Check train times & buy online...
 
 

Dates on form above are American-style mm/dd/yyyy...

How to buy Chinese train tickets: Full details...

  CRH2 high-speed train

High-speed rail, the best way to get around China...  Photo courtesy of Gabriel Chew

 

I highly recommend hotelscombined.com for a hotel search & price comparison.  It's a remarkable site...

Hotels Combined

Travelling by train in China...

China has one of the biggest and busiest rail networks in the world, and trains link almost every town & city.  Chinese trains are a safe, comfortable & cheap way to travel around China, and a Chinese train journey is an experience in itself, in contrast with less reliable and environmentally-unfriendly internal flights.  This page will help you understand & plan train travel in China, & arrange your train tickets.  On this page you'll find:

Train schedules & fares for popular routes...

Beijing - Shanghai

Beijing - Xian

Beijing - Badaling (for Great Wall)    

Beijing - Tianjin

Beijing - Guilin & Nanning

Beijing - Guangzhou & Shenzhen

Beijing - Hong Kong

Beijing - Ürümqi (Silk Route)

Beijing - Hanoi - Saigon (Vietnam)

Beijing - Lhasa (Tibet)

Guangzhou (Canton) - Hong Kong

Guangzhou (Canton) - Beijing

Guangzhou (Canton) - Lhasa (Tibet)

 

Shanghai - Xian

Shanghai - Beijing

Shanghai - Hong Kong

Shanghai - Guilin & Nanning

Shanghai - Lhasa (Tibet)

Xian - Beijing

Xian - Shanghai

Xian - Lhasa (Tibet)

Hong Kong - Beijing

Hong Kong - Shanghai

Hong Kong - Guangzhou

Hong Kong - Macau (fast ferry)

Hong Kong - Hanoi (Vietnam)

International trains & ferries to/from China...

Beijing to Ulan Bator & Moscow by Trans-Siberian railway;  Onward to Paris & London

Beijing to Hanoi (Vietnam) by train; Onwards to Saigon; Onwards to Phnom Penh & Bangkok

Beijing to Japan by ferry

Beijing to South Korea by ferry

Beijing to North Korea by train

Hong Kong to Hanoi (Vietnam)

Nanning to Hanoi (Vietnam) by train

Kunming to Hanoi (Vietnam) by bus & train

Lhasa to Kathmandu by bus & onwards to to Delhi

Advice & information for train travel in China...

How to buy tickets online

How to buy tickets at the station

How to check train schedules & fares

Maps of China's train network

Collecting tickets bought online

How to read a Chinese train ticket

Finding & boarding your train

What are Chinese trains like?

Luggage & bikes on Chinese trains

Recommended guidebooks for China

Travel insurance

Hotels in Beijing   Hotels in Shanghai    Hotels in Xian

Hotel suggestions in Beijing & Shanghai

Sponsored links...

 

Useful country information

Train operator in China:

Chinese Railways.  Train times in English: www.chinahighlights.com Map of Chinese railways.  Official sites (in Chinese): www.12306.cn & www.tielu.org.  Agencies selling Chinese train tickets online: www.chinahighlights.com, www.china-DIY-travel.com, www.chinatraintickets.net, www.china-train-ticket.com.  Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (local trains in Hong Kong plus through trains HK to Beijing & Shanghai): www.mtr.com.hk.

Time zone:

GMT+8 all year.    Flights to China

Dialling code:

 

+86

Currency:

£1 = 9.9 Yuan (Renminbi) = 11.9 HK$.  $1 = 6.8 Yuan = 7.6 HK$.  Currency converter

Tourist information:

www.cnto.org (US), www.cnto.org.uk (UK), www.cnto.org.au (Aus).  Tripadvisor

Hotels & hostels:

Scan multiple hotel websites to find the cheapest hotel rates   Find backpacker hostels

Visas:

UK & most other citizens need a visa for China. In the UK, Chinese visa issuing has been outsourced to www.visaforchina.org.ukMore advice on Chinese visas.

Page last updated:

5 October 2013


How to check train times & fares

 

Which station in Beijing?

  Beijing main station

Beijing railway station for Trans-Siberian trains to Moscow & Ulan Bator, trains to Harbin, a few sleeper trains to Shanghai.  Beijing's original main station dating from 1959.

  Beijing South Station

Beijing South (= Beijing Nan or Beijingnan) for high-speed trains to Shanghai & Tianjin.  It's huge, modern & airport-like inside.

  Beijing West Station, for trains to Xian, Hong Kong, Nanning, Guilin

Beijing West (= Beijing Xi or Beijingxi), for trains to Xian, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Nanning, Guilin, Tibet.  It's vast, modern & airport-like inside.

 

Beijing north station

Beijing North for trains to Badaling for the Great Wall.

How to check train schedules & fares for China online... 

Download & print an English-language train timetable for China...

Beijing & Shanghai metros...

Maps of the Chinese train network

How to buy Chinese train tickets...

When do reservations open? 

Reservations open 20 days before departure for online sales, 18 days for sale at stations, for all long-distance trains.  You cannot buy tickets before reservations open.  The booking horizon was increased from 10 days to 18 days for stations and from 12 to 20 days for online bookings in 1 January 2013.

Do tickets sell out?

Yes they do, and most long-distance trains get fully-booked days ahead.  So book as many days ahead as you can or pre-arrange tickets online as explained below.  Although as China's new G-category high-speed trains are expensive by Chinese standards you'll sometimes find Beijing-Shanghai or Beijing-Xian high-speed train tickets available on the day of travel or the day before, assuming you are flexible as to the class or exact departure time.  But in all other cases, long-distance train tickets often sell out days before departure.  Train tickets are best booked at least 3-4 days in advance, preferably more, apart from peak holiday periods when they should be booked as soon as reservations open or secured through a train ticketing agency who knows the ropes, as trains get very fully-booked weeks ahead.

Peak holiday periods means on and around the Spring Festival, May Day on 1st May and National Day on 1st October.  It's also busy throughout the summer, and the beginning or end of university terms.  At other times, trains can still sell out but it's usually possible to secure seats or sleepers a few days ahead.

But why not see for yourself?  If you run an enquiry on www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains for today, tomorrow or a few days time, you'll see how many tickets are left in each class for each train.  As I write this, most Beijing-Shanghai trains are sold out for the day after tomorrow, but a few trains still have seats left the day after that.  It's a similar story between Beijing and Xian.

How to buy tickets online...

First the good news:  Chinese Railways launched online booking in 2011 at www.12306.cn.  Now the bad news:  For all practical purposes foreigners cannot buy tickets at www.12306.cn as it's only in Chinese and only accepts Chinese bank cards (although if you happen to be an ex-pat with a Chinese bank card and a basic knowledge of Mandarin, you can follow these instructions for using 12306.cn here).  So you should buy tickets through one of the following reputable agencies.  All these agencies naturally charge a small fee, the amount of the fee will vary from agency to agency.

  Buy train tickets for China through Chinahighlights.com
 

Buy train tickets online at www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains

Option 1. Buy online from www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains...

  Buy train tickets for China through China DIY Travel
 

Buy train tickets at www.china-train-ticket.com

Option 2.  Buy online at www.china-train-ticket.com

  Buy train tickets for China through China DIY Travel

Option 3. Buy by email through www.china-DIY-travel.com...

Option 4.  Other agencies: www.chinatripadvisor.com, www.chinatraintickets.net etc...

Option 5. Buy from Australian train specialist www.internationalrail.com.au

Option 6:  Buying tickets for departures from Hong Kong...

  Beijing station ticket office entrance
 

This is the entrance to Beijing Railway Station ticket office, accessed from the forecourt to the right of the main building.

  English language window at Beijing station ticket hall
 

After an X-ray baggage check, you're inside the ticket hall.  There's an availability display on the far wall, check this first!

  English language window at Beijing station ticket hall
 

The English-speaking window at Beijing station is shown on this red LED display.

  Train ticket agency
 

...Or buy from a local train ticket agency for an RMB 5 fee.  Small local ticketing agencies are located all over town.  Don't expect English to be spoken, so ask your hotel to write down what you want.  This is an office in Nanjing.  Photo courtesy of Matthew Blissett.

How to buy tickets at the station...  Useful booking form

Train availability displays in ticket offices...

You'll find these train availability boards at all main station ticket offices and they're not hard to read, even though they're in Chinese.  The photo below was taken at Beijing West on 1 August, and as you can see, there's zero availability in any class for today's train G625 leaving at 18:56, so don't waste time asking.  But there's plenty of availability in all classes tomorrow (2nd August) including 13 seats in business class and 36 seats in 1st class and 617 in 2nd class.

Train availability board, Beijing West north square ticket office

Collecting tickets bought online...

Beijing main station ticket office   Inside Beijing railway station ticket office

Collecting your tickets at Beijing railway station ticket office...  The office is to the right of the main building, accessed directly from the forecourt.  You enter via an X-ray baggage check.  You can collect from any ticket window, although there's an English speaking window if you like...

How to read a Chinese train ticket...

How to read a Chinese train ticket

Finding & boarding your train

In general...

Boarding a train at Beijing Railway Station...

Beijing main station   Entry kiosks to Beijing Raiwlay Station

1.  Beijing station is in central Beijing, 3 km from Tiananmen Square.  It has it's own station on the Beijing Subway, called simply Beijing Railway Station - see Beijing subway map.

2. Beijing main station dates from 1959 and whilst Beijing's South & West stations are modern and airport-like, negotiating Beijing's original station is a more chaotic old-style Asian experience.  So arrive in plenty of time, at least 40 minutes before your train leaves, assuming you have already collected your ticket.

3.  Whether you arrive by subway or taxi, you end up on the station forecourt seen in the photo above left.  You then enter the station through any of the 30-odd red-canopied ticket-check kiosks seen in the photo above right in front of the main entrance.  There will be a queue in front of each kiosk.

