shower cubicle.

deluxe soft sleeper compartmentThe interior of a deluxe soft sleeper compartment

2. A dining room is next to the soft sleeper car on most trains. A food trolley will also pass through the cars during meal time. Only Chinese food is available with limited choices. Most local people buy food in advance or buy food from the vendors on the platform. We suggest you prepare some food or takeaway before boarding as the meal on train isn’t interesting. Boiled water (free to use) and bottled water are available on the train.

3. Luggage allowance and luggage porters. The maximum carry-on baggage allowance for each adult passenger is 20kg and 10kg for each child. The length for each item cannot exceed 160 cm. Luggage must be placed on the rack above or under the bunk, not on aisle. Porters can help you with the luggage at around 20-30 CNY per piece.

The luggage rack above seatsThe luggage rack above seats

4. If you take a soft sleeper, the on-board conductor will exchange your ticket with a card. When your destination is almost there, they will come to exchange it back and remind you of your arrival. Please keep your ticket safe because you will be asked to present it when you exit the station.

5. Tickets are not issued until 3-10 days prior to the departure day. Train tickets are in short supply during Spring Festival (usually falls on January or February) and Golden Week Holidays (such as Labor Day on the beginning of May and National Day on the first week of October). Tibet trains are often in demand and cost a higher booking fee.

Feel free to write at oddsey@tangdynastytours.com should you plan to add some rail experience to you China tour with us!


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