4. Immediately after the ticket check, there's a luggage X-ray check as you enter the building itself.

5.  You can then check the departure display to see which waiting room to go to for your train.  Boarding usually starts around 20-30 minutes before departure.

Boarding a train at Beijing South Station:  See the Beijing to Shanghai page...

Boarding a train at Beijing West Station...

Beijing metro - Beijing West Station   Beijing West Railway station

1.  Beijing West (= BeijingXi) is 7 km (4.5 miles) west of Tiananmen Square.  You can travel there easily & cheaply by Beijing Subway (see Beijing subway map) for just RMB 20 (20p, $0.50), allow 40 minutes for the subway journey.  Or you can take a taxi, the taxi fare from central Beijing to Beijing West is around RMB 35 (£3.50, $6), allow at least 30 minutes for the taxi ride.

2. Beijing West is large and busy, so arrive in plenty of time for your train, perhaps 40 minutes before your train leaves.

Beijing Xi (West) station entrance ticket check   Main indicator board inside Bejing West station

3. When you reach the station, you enter the station through a ticket & ID check at any one of the various entrances, see the photo above.  Immediately afterwards there's a luggage X-ray check into the departures hall.

 

4.  Indicator boards on the departure concourse show which train is allocated to which waiting room - here you can see G71 is allocated to waiting room 8. There is usually at least ½ hour between departures from a given room.

Waiting room 8 sign, Beijing West station   Inside Waiting Room 8, Beijing West station

5.  Go to the waiting room shown for your train, this photo shows the sign outside room 8.  Tickets are checked by staff as you enter, so you can be sure you're in the right place.

 

6.  Inside the waiting room.  Boarding starts perhaps 15 minutes before departure, through automatic ticket gates.  Barriers are usually closed a few minutes before departure.

7.  You may also find departure boards showing the status of each train.  Most trains will be shown as 'on time' with the most immediate departures shown as 'waiting', which means you can enter that train's specific waiting room.  Once a train is ready for boarding, usually about 30 minutes before departure, it's shown as 'check in', meaning you can proceed through to the platform.  Barriers close 5 minutes before departure, and the train is then shown as 'check out'.  Photos in this section are courtesy of Sunil Mehta.

What are Chinese trains like?

Chinese trains link virtually all main cities and towns in China, and are a safe, comfortable & civilised way to travel, even for families or women travelling alone.

Classes of seat & sleeper on classic trains...

Chinese trains generally have four classes, although you won't find every class on every train:

Classes of seat on high-speed trains...

Restaurant cars, toilets, smoking...

Categories of train...

Chinese train numbers usually start with a letter, which indicates the category of train.  The better the category of train, the faster it is likely to be, and the more modern & comfortable the carriages are likely to be.  Slightly higher fares are charged for the better train categories.

A typical T or K category Chinese train...

T & K category trains may not be as glamorous as the front-rank D or Z category trains, but even these T or K trains are usually very comfortable, often modern & air-conditioned.

Modern sleepers on a typical Chinese express train...   Restaurant car...

A typical T or K category long-distance express...

 

 The restaurant car...

Soft class 4-bed compartment in Chinese T or K category train...   Hard class sleeper...   Hard class sleeper, showing middle & bottom berths...

Soft sleeper consists of spacious carpeted & lockable 4-berth compartments, with toilets & washrooms at the end of the corridor.  Note the lacy decor & flower in a vase on the tablecloth!  Some trains even have personal TV screens for each berth.  Photos courtesy of Shuhei Terashima 

Hard sleeper consists of open bays of 6 bunks (upper, middle & lower) on one side of an aisle. In spite of its name, berths are padded, bedding is supplied, and many budget western travellers prefer it.  There are fold-out seats in the aisle either side of small tables.  Photos courtesy of Gabriel Chew.

Luggage & bikes on Chinese trains

  Luggage storage on Chinese trains

Luggage on Chinese trains:  Your luggage stays with you on board the train. Here, a suitcase is stored in the recess over the door in a 2-berth deluxe soft sleeper on the Beijing-Hong Kong train.  Courtesy of Andy Brabin.

  Left luggage office at Beijing South station

Left luggage office, Beijing South departures hall.  This one has lockers, others are staffed.

Taking luggage...

Taking a bike...

Luggage storage at stations...


Beijing to Shanghai by train

The best way to travel this route is by train.  Not only is the train ride an experience in itself, the trains are generally very punctual and reliable than flying, avoiding the many delays affecting flights on this crowded air corridor.  Train information for this route is now on a separate Beijing-Shanghai page.

Click here to see the Beijing to Shanghai page...


 


Beijing to Xian by train

The best way to travel between Beijing & Xian is by train, you can choose either a time-effective sleeper train which will also save a hotel bill, or one of the new high-speed trains...

High-speed service:  A high-speed line opened on 26 December 2012 allowing 300km/h (186mph) trains to link Beijing West to Xian North in as little as 4h40, with a dozen high-speed departures a day.

 Beijing ► Xian by sleeper train

 Train number:

T231

T43

Z19

 Beijing West

depart

18:40

19:50

20:43

day 1

 Xian main station

arrive

07:29

08:34

07:58

day 2

The recommended sleeper train is the Z19.

 Beijing ► Xian by high-speed train

 Train number:

G651

G653

G671

G655

G657

G659

G87

G673

G661

G663

G665

G667

G669

 Classes:

S,1,2

S,1,2

B,1,2

S,1,2

S,1,2

S,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

 Beijing West

depart

07:05

08:10

08:15

10:05

11:02

12:07

14:00

14:43

14:48

15:45

16:00

16:53

17:36

 Xian North*

arrive

12:49

14:07

14:36

15:39

16:45

17:30

18:30

20:39

21:03

21:29

21:58

22:39

22:57

B,1,2 = Business class, 1st class, 2nd class.  S,1,2 = Superior class, 1st class, 2nd class.  All trains run every day.

 Xian ► Beijing by sleeper train

Train number

T232

T42

Z20

T44

 Xian main station

depart

17:44

18:48

19:55

19:08

day 1

 Beijing West

arrive

06:07

08:46

07:10

08:30

day 2

The recommended sleeper train is the Z20.

 Xian ► Beijing by high-speed train

 Train number:

G652

G654

G672

G656

G658

G660

G662

G88

G664

G666

G668

G674

G670

 Classes:

B,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

B,1,2

S,1,2

S,1,2

S,1,2

S,1,2

B,1,2

S,1,2

 Xian North

depart

07:53

09:00

09:06

10:02

10:35

11:00

11:39

13:15

14:37

16:00

17:05

17:15

18:00

 Beijing West

arrive

13:28

13:53

15:11

15:33

16:27

17:11

17:16

17:55

20:27

21:30

22:56

23:08

23:26

B,1,2 = Business class, 1st class, 2nd class.  S,1,2 = Superior class, 1st class, 2nd class.  All trains run every day.

Xian North, also known as XianBei, is 10km north of the city centre on Xian metro line 2.  Xian main station is in the city centre.

G-category high-speed trains have 1st & 2nd class seats and a buffet car, plus either Business class seats (shown as B above) or Superior class seats (shown as S above) depending on the train.  1st class seats are 2+2 across the car width, 2nd class seats are 2+3 across the car width.  Business class consists of leather power-reclining seats arranged 1+2 across the car width in a carpeted car.  Superior seats are the same as first class, but arranged 2+1 across the car width in the sightseeing area immediately behind the driving cab at each end of the train

Z-category sleeper trains Z19 & Z20 are the recommended sleeper trains, see the photos below.  They have high-quality air-conditioned sleeping-cars, superior to any flight and saves time over flying, too.  Hard sleepers, 4-berth soft class sleepers, 2-berth deluxe soft sleepers (Z19/Z20 only), restaurant car with menu in Chinese and English, beer a reasonable RMB15, the crispy fried prawns are recommended!  It is reported that the on-board staff are helpful and speak some English, the berths are even fitted with small TV screens.

T-category sleeper trains T44 & T43 have 2-berth deluxe sleepers with private toilet, normal 4-berth soft sleepers, hard sleepers & restaurant car.

Distances:  Beijing to Xian by sleeper train on the classic route is 1,283 km (801 miles), via the new high-speed route it's 1,198km  (749 miles).

The Terracotta warriors are 40-45 minutes from Xian main station by bus 306 or 307, fare about RMB 7.  Minibuses & taxis are also available.  There are luggage storage facilities (left luggage office) at Xian main station, price RMB 5 per person.

All trains shown here run every day.    Finding & boarding your train    Luggage arrangements

Beijing metro map.    Street map of Beijing showing stations.    Hotels in Beijing.    Hotels in Xian.

 How much does it cost?

 Beijing-Xian one-way per person

By high-speed train

By sleeper train

2nd class

1st class

Superior

class

Business

class

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

Deluxe Soft sleeper

 Bought at reservations office in China:

RMB 517

RMB 826

?

?

RMB 290 ($40)

RMB 442 ($62)

RMB 816 ($110)

 Booked at www.chinahighlights.com:

$88

$140

$167

$276

$45

$71

$130

Children under 120cm tall travel free, 120-150cm tall travel for half fare, over 150cm tall pay full fare (140cm was changed to 150cm in Dec 2008, and 110cm to 120cm in Dec 2010).  Child discounts only apply to the 'base' part of a sleeper fare, so in sleepers it's closer to a 25% reduction on the total fare.

The sleeper fares shown here are for lower berths.  Upper berths (and middle berths in hard sleeper) are a fraction cheaper.

How to buy tickets

What are the Beijing to Xian high-speed G-trains like?

Second class is fine if you're on a budget, although it's fairly cramped as seats are arranged 2+3 across the car width.  A middle seat in the row of three isn't much fun!  First class seats are arranged 2+2 across the car width, so are far more spacious and well worth the extra cost.  Superior class seats (also known as Deluxe or Premium) are identical to first class seats, but arranged 2+1 across the car width in the sightseeing area immediately behind the cab at each end of the train, 6 seats in each of the two sightseeing areas.  The glass to the cab is often kept frosted, defeating the object of the sightseeing area, so I'd stick with regular first class.  Some trains have Business class instead of Superior class, and although expensive even by western standards, it's carpeted, spacious and relaxed, with electrically-reclining flat-bed seats and complimentary tray meal.  Wonderful if you can afford it.  See the photos of the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed trains here, as the Beijing-Xian G-trains are similar.

Train G653 from Beijing to Xian   2nd class seats on the Beijing to Xian high-speed train   Restaurant car on the Beijing to Xian high-speed train

The business end...

 

2nd class seats...

 

Restaurant-bar car...

First class seats   Superior seat, sightseeing area   Business class seat

1st class seats...

 

Superior class seats...

 

Business class...

Traveller Ed Raw reports:  "I was able to buy a Beijing to Xi’an ticket in person at Beijing’s main railway station the day I arrived, 6 days before travel. As a precaution I got the receptionist where I was staying to write out the relevant details in Chinese for me.  Contrary to what most people do I went on a day train (G653) as I wanted to see something of the landscape as we sped along. The maximum speed we reached was 303km/hour.  The whole trip was one of the highlights of the fortnight."

The top row of photos show train G653 from Beijing to Xian, a CRH380A, courtesy of Ed Raw

What is sleeper train Z19 from Beijing to Xian like?

Z category trains are the fastest and most modern long distance trains in China, running on routes such as Beijing-Xian, though now superseded by D-category sleeper trains on the Beijing-Shanghai route.  They are composed of the very latest air-conditioned sleepers, plus bar and restaurant.  There are more photos of the excellent Z trains here.

Destination plate on side of train Z19 Beijing-Xian...   Soft sleeper, as used on 'Z' category trains from Beijing to Shanghai & Xian

The Beijing to Xian sleeper train:  Each coach proudly carries a destination plate, in Chinese and English...  Courtesy of Bas de Graaff

 

4-berth soft sleeperPhoto courtesy of Sunil Mehta

Deluxe 2-berth soft sleeper, as used on the 'Z' category trains Beijing to Shanghai & Xian   Private toilet / washroom in deluxe 2-berth sleeper, 'Z' train Beijing to Shanghai & Xian   Toilet on the Xian to Beijing sleeper train

2-berth deluxe soft sleeper with upper & lower berths one side of the compartment, wardrobe & armchair on the other.  Courtesy of Bas de Graaff

 

The  2-berth deluxe sleepers have a private toilet & washroom.

 

Soft sleepers have a western-style toilet at the end of the corridor...

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Jim McCorry took the Z-category sleeper train: "The train journey was exceptionally good; the sleeping accommodation was first class as was the service.  We also had the opportunity to meet and enjoy conversations, sometimes only in written form I may say, with a number of Chinese people sharing our compartment both going and returning.  Booking in Beijing was relatively painless as they have a special booking office for foreigners." 

Traveller Graham Dawes took the Z-category sleeper train:  "I successfully used "English Spoken" booking hall window (which appears to change so look carefully over booking hall windows for the sign) in Beijing Xizahn (West) to book return tickets to Xian on the Z19/Z20 last week for travel this week.  Soft sleeper in a 4 berth cabin cost Y417 each way.  Only cash accepted at window, no credit cards. Lower berths seem slightly longer (about 2 metres) if you are tall.  Pillow and duvet provided in each berth.  Travelled both ways (solo) and shared with Chinese ladies and men and had entertaining conversations in adequate English. Train crew attendants also spoke some English and recorded announcements on board made in English as well as Chinese.  Slept reasonably well and train ran punctually to the minute both ways.  Excellent value, even the toilets were fine at the end of the trips.  No sign of individual berth TV's in the coaches in which I travelled.  In both stations used the Soft Class Waiting Lounges where there are excellent electronic display boards (in English & Chinese) for departures.  You leave this lounge to board the train via a ticket inspection.  Retain tickets for inspection at arrival stations."


Beijing to Badaling by train for China's Great Wall

If you're spending a few days in Beijing, you'll probably want to visit the Great Wall of China.  Badaling is the most-visited section of rebuilt Great Wall, an easy day trip 61km (38 miles) north of Beijing.  Most people go there on a one-day bus tour, but this often only gives 30 rushed minutes to see the Wall.  It can be better to visit the Great Wall independently, taking a comfortable train from Beijing up into the mountains to Badaling, exploring and taking photographs at your leisure for an hour or two, then returning by train at a time to suit you.  These trains are modern & air-conditioned with soft & hard seats.

 Beijing ► Badaling for the Great Wall of China  

 Train number:

S201

S203

S207

S209

S213

S215

S217

S221

 Beijing North station  depart

06:12

07:58

09:02

10:57

13:14

13:35

15:24

17:41

 Badaling (for Great Wall) arrive

07:31

09:23

10:15

12:13

14:25

14:50

16:43

18:57

 Badaling for the Great Wall of China ► Beijing  

 Train number:

S208

S214

S216

S220

S222

S224

S228

S232

 Badaling (for Great Wall) depart

08:23

11:50

13:40

15:52

16:21

17:33

20:06

21:33

 Beijing North station  arrive

09:47

13:12

15:00

17:25

17:39

18:54

21:43

23:03

You can double-check these train times using www.cnvol.com (make sure you click the train number to see the full schedule), and there's a signboard showing current train times outside Beijing North station.  The final destination of these trains is usually Yanqing, 1 stop beyond Badaling. 

How much does it cost?  RMB 6  (£0.60 or $1) each way, and you can sit in either soft or hard seats, they make no distinction on this route.

How to buy tickets:  No reservation is necessary, simply turn up at Beijing North station and buy a ticket at the upstairs ticket office, not the downstairs one.  Several reports say that window 8 sells Badaling tickets, although one report says it was window 1.  Then head for the platforms through the ticket check and hop on the next train.  Buying tickets is normally fairly easy, you are given a ticket with 'S2' printed on it and you can use this on any train with a train number beginning 'S2', meaning any of the trains shown above.  You should buy your ticket back to Beijing when you get to Badaling.  Although some travellers say that buying a ticket is easy with short or no queues half an hour before the train goes, other travellers report long queues at the ticket office, especially at weekends when many Chinese were visiting the Wall.  So it is strongly recommended that you simply use a Beijing metro Smartcard to make this journey, as follows.  Feedback is always appreciated!

Save time & hassle buying tickets with a Beijing Metro Smartcard:  You can use a Beijing metro smartcard to travel on the S2 trains to Badaling, which saves you queuing for a ticket.  It is therefore strongly recommended that you get one (useful for travel on the metro anyway) and use if for this journey.  You just touch in and out as you would for the metro, avoiding the need to go to the ticket office!  It debits RMB5 at the start of the journey and RMB1 at the end.  You should arrive about 15 minutes before departure at least, as the access gates are closed a few minutes before the departure of each train.  You stand a better chance of getting a seat at busy times if you arrive earlier, say 30 minutes.  Feedback would be appreciated.

Beijing North station (Beijing Bei Zhan in Chinese) is at metro stop Xizhimen on metro lines 2 & 4.  On exiting the metro follow signs in English to Beijing North Station, and look for the upstairs ticket office, window 8.  If you have a Beijing metro Smartcard, look for the 'S2' entrance and head for the train.  Beijing metro map Street map of Beijing showing stations.  I recommend arriving at the station at least 20 minutes before departure, as there will be a brief security check before accessing the waiting area, and the train often stops some way from the terminal building.

Badaling station:  On arrival at Badaling station, leave the station and turn left and walk up the hill, following everyone else.  The Great Wall ticket office is about 800m away on the right, you can't miss it.  Entrance fee is around RMB 45 (£4.50 or $7.50).  Signs are in English, no guide is required.

Taking the train to the Great Wall of China...

For the first 20 minutes, the train negotiates the Beijing suburbs, then it accelerates for a brief sprint to its first station stop.  After stopping briefly at this station, the train starts climbing at slow speed into the mountains to Badaling.  You start to see parts of the Great Wall as soon as you leave the station stop, so have your camera ready!  The train reverses direction at Qinglongqiao, the stop before Badaling, so don't be surprised when this happens.  2 hours at the wall is enough for most people, but when you take the train, how long you stay is up to you!

Beijing North Station   Entrance for taking the train to Badaling for the Great Wall of China

Beijing North Station.  if you have a Beijing Metro Smartcard, simply head for any S2 train via the entrance aisle with an 'S2' sign...  Photos courtesy of Robert Mikes

The train to Badaling about to leave Beijing North station   Hard class seats on the train from Beijing to Badaling

The easy, independent way to the Great Wall...  A train to Badaling about to leave Beijing North station...  Photo courtesy of Robert Mortell.

 

Inside the train...  Hard class seats on the regular air-conditioned train linking Beijing with Badaling...  Photo courtesy of Barnaby Hornshaw.

Visiting The Great Wall of China at Badaling   The Great Wall of China, looking beyond Badaling

The Great Wall of China at Badaling.  The town & ticket office are in the valley in the background.  This photo was taken at almost the highest point of this bit of Wall.

 

Above:  Looking beyond that high point, the Great Wall of China stretches into the distance across the mountains...


Beijing - Tianjin by train

High-speed 350 km/h C-category trains (sometimes known as Hexie trains) link Beijing South Station & Tianjin every 10-20 minutes, taking just 30 minutes for the 120 km (75 miles) journey.  Simply use www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains to find specific train times.  The fare is around RMB 58 (£6 or $9) for a 2nd class seat, RMB 69 (£7 or $10) in a first class seat.  It's easy enough to buy tickets at the station on the day of travel.

Soft seats on the 'Hexie' train from Beijing to Tianjin

Above:  1st class seats on the Beijing-Tianjin Hexie train.  Photo courtesy of Gabriel Chew

  the 'Hexie' train from Beijing to Tianjin

Above:  The business end of a 350km/h Beijing-Tianjin Hexie train.  Photo courtesy of Gabriel Chew


Beijing or Shanghai to Guilin & Nanning by train

New high-speed option from September 2014:  As well as the classic T and K category sleeper trains from Beijing or Shanghai to Guilin and Nanning, from September 2014 there are now two Beijing-Guilin-Nanning 186mph high-speed trains using the new high-speed line to do the run in a single day.  So you can choose between a high-speed journey done in a single day or a cheaper classic overnight sleeper train ride, both are genuine Chinese experiences.  The choice is yours...

 Beijing or Shanghai ► Guilin, Nanning

 Train number:

G529

G421

K21

T5

T189

K537

K181

 Beijing West depart

07:47 day 1

09:05 day 1

08:58 day 1

15:45 day 1

18:50 day 1

-

-

 Shanghai South depart

|

|

|

|

|

16:52

15:57 day 1

 Guilin arrive

18:27 day 1

19:43 day 1

12:26 day 2

14:51 day 2

17:52 day 2

14:25

15:28 day 2

 Nanning arrive

21:25 day 1

22:37 day 1

-

20:10 day 2

23:30 day 2

21:05

21:30 day 2/3

 Nanning, Guilin ► Beijing or Shanghai

 Train number:

G422

G530

T6

T190

K22

K538

K960

 Nanning depart

07:45 day 1

09:05 day 1

08:30 day 1

10:30 day 1

-

10:55 day 1

08:15 day 1

 Guilin depart

10:36 day 1

12:05 day 1

13:28 day 1

15:36 day 1

19:02 day 1

17:24 day 1

14:05 day 1

 Shanghai  South arrive

|

|

|

|

|

15:37 day 2

17:14 day 2

 Beijing West arrive

21:09 day 1

22:51 day 2

12:07 day 2

14:35 day 2

22:28 day 2

-

-

All trains run every day all year round. 

G421/G422/G529/G530 are G-category high-speed trains using the new high-speed lines, with 2nd, 1st & business class plus buffet car, see the photos of similar Beijing to Shanghai high-speed trains here.

The T & K trains are classic trains using the classic route, with 4-berth soft sleepers, hard sleepers & restaurant car.  Train T189/T190 also has 2-berth deluxe soft sleepers.

You can check times for this & other routes at www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains Map of Beijing showing stations

Beijing to Guilin is 2,135km (1,334 miles), Beijing to Nanning is 2,566km (1,603 miles) via the classic route.  Beijing metro map.  .

 How much does it cost?

 

By high-speed G train...

By classic K or T train...

 Beijing-Guilin one-way per person

2nd class

1st class

Business class

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

 Bought at ticket office in Beijing:

RMB 806 ($119)

RMB 1250 ($184)

RMB 2530 ($372)

RMB 430 ($63)

RMB 658 ($97)

 Online at www.chinahighlights.com:

$137

$212

$429

$72

$111

 Beijing-Nanning one-way per person

2nd class

1st class

Business class

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

 Bought at ticket office in Beijing:

RMB 918 ($135)

RMB 1383 ($203)

RMB 2863 ($421)

RMB 499 ($71)

RMB 770 ($113)

 Online at www.chinahighlights.com:

$156

$235

$485

$84

$129

 Shanghai-Nanning one-way per person

2nd class

1st class

Business class

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

 Bought at ticket office in Beijing:

n/a

n/a

n/a

RMB 418 ($55)

RMB 642 ($90)

 Online at www.chinahighlights.com:

n/a

n/a

n/a

$70

$108

Children under 120cm tall travel free, 120-150cm tall travel for half fare, over 150cm tall pay full fare (140cm was changed to 150cm in Dec 2008, and 110cm to 120cm in Dec 2010).  Child discounts only apply to the 'base' part of a sleeper fare, so in sleepers it's closer to a 25% reduction on the total fare.

The sleeper fares shown here are for lower berths.  Upper berths (and middle berths in hard sleeper) are a fraction cheaper.

How to buy tickets


Beijing to Guangzhou (Canton) & Shenzhen

Several comfortable air-conditioned sleeper trains link Beijing with Guangzhou (Canton) every day.  In addition, a new high-speed line opened on 26 December 2012, and 300km/h (186mph) trains now link Beijing West and Guangzhou South in as little as 7 hours 59 minutes, on the world's longest high-speed line.  You can also use the Beijing-Shenzhen high-speed trains to travel between Beijing and Hong Kong in a single day, see here.

 Beijing ► Guangzhou, Shenzhen

 Train number:

G71

G79

G65

G67

G67

T15

T201

T107

 Beijing West depart

07:52

10:00

10:30

12:13

13:05

11:01  day 1

18:11 day 1

20:12 day 1

 Guangzhou South arrive

17:37

17:59

20:10

22:14

22:19

|           

|           

|           

 Guangzhou Main Station arrive

|

|

-

-

-

08:01  day 2

15:37 day 2

|           

 Shenzhen (for Hong Kong) arrive

18:16

18:33

-

-

-

    -

   -

19:50 day 2

All trains run every day.

Trains G65 to G80 are 300km/h (186 mph) high-speed trains, with Business class, 1st class & 2nd class seats and a buffet car.  1st class seats are 2+2 across the car width, 2nd class seats are 2+3 across the car width.  Business class consists of leather power-reclining seats arranged 1+2 across the car width in a carpeted car.  See the photos of the Beijing to Shanghai high-speed trains here as the Beijing-Guangzhou-Shenzhen G-trains are similar.  You'll also find advice on which class to choose on that page.

Trains T15, T16, T201, T202 have 2-berth deluxe soft sleepers, 4-berth soft sleepers, hard class sleepers & restaurant car.

Trains T107 & T108 have 4-berth soft sleepers, hard class sleepers & restaurant car.

How to buy tickets   Finding & boarding your train    Luggage arrangements  

In Shenzhen, the high-speed G-trains use Shenzhenbei station = Shenzhen North.  The overnight T-trains use Shenzhen main station.

Beijing to Guangzhou via the new high-speed line is 2,298km (1,436 miles).  Beijing to Shenzhen is 2,400km (1,500 miles).

 Guangzhou, Shenzhen ► Beijing

 Train number:

G72

G66

G68

G80

G70

T16

T202

T108

 Shenzhen (for Hong Kong) depart

07:56

-

-

11:28

-

-

-

14:10  day 1

 Guangzhou Main Station depart

|

-

-

|

-

16:28  day 1

09:17  day 1

|            

 Guangzhou South depart

08:29

10:00

11:15

12:10

12:50

|            

|            

|            

 Beijing West arrive

18:21

18:00

21:02

21:47

22:20

13:29  day 2

06:42  day 2

14:15  day 2

How much does it cost?

 Fares for T-category sleeper trains

 Beijing-Guangzhou one-way per person

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

Deluxe soft sleeper

 Bought at reservations office in China:

RMB 458 ($55)

RMB 786 ($87)

RMB 1447

 Booked in advance at www.chinahighlights.com:

$77

$132

$243

 Beijing-Shenzhen one-way per person

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

Deluxe soft sleeper

 Booked in advance at www.chinahighlights.com:

$79

$122

n/a

 Fares for G-category high-speed trains

 Beijing-Guangzhou one-way per person

2nd class

1st class

Business class

 Bought at the station:

RMB 865

RMB 1383

RMB 2727

 Bought in advance at www.chinahighlights.com:

$146

$234

$462

 Beijing-Shenzhen one-way per person

2nd class

1st class

Business class

 Bought in advance at www.chinahighlights.com:

$159

$252

$497

Children under 120cm tall travel free, 120-150cm tall travel for half fare, over 150cm tall pay full fare (140cm changed to 150cm in Dec 2008, 110cm to 120cm in Dec 2010).  Child discounts only apply to the 'base' part of a sleeper fare, so in sleepers it's closer to a 25% reduction on the total fare.

The sleeper fares shown here are for lower berths.  Upper berths (and middle berths in hard sleeper) are a fraction cheaper.

Shenzhen - Hong Kong connection by metro/MTR...


Beijing to Hong Kong by train

An air-conditioned sleeper train links Beijing with Hong Kong every second day, the comfortable, civilised and interesting way to make this journey, shown in this section.  Alternatively, you can travel between Beijing and Hong Kong in a single day any day you like, using a high-speed train between Beijing & Shenzhen, then the frequent metro (MTR) service between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, see the Beijing-Shenzhen section above.

 Beijing ► Hong Kong

 

 Hong Kong ► Beijing

 

Every 2 days*

 

Every 2 days**

 Train number:

T97

 Train number:

T98

 Beijing West depart

13:08  day 1

 Hong Kong (Hung Hom) depart

15:15  day 1

 Hong Kong (Hung Hom) arrive

12:56  day 2

 Beijing West arrive

14:51  day 2

*  Train T97 from Beijing to Hong Kong runs on odd-numbered dates in January, April, May, August, November, December 2014 and on even-numbered dates in February, March, June, July, September & October 2014.  The train has 2-berth deluxe soft sleepers with private toilet, normal 4-berth soft sleepers, hard sleepers & restaurant car.

**  Train T98 from Hong Kong to Beijing runs on even-numbered dates in January, April, May, August, November, December 2014 and on odd-numbered dates in February, March, June, July, September & October 2014.  The train has 2-berth deluxe soft sleepers with private toilet, normal 4-berth soft sleepers, hard sleepers & restaurant car.

You can check days of running of trains T97 & T98 at www.it3.mtr.com.hk, click 'Schedule' (look for the clock logo) then use the 'Select your schedule' box top right to select the Beijing/Shanghai route.  Remember that Hong Kong is shown as 'Hung Hom', that's the station.

How to buy tickets, starting in Hong Kong:  Option 1:  You can try booking tickets by email via ipsc@mtr.com.hk (see www.it3.mtr.com.hk) with ticket collection at the booking office, but it's reported they no longer accept bookings from overseas travellers.  Option 2:  Instead, you can buy tickets through CTS (China Travel Service) in Hong Kong who have an online ticket ordering system for this train.  Go to www.ctshk.com, click 'Transport' then 'Train', then change the default 'Online purchase' to 'Enquiry/Booking'.  Now proceed with the ordering - if you run into a glitch in the English version you may need to use Google Chrome to translate some Chinese, or just email them.  You'll need to send copies of your credit card, that is normal.  Tickets can be collected from their offices or sent to your hotel.  Option 3:  Alternatively, you can arrange tickets starting in Hong Kong through Tiglion Travel, www.tiglion.net, which one seat61 correspondent has recommended, but again, don't be surprised if they ask for a scan of your credit card.  Option 4:  When you're in Hong Kong, you can buy tickets for the through trains to Guangzhou, Beijing & Shanghai at any CTS (China Travel Service) agency around the city, although only the CTS Central branch and CTS Mongkok branch are equipped with the Chinese Railways ticketing system for booking other Chinese train tickets.

How to buy tickets, starting in Beijing:  See the advice on buying tickets.  Be warned, the Beijing-Hong Kong through train is very popular, and gets booked up well in advance.  Traveller Roddy Flagg reports: (Feb 2009) "I bough a Beijing-Hong Kong hard sleeper ticket at Beijing West at around midday, for departure the next day - so in this case at least there was no need to purchase too far in advance.  Purchase was very easy - into the ticket office, find window 16 with it's 'English spoken' sign, and there was only one person ahead of me in the queue. Can't attest to the quality of the English as I was speaking Chinese.  Was in and out in a couple of minutes, but Beijing West is, as you no doubt know, a massive place, so it could well take longer if you get lost.  Buying at the more central Beijing main station might be better."

Departure formalities:  Departing from Beijing for Hong Kong, you should arrive at Beijing West station 90 minutes before departure for passport control & exit formalities.  Departing from Hong Kong, you should arrive at Kowloon's Hung Hom station 45 minutes before departure for passport control & exit formalities.

The station in Hong Kong is in Kowloon and called Hung Hom.  It can help to know that the Chinese refer to Hong Kong/Kowloon as Jiulong.  You'll see it written on train destination boards as Jiulong.

Hong Kong Kowloon to Victoria Island Star Ferry:  Regular Star Ferries shuttle between Kowloon and Hong Kong Victoria Island, see www.starferry.com.hk.  It's not only a means of transport, the Star Ferry is a classic journey in its own right.

Alternative ways between Beijing & Hong Kong, including new high-speed day trains:  Option 1, you can take a high-speed daytime train between Beijing West and Shenzhen, then the Shenzhen metro and Hong Kong metro (MTR) between Shenzhen and Hong Kong, as shown in the Beijing to Shenzhen section above.  Option 2, you can of course take any Beijing-Guangzhou high-speed train or daily sleeper train, as shown in the Beijing to Guangzhou section above.  Then take an air-conditioned inter-city train between Guangzhou East & Hong Kong, these run every hour or two taking just 1 hour 50 minutes, see www.mtr.com.hk for times, fares and online booking.

 How much does it cost?

 Hong Kong to Beijing one-way per person

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

Deluxe soft sleeper

 Bought at reservations office in Hong Kong:

HK$ 587 ($75)

HK$ 934 ($120)

HK$ 1191 ($155)

 Booked in advance at www.chinatripadvisor.com:

$85

$132

$170

 Beijing to Hong Kong one-way per person

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

Deluxe soft sleeper

 Bought at reservations office in Beijing:

RMB 507 ($75)

RMB 822 ($120)

RMB 1200 ($175)

 Booked in advance at www.chinatripadvisor.com:

$85

$132

$170

 Booked in advance at www.china-train-ticket.com:

$160

$230

$280

Discounts may be available at off-peak times of year, if bought at the reservations office in Hong Kong.

Children under 120cm tall travel free, 120-150cm tall travel for half fare, over 150cm tall pay full fare (140cm changed to 150cm in Dec 2008, 110cm to 120cm in Dec 2010).  Child discounts only apply to the 'base' part of a sleeper fare, so in sleepers it's closer to a 25% reduction on the total fare.

The sleeper fares shown here are for lower berths.  Upper berths (and middle berths in hard sleeper) are a fraction cheaper.

What is the Hong Kong to Beijing sleeper train like?

Hard sleeper, Hong Kong - Beijing / Shanghai through train.   4-berth soft sleeper, Hong Kong - Beijing / Shanghai through train.   Deluxe soft sleeper, Hong Kong - Beijing / Shanghai through train.

Hard sleeper berths on the Hong Kong - Beijing train. www.kcrc.com.

 

A 4-berth soft sleeper compartment on the Hong Kong - Beijing & Hong Kong - Shanghai trains.  Photo courtesy of www.kcrc.com.

 

A deluxe soft sleeper (2-berth with toilet) on the Hong Kong - Beijing & Hong Kong - Shanghai trains.  Photo courtesy of www.kcrc.com.

Boarding the train to Beijing at Hong Kong's Kowloon station   Boarding the Hong Kong to Beijing train   A Chinese meal in the restaurant car of the Hong Kong to Beijing train

Welcome aboard...  Train T98 from Hong Kong to Beijing boarding at Kowloon's modern station.  These 3 photos courtesy of Andy Brabin.

 

A tasty Chinese meal in the restaurant car of the Hong Kong to Beijing train...


Hong Kong to Guangzhou by train

Air-conditioned intercity trains run every hour or two between Guangzhou East & Hong Kong's Hung Hom station, taking 1 hour 50 minutes.  See www.mtr.com.hk for times, fares & online booking.

Hong Kong Kowloon to Victoria Island Star Ferry:  Regular Star Ferries shuttle between Kowloon and Hong Kong Victoria Island, see www.starferry.com.hk.  It's not only a means of transport, the Star Ferry is a classic journey in its own right.


Hong Kong to Macau by ferry

There are fast ferry services (jetfoils) from Hong Kong to Macau, see www.turbocat.com.  These run every 15 minutes throughout the day, and every few hours at night, journey time 55 minutes. Fares from HK$134 (£12 or US$19) in economy class. The jetfoils depart from the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal, Shun Tak Centre, 200 Connaught Road Central.


Hong Kong to Shanghai by train

 Hong Kong ► Shanghai

   

 Shanghai ► Hong Kong

 Train number:

Every 2 days *

Train number:

Every 2 days **

T100

T99

 Hong Kong (Hung Hom) depart

15:15  day 1

 Shanghai  depart

17:09  day 1

 Shanghai arrive

11:15  day 2

 Hong Kong (Hung Hom) arrive

13:05  day 2

* Train T100 from Hong Kong to Shanghai runs on odd-numbered dates in January, April, May, August, November, December 2014 and on even-numbered dates in February, March, June, July, September & October 2014.

** Train T99 from Shanghai to Hong Kong runs on even-numbered dates in January, April, May, August, November, December 2014 and on odd-numbered dates in February, March, June, July, September & October 2014.

You can check days of running of trains T99 & T100 at www.it3.mtr.com.hk, click 'Schedule' (look for the clock logo) then use the 'Select your schedule' box top right to select the Beijing/Shanghai route.  Remember that Hong Kong is shown as 'Hung Hom', that's the station.

On board accommodation:  T99 & T100 have 2-berth 'deluxe soft sleeper' with private toilet, normal 4-berth soft sleepers, hard sleepers & restaurant car.

How to buy tickets starting in Hong Kong:  You can book tickets by email at www.mtr.com.hk (click 'customer site' then 'intercity passenger services') and pick up tickets at the booking office, or just buy them at the station reservations office.  You can also arrange tickets starting in Hong Kong through Tiglion Travel, www.tiglion.net, which one seat61 correspondent has recommended.  Don't be surprised if they ask for a scan of your credit card.   When you're in Hong Kong, you can buy tickets for the through trains to Guangzhou, Beijing & Shanghai at any CTS (China Travel Service) agency around the city, although only the CTS Central branch and CTS Mongkok branch are equipped with the Chinese Railways ticketing system for booking other Chinese train tickets. 

How to buy tickets starting in Shanghai:  If your journey starts in Shanghai, buy at the ticket office (there's an English-speaking window) or pre-book through an agency, see advice on buying tickets.

Departure formalities:  Departing from Shanghai, you should arrive at Shanghai station 90 minutes before departure for exit formalities.  Departing Hong Kong, you should arrive at the station 45 minutes before departure.  The station in Hong Kong is in Kowloon and called Hung Hom.

It can help to know that the Chinese often refer to Hong Kong/Kowloon as Jiulong.  You'll see it on train destination boards as Jiulong.

Hong Kong Kowloon to Victoria Island Star Ferry:  Regular Star Ferries shuttle between Kowloon and Hong Kong Victoria Island, see www.starferry.com.hk.  It's not only a means of transport, the Star Ferry is a classic journey in its own right.

 How much does it cost?

 Hong Kong - Shanghai one-way per person

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

Deluxe soft sleeper

 Bought at reservations office in Hong Kong:

HK$ 519 ($65)

HK$ 825 ($110)

HK$ 1,039 ($135)

 Shanghai - Hong Kong one-way per person

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

Deluxe soft sleeper

 Bought at reservations office in Shanghai

RMB 408 ($62)

RMB 627 ($94)

RMB 1,040 ($155)

 Bought through www.chinatripadvisor.com

$81

$128

$163

Children under 120cm tall travel free, 120-150cm tall travel for half fare, over 150cm tall pay full fare (140cm was changed to 150cm in Dec 2008, and 110cm to 120cm in Dec 2010).  Child discounts only apply to the 'base' part of a sleeper fare, so in sleepers it's closer to a 25% reduction on the total fare.

The sleeper fares shown here are for lower berths.  Upper berths (and middle berths in hard sleeper) are a fraction cheaper.

What is the Hong Kong to Shanghai train like?

This train uses the same carriages as the Hong Kong-Beijing train, and runs on the days when the Beijing train doesn't.

Hard sleeper, Hong Kong - Beijing / Shanghai through train.   4-berth soft sleeper, Hong Kong - Beijing / Shanghai through train.   Deluxe soft sleeper, Hong Kong - Beijing / Shanghai through train.

Hard sleeper berths on the Hong Kong - Shanghai train. www.kcrc.com.

 

A 4-berth soft sleeper compartment on the Hong Kong - Beijing & Hong Kong - Shanghai trains.  Photo courtesy of www.kcrc.com.

 

A deluxe soft sleeper (2-berth with toilet) on the Hong Kong - Beijing & Hong Kong - Shanghai trains.  Photo courtesy of www.kcrc.com.

Boarding the train to Beijing at Hong Kong's Kowloon station   Boarding the Hong Kong to Beijing train   A Chinese meal in the restaurant car of the Hong Kong to Beijing train

Welcome aboard...  These 3 photos courtesy of Andy Brabin.

 

A tasty Chinese meal in the restaurant car...


Shanghai to Xian by train

 Shanghai ► Xian

 

 Xian ► Shanghai

 Train number:

Z92*

T138

D306**

 Train number:

Z94*

T140

D308**

 Shanghai  depart

18:55 day 1

15:56 day 1

22:00 day 1

 Xian  depart

17:08  day 1

19:46  day 1

21:02 day 1

 Xian  arrive

09:16 day 2

08:21 day 2

08:40 day 2

 Shanghai  arrive

07:42  day 2

11:47  day 2

07:48 day 2

* Recommended high-quality Z-category train, with air-conditioned 2-berth deluxe soft sleepers, 4-berth soft sleepers, hard sleepers & restaurant car.  Arrives/departs Xian main station in the city centre.

** Recommended high-speed high-quality D-category sleeper train, see the photos here.  4-berth soft sleepers, 2nd class seats & restaurant car.  Arrives/departs Xian North, also known as TaiHong, located 10km north of the city centre and connected to the city by line 2 of the Xian metro.

T138/T140 also has air-conditioned cars, soft & hard sleepers & restaurant car.

There are other trains between Shanghai & Xian en route to other places, but the trains above specifically link these two cities. 

You can check times & fares & availability in English at www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains.

 How much does it cost?

 Shanghai - Xian one-way per person

Hard sleeper

on Z92/Z94

Soft sleeper

on Z92/Z94

deluxe soft sleeper

on Z92/Z94

Soft sleeper

on D306/D308

 Bought at reservations office at station in Shanghai:

RMB 333 ($49)

RMB 511 ($77)

?

RMB 834 ($122)

 Booked in advance at www.chinahighlights.com:

$56

$86

$159

$141

Children under 120cm tall travel free, 120-150cm tall travel for half fare, over 150cm tall pay full fare (140cm was changed to 150cm in Dec 2008, and 110cm to 120cm in Dec 2010).  Child discounts only apply to the 'base' part of a sleeper fare, so in sleepers it's closer to a 25% reduction on the total fare.

The sleeper fares shown here are for lower berths.  Upper berths (and middle berths in hard sleeper) are a fraction cheaper.

Train Z94 to Shanghai boarding at Xian   A 4-berth soft sleeper on train Z94 from Xian to Shanghai

Train Z94 to Shanghai boarding at Xian.  Photo courtesy of Roger Keenan.

 

A soft sleeper on train Z94 from Xian to Shanghai.  Photo courtesy of Roger Keenan.


 


Trains to Lhasa & Tibet

  Destination board on the side of the Shanghai-Lhasa train.

Destination board on the Shanghai-Lhasa train.  Photo courtesy of Mary Kitchen.

  Soft class 4-berth sleeper on the train to Lhasa, Tibet

Modern & comfortable.  A soft class 4-berth sleeper on the daily Beijing-Lhasa train.  Photo courtesy of Frances Partridge

The first regular passenger trains started running over the new railway to Lhasa in Tibet on 1 July 2006.  The Qinghai-Tibet Railway is the highest in the world, climbing from 2,829m above sea level at Golmud (Geermu) to 3,641m at Lhasa, much of it built on permafrost.  Its highest point is in the Tanggula Pass, at 16,640 feet (just over 5,000m) above sea level.  Because of the lack of oxygen at that altitude, all passenger coaches have extra oxygen pumped into them, and oxygen is available to passengers through tubes if they have problems.  Before the railway was built into Tibet, travellers had to take a train as far as Golmud (which the railway reached in 1984) followed by a gruelling 48 hour bus journey to Lhasa.  Now there are direct air-conditioned trains from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou & Xian to Lhasa.

Regular passenger trains to Lhasa from Beijing, Xian, Shanghai, Guangzhou...

There are several trains a day to Lhasa, including a daily express from Beijing to Lhasa (a 2-night journey, 3,753km) and other trains running every second day from Xian, Shanghai & Guangzhou (formerly called Canton, near Hong Kong) to Lhasa.  These are modern air-conditioned Chinese Railways trains, with soft & hard class sleepers, soft & hard class seats & a restaurant car.  Photos of the new Beijing-Lhasa train interior.  Train times & fares for these trains are shown below.

How to buy tickets...

Bookings open 18 days ahead at stations, or 20 days ahead booked online in Chinese.  In the first months of operation of the new line, tickets sold out almost as soon as bookings open, and it's not much easier to get tickets now.  It's best to arrange through an agency, perhaps as part of a tour with Tibet permit sorted for you, try www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains or www.chinatraintickets.net.  See how to buy tickets.  Tibet is an all-year-round destination, but you'll find tickets hardest to get in July & August when vast numbers of Chinese tourists visit.

Getting a permit for Tibet...

In addition to a normal Chinese visa, foreigners require a special permit to enter Tibet.  The only way to get a permit is through a Chinese travel agency, for example www.chinahighlights.com who can arrange both trains and tailor-made tours.  The permit is valid to enter Tibet and reach Lhasa, though another permit is required to travel any further.  There's a good article about Tibet permits at www.thelandofsnows.com.  You can also try www.chinatibettrain.com or www.chinatraintickets.net.  Always check the current situation with Tibet Permits, as over the last few years requirements have been tightened up due to the political situation, making travel difficult, then relaxed again.

 Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xian ► Lhasa (Tibet)

 

Daily

Every 2 days*

Every 2 days*

Daily**

Daily**

 Train number:

T27

T222/223

T22/23

T264

T164

 Beijing West  depart:

20:00  day 1

-

-

-

-

 Shanghai depart:

|

-

-

-

19:36 day 1

 Guangzhou depart:

|

-

-

12:19 day 1

|

 Chongqing North depart:

|

19:37 day 1

-

|

|

 Xian  depart:

|

06:18 day 2

-

10:09 day 2

10:17 day 2

 Chengdu  depart:

|

|

20:55 day 1

|

|

 Lanzhou  depart:

13:02  day 2

14:09 day 2

14:09 day 2

16:52 day 2

17:02 day 2

 Xining West depart:

15:50  day 2

17:15 day 2

17:15 day 2

19:45 day 2

20:15 day 2

 Golmud (Geermu) depart:

01:42  day 3

03:07 day 3

03:07 day 3

05:18 day 3

05:59 day 3

 Lhasa  arrive:

15:40  day 3

16:35 day 3

16:35 day 3

19:20 day 3

20:15 day 3

 
 

You can arrange a Tibet Permit with www.chinahighlights.com, who can also book your train tickets.  Feedback if you use them is always appreciated!

All trains are air-conditioned with extra oxygen available, and have soft class & hard class sleepers & seats, and restaurant car.  The soft sleepers have 4-berth compartments, complete with personal LCD televisions, occasionally showing English language movies.

Change of train at Xining:  All these trains are shown in the timetables as direct, and they are ticketed as direct trains, but in fact there's a simple cross-platform change at Xining between a train of 'regular' rolling stock and a green-painted train equipped with pressure-sealed carriages for the Tibet end of the journey.  You occupy the same car number and berth number on each train.

Beijing metro mapStreet map of Beijing showing stations.

Guangzhou = Canton, a few hours' train ride from Hong Kong.

x = the train stops, but exact time not known.

* = runs every 2nd day, on odd dates in some months, even dates in others.  The only way to double-check which days the non-daily trains run is to use the online timetable at www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains or buy the downloadable .pdf timetable at www.chinatt.org.

** = Originally ran every 2 days, was then increased to run daily, but now seems to be back to running every 2 days, check with your booking agency or using the online system at the top of this page.

The Beijing-Lhasa train was speeded up from 11 January 2011 as it now uses a new bit of railway, but no longer calls at Xian.  The fare got cheaper, as the new route is shorter, at 3,753 km.

 

 Lhasa (Tibet) ► Xian, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing

 

Daily

Every 2 days*

Every 2 days*

Daily

Daily

 Train number:

T28

T224/221

T24/21

T266

T166

 Lhasa  depart:

13:48  day 1

10:00 day 1

10:00 day 1

12:08 day 1

11:30 day 1

 Golmud  (Geermu) arrive:

02:48  day 1

23:37 day 1

23:37 day 1

01:24 day 2

00:31 day 2

 Xining West arrive:

12:00  day 2

09:15 day 2

09:15 day 2

10:32 day 2

09:40 day 2

 Lanzhou  arrive:

14:55  day 2

12:26 day 2

12:26 day 2

13:24 day 2

12:53 day 2

 Chengdu  arrive:

      |

|

08:13 day 3

|

|

 Xian  arrive:

      |

22:13 day 2

-

21:20 day 2

20:49 day 2

 Chongqing North arrive:

      |

09:30 day 3

-

|

|

 Guangzhou  arrive:

      |

-

-

18:58 day 3

|

 Shanghai  arrive:

      |

-

-

-

11:25 day 3

 Beijing West arrive:

08:19  day 3

-

-

-

-

Another train (not shown here) runs daily between Xining & Lhasa, extended to Lanzhou on alternate days.  Many other trains link Beijing, Xian, Lanzhou and Xining.  Beijing-Lhasa is 4,064 km, of which 1,110 km are over the newly-built Qinghai-Tibet railway.

Photos of the train & journey

Travellers' reports...

More photos of the new Beijing-Lhasa train interior

More photos of the railway to Tibet

Summary of times & fares for trains from Chengdu & Xining to Lhasa

Map of Chinese train routes   Onward travel to Kathmandu in Nepal, and from Nepal to India.

 Train fares to Lhasa...

 One-way fares per person (approximate)

Hard sleeper

Soft sleeper

 Beijing to Lhasa, bought at reservations office in Beijing:

RMB 766

RMB 1,189

 Beijing to Lhasa, booked in advance at www.chinahighlights.com:

$129

$200

 Shanghai to Lhasa, bought at the station reservations office:

RMB 845

RMB 1,314

 Guangzhou to Lhasa, bought at the station reservations office:

RMB 923

RMB 1,530

 Chengdu to Lhasa, bought at the station:

RMB 704

RMB 1,112

 Xining to Lhasa, bought at the station:

RMB 523

RMB 810

Children under 120cm tall travel free, 120-150cm tall travel for half fare, over 150cm tall pay full fare (140cm was changed to 150cm in Dec 2008, and 110cm to 120cm in Dec 2010).  Child discounts only apply to the 'base' part of a sleeper fare, so in sleepers it's closer to a 25% reduction on the total fare.

The sleeper fares shown here are for lower berths.  Upper berths (and middle berths in hard sleeper) are a fraction cheaper.

The journey by train to Lhasa....

Restaurant car, train to Lhasa.  Photo Keith Crane.   Scenery from the train to Tibet.  Photo Keith Crane.

In the air-conditioned restaurant car... Photo courtesy of Keith Crane

 

Scenery in Tibet, looking back at a bridge the train has just crossed...  Photo courtesy of Keith Crane

View from the dining car, Beijing to Lhasa train   Restaurant car on the train from Beijing to Tibet.   4-berth soft sleeper on the train from Beijing to Lhasa

A view from the restaurant car of the Beijing-Lhasa train.  Photo courtesy of Brett Ackroyd.

 

In the restaurant car of the Beijing-Lhasa train.  Photo courtesy of Brett Ackroyd.

 

Soft sleeper on the Beijing-Lhasa train.  Photo courtesy of Brett Ackroyd.

Destination board on the side of the Beijing-Lhasa train   Scenery from the train to Tibet   Arrival in Lhasa

A destination board on the side of the daily Beijing-Lhasa train.  Courtesy of Brett Ackroyd.

 

Scenery in Tibet seen from the Beijing-Lhasa train.  Courtesy of Brett Ackroyd.

 

Arrival in Lhasa...  Photo courtesy of Brett Ackroyd.

Train to Lhasa:  At the highest point.  Photo Keith Crane.   The station in Lhasa, Tibet.  Photo Keith Crane.

At the highest point...  Photo courtesy of Keith Crane

 

Lhasa station.  Courtesy of Keith Crane

Potala Palace, Lasa, Tibet

The Potala Palace, Lasa, Tibet.  Photo courtesy of Ian Moffat.

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Brett Ackroyd reports:  "I took the train from Lhasa to Beijing. It departed absolutely on time from Lhasa and arrived at Beijing’s West Station on time two nights later. During the first 36 hours or so the buffet car (where I spent most of time) served only buffet for lunch and dinner and a set breakfast menu. It seemed that once the train cleared Tibet in to China things changed and a food menu was provided.  Smoking rules also appeared to relax once the train entered China, a fact backed up by the Lonely Planet’s entry regarding the train.  As far as I could tell oxygen wasn’t pumped in to the carriages, and although there were ports at all seats and beds for an oxygen mask to be attached I never saw a mask itself. I and all other passengers had to sign a health declaration form that before boarding that confirmed we hadn't any heart conditions and related problems!"

Traveller Frances Partridge reports:   "Just completed the 48 hour Lhasa to Beijing train ride. Lhasa station is awesome; very modern, very beautiful; maybe a bit of a showcase? No one seemed to mind my photographing anywhere. We left dead on time. The attendant came to my compartment and gave me the oxygen tube to attach to the outlet in case of need.  Having been in Tibet for a week already, I was fine, just coughing a lot like most Tibetans were.  There were about eight other Westerners on the train, a handful of Tibetans and lots of Chinese people.
To be honest, not the most spectacular scenery, compared to crossing Tibet, but what an engineering achievement! The highest railway in the world, much of it constructed on permafrost.  At night the inside of the carriage doors froze hard but the carriages themselves were very warm and comfortable.  Outside we were above the tree line but under the yak line.  Endless moss, frozen rivulets of old ice, yak herds and what I thought were eagles but a Tibetan told me were 'eagle's nephews'.  I booked soft class (for a nice change) but the hard sleeper was almost as good according to my companions down the train.  I had the cabin of four beds to myself all day until late in the evening when an elegant Chinese lady appeared at my door.  She looked appalled to be sharing with a foreign backpacker, especially one who had spread out all over the adjoining bunk, but soon settled in and was civil (in Chinese).  The car attendants were pleasant; the waitresses in the restaurant car were surly with a habit of whipping away the ashtray after one cigarette.  Trying to make them smile was a good, if fruitless, way to spend time.  One morning we arrived for breakfast at 9.30 am to be told that for us, breakfast was over.  Annoying when the car is full of train personnel eating their heads off.  Travel, eh?  The train stopped at stations twice a day so we could stretch our legs and have an unhindered smoke and buy snacks.  I was tempted to jump off at Xian to go see the terracotta warriors but restrained myself, as there's always next year.  We stopped at one station late at night, where it seemed that half the Chinese Army were saying goodbye to the other half.  From the hugging and sobs and photography I assumed they had finished their posting in the Tibet Autonomous Region and were heading home to Beijing.  They were very young boys and girls. On the second day trees appeared outside and farms and cows.  Suddenly I stopped coughing and could breathe much more easily.  Then into the chaos and noise of Beijing.  I am so very glad I took this train - if you get the chance, go for it!"

Traveller Keith Crane reports:   "We had great trouble finding somebody who could book me a ticket independently (we were in Guangdong province - and tried calling Beijing) as all the agents wanted to offer a fully inclusive tour for between 5,000-7,000 Yuan.  Finally we found an agent in Chengdu, www.dreams-travel.com, who could book the ticket and our Tibet pass very efficiently.  They also run the very good Wen Jun Mansion Hotel, a recommendable, cheap place to stay.  Chengdu is also the home of China's Panda research and breeding base so you can see the cuddly black and white creatures close while you wait for your train!  Chinatripadvisor was pretty slow off the mark, not knowing much more than anyone else before bookings opened.  Anyway our combined ticket (soft sleeper and Tibet pass) came to about 1,700 Yuan each in the end and off we went.  Despite reading stories of altitude sickness we suffered none - and if the train was pressurised, we found the toilet windows open throughout the journey.  The soft class accommodation is comfortable - there are western-style toilets - but the catering facilities are limited - a 44 seat dining car for a 15 carriage train! And not enough refrigeration for cold beer.!"



International train, bus & ferry routes from China

Beijing ► Ulan Bator (Mongolia) ► Moscow (Russia) ► Central & Western Europe

Two weekly trains link Beijing with Moscow, one via Mongolia, one direct into Russia, see the Trans-Siberian page.  From Moscow, daily trains run to Cologne & Amsterdam, with connections for London, see the London to Russia page.

Beijing ► Japan

Ferries link Shanghai several times a week with Kobe and Osaka in Japan.  For ferry connections between China & Japan, see below.

Beijing ► Taiwan

You can travel between China and Taiwan by ferry.  For details see the Taiwan page.

Beijing ► North Korea

For the direct train between Beijing & Pyongyang in North Korea, see the North Korea page.

Beijing ► South Korea

For ferry connections between Beijing & South Korea, see the South Korea page.

Beijing ► Hanoi, Saigon (Vietnam)

There's a comfortable twice-weekly soft sleeper train with restaurant car from Beijing to Hanoi taking 2 nights and 1 day.  For train times & fares, see the 'International links' section on the Train travel in Vietnam pageYou can book the twice-weekly Beijing-Hanoi sleeper train in Beijing at the reservations office, or in advance from outside China with www.chinatripadvisor.com.

Hong Kong ► Hanoi, Saigon (Vietnam)

You can travel overland by train & bus from Hong Kong to Hanoi in Vietnam, quite cheaply and comfortably.  You take an intercity train from HK to Guangzhou, the overnight sleeper train from Guangzhou to Nanning, a connecting train to Pinxiang then a bus to the border and on the Hanoi.  For details of how to do this, see the 'International links' section on the Train travel in Vietnam page.

Beijing ► Lhasa (Tibet) ► Kathmandu (Nepal)

There's no railway from Tibet through the Himalayas to Nepal, at least not yet, but the Lhasa to Kathmandu journey can be done using various 7-day organised bus tours. 

Weekly Lhasa-Kathmandu bus service?  The internet is full of reports of a Lhasa to Kathmandu bus service starting, then being withdrawn, then starting again.  However, the most reliable information suggests that there is currently NO such bus, as all attempts to keep it going have so far failed.  So if you want to travel from Lhasa to Kathmandu, you'll need to sign up to one of the organised tours, see below.

Organised tours between Tibet & Nepal:  Currently, the only way foreigners are legally permitted to travel between Lhasa & Kathmandu is with an organised tour.  The cheapest tours take 8 days (7 nights) for the 955 km journey and cost about $400.  Try www.heiantreks.com, who normally run Lhasa-Kathmandu overland tours twice a week, www.trekkingtibet.com (recommended by one seat61 correspondent), www.visitnepal.com/getaway  (weekly, $450) or www.richatours.com or do a Google search for other agencies.  In 2005, there were reports of a new twice-weekly bus service from Kathmandu to Lhasa but apparently this service folded soon after it started.  If you have any feedback or recommendations, please email me

For onward travel from Kathmandu to Delhi or Varanasi in India by a combination of bus & train, see the Nepal page.

Beijing ► India

The direct route from China to India is not particularly practical.  Most if not all border crossings are officially closed to foreigners, and you need some serious permits to be in those border regions.  You can, however, go from Beijing to Lhasa in Tibet by train (see here), then take regular organised tours from Lhasa to Kathmandu, see the Nepal page.  You can then get by regular scheduled bus and train to Delhi or Varanasi in India, also see the Nepal page.

Beijing ► Bangkok (Thailand), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Singapore

Start by taking the twice-weekly Beijing to Hanoi train, details on the Vietnam page.  You can then either go to Saigon and across Cambodia to Bangkok, then by train to Malaysia and Singapore, or take a 24 hour bus ride from Hanoi to Vientiane in Laos, then by overnight train to Bangkok.  See this interactive route map and click each part of the route you want for details.


Ferries from China to Japan

Two ferry companies sail weekly year-round from Shanghai to either Kobe or Osaka in Japan, from where there are 'bullet trains' to Tokyo.  A third company sailing from Tianjin to Kobe appears to have stopped operating in July 2012, see http://celkobe.co.jpFeedback if you use one of these ferries is appreciated!

Option 1:  The Shanghai Ferry Company...

Website www.shanghai-ferry.co.jp, look for the English button.  They sail weekly from Shanghai to Osaka, taking two nights.

 Shanghai ► Japan

           

 Japan ► Shanghai

 Shanghai Ferry Company:

 Shanghai Ferry Company:

 Shanghai depart:

Tuesdays 

11:00

 Osaka depart:

Fridays 

12:00

 Osaka arrive:

Thursdays

09:00

 Shanghai arrive:

Sundays 

12:00

So far, their ship has received very good reports from one seat61 correspondent.  You can book a ticket on the Shanghai Ferry Company by e-mailing them at pax@shanghai-ferry.co.jp for a departures from Japan, or at zhangyz@suzhaohao.com for departures from Shanghai.  You will be given a reference number and can pick up and pay for your ticket at the port.  Fares start at around 20,000 Japanese Yen (about £105) for a one-way ticket in an open-plan economy room, 22,000 Yen in a standard cabin (4-berth) or 40,000 Yen in a deluxe 2-berth cabin.  Return tickets are available costing 50% more than one-way fares.  Check both sailing dates and fares at www.shanghai-ferry.co.jp.

Option 2:  The China-Japan International Ferry Company...

The other shipping company is the China-Japan International Ferry Company, www.shinganjin.com, which also sails weekly from Shanghai to Japan, going alternately to Kobe or Osaka.

 Shanghai ► Japan

           

 Japan ► Shanghai

 Japan-China International Ferry Co.

 Japan-China International Ferry Co.

 Shanghai depart:

Saturdays

13:00

 Osaka or Kobe*  depart:

Tuesdays

12:00

 Osaka or Kobe* arrive:

Mondays

09:30

 Shanghai arrive:

Thursdays

varies

* ship sails to Osaka & Kobe alternately, see www.shinganjin.com (Chinese version www.chinajapanferry.com) for fares & schedules.

Fares start at 20,000 Japanese Yen or RMB 1,300 (£140 or $195) one way for a berth in a shared Japanese-style room accommodating 8-15 passengers or 25,000 Yen / RMB 1,600 for a berth in a western-style 4-berth cabin.  There's a 10% discount for students, children 6-11 half fare.  A range of cabins is available on board, with restaurants, cafe, etc.

You can book via their online application form less than 2 months but no less than 7 days before departure at www.shinganjin.com.

Alternatively, for sailings from China, the telephone number for the Shanghai branch is +86 2165 957 988.  There is someone who can speak English and the only information you need to give is your name, date of birth, class of travel and passport number.  They will then make a reservation and you can buy the ticket at the port.  The telephone number for people travelling from Japan to China is +81 3 5489 4800. This is their Tokyo branch, as unfortunately nobody can speak English at their Osaka office.

If you are booking a Trans-Siberian train through an agency such as The Russia Experience, they can also book either of these ships.  Prices start at around UK £230 in a 2nd class cabin (8-berth), £250 in a 1st class 4-berth, or £375 in a deluxe 2-berth.

 

Shared cabin on the Osaka to Shanghai ferry.  Courtesy of Janis Putrams

 

On board the Osaka to Shanghai ferry.  Courtesy of Janis Putrams

 

Food on the Osaka to Shanghai ferry.  Courtesy of Janis Putrams

 

At sea, bound for Shanghai...  Courtesy of Janis Putrams

Traveller's reports...

Traveller Mark Cundall used the Japan-China International Ferry Company:  "The ship was first class, clean and absolutely no problem.  If anyone wants to get from China to Japan, I'd recommend this company.  One key point is that when you get dropped in Osaka you need a bus to get to the metro, costing 300 yen, although there are no money exchange facilities at the port.  Also, all vending machines on the ship use Japanese yen, although Chinese RMB are accepted in the gift shop, cafe and so on.  So change some money into yen before you board the ship!"

Train travel within Japan

For information about train travel in Japan, see the Japan page.  To check Japanese train times online, see www.hyperdia.com (English button upper left).


Find hotels in China

Find a hotel in Beijing, Shanghai or any other Chinese city...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Suggested hotel in Beijing:  Raffles Beijing Hotel...

The Raffles Beijing Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Beijing, built in 1917.  It's location is perfect, it's just a few minutes walk along the main road to Tiananmen Square and the entrance to the Forbidden City, 3 minutes walk from Wanfujing Metro Station.  Run by the Raffles Group who also operate the famous Raffles in Singapore, service is excellent and the colonial-style rooms spacious.  An excellent and extensive breakfast buffet is served in the modern extension behind the main building.  The hotel was originally Block B of the Beijing Hotel, Block C next door dating from 1954 is now the Beijing Grand Hotel and Block D dating from 1974 retains the name Beijing Hotel and is a state-run hotel.  There's more on the history of this hotel at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beijing_Hotel.

Raffles Beijing Hotel lobby   Raffles Beijing Hotel Landmark Room.

A cheaper option, still with good reviews and location, try the Pentahotel Beijing.  It's informal, comfortable, and walking distance from Beijing Railway station - although a taxi is better if you've luggage.  There's a bar and noodle bar downstairs.

Suggested hotels in Shanghai:  Astor House Hotel or Fairmont Peace Hotel...

The Astor House Hotel is all about faded grandeur with an excellent location at the north end of the famous Bund, just north of the Garden Bridge.  It has rooms which even budget travellers can afford, approx £50/€60/$80 for a double room.  Established in 1846 and claimed to be the oldest grand hotel in China, parts of the current building date from 1907, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astor_House_Hotel_(Shanghai).  Guests have included Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin.

The Fairmont Peace Hotel is the place if you want 5-star comfort as well as history & grandeur, it starts at around €190 for a double.  It's right in the centre of the Bund in a building dating from 1929.  As the Cathay Hotel, pre-1949 it was regarded as Shanghai's most prestigious hotel, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_Hotel.

Astor House Hotel Shanghai   Astor House Hotel lobby.

Astor House Hotel...

 

Astor House Hotel lobby...

Astor House Hotel corridor.   Astor House Hotel bedroom

Flights...

Overland travel around China by train is an essential part of the experience, so once there, don't cheat and fly, stay on the ground!  But if a long-haul flight is unavoidable to reach China in the first place, try Virgin Atlantic who fly direct from London to Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong, a sound choice for both price and service...

1)  Check flight prices at www.opodo.com...

2)  Use Skyscanner to compare flight prices & routes worldwide across 600 airlines...

skyscanner generic 728x90

3)  Lounge passes...

Make the airport experience a little more bearable with a VIP lounge pass, it's not as expensive as you think, see www.loungepass.com


Guidebooks

Lonely Planet China - click to buy onlineRough Guide China - click to buy online at AmazonI strongly recommend investing in a decent guidebook.  It may seem an unnecessary expense, but it's a tiny fraction of what you're spending on your whole trip.  You will see so much more, and know so much more about what you're looking at, if you have a decent guidebook.   For independent travel I'd recommend either the Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide, both provide an excellent level of practical information and historical and political background.  You definitely won't regret buying one..!  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

Buy at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com...

Alternatively, you can download just the chapters you need in .PDF format from the Lonely Planet Website, from around £2.99 or US$4.95 a chapter.


Travel insurance

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel overseas without travel insurance from a reliable insurer, with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover cancellation and loss of cash (up to a limit) and belongings.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheaper than several single-trip policies even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Here are some suggested insurers.  Seat61 gets a small commission if you buy through these links.

In the UK, try Columbus Direct or use Confused.com to compare prices & policies from many different insurers.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you're resident in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you're resident in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low or no ATM fees...

It costs nothing to take out an extra credit card.  If you keep it in a different part of your luggage so you're not left stranded if your wallet gets stolen, this is a form of extra travel insurance in itself.  In addition, some credit cards are significantly better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.  Taking this advice can save you quite a lot on each trip compared to using your normal high-street bank credit card!

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including the USA, Australia, South Africa and EU.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy £20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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