Do you know that the high-speed railway in China is as long as the rest of the world combined?
High-Speed Train (高铁 Gāo tiě) connect most of the main cities in China, making traveling throughout China super easy, fun, and economical!
Here we would like to offer you five travel tips for taking high-speed trains in China:
1. Different Train Types
When you book train tickets in China, please be aware that the trains entitled by G/D/C are the high-speed ones. They are mostly running in daytime, and a few also run overnight with sleepers. Trains named by Z/T/K/Y/L or just digits are the slow trains, they are cheaper but will take double time than the high-speed ones.
2. Buy your Train Tickets
The purchase of train tickets in stations is an option. However, most passengers still choose to buy tickets online in advance to avoid the time of waiting in the queue, hassles caused by language barriers, and, most importantly, to guarantee your seats, especially during peak travel seasons! ( Read here: WHEN is the travel peak season in China?)
The official Chinese railway website is 12306.com, where most Chinese buy their tickets. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have an English version (yet…). The most popular option for foreigners is to buy from the most prominent Chinese third party OTA travel website trip.com which charges a small amount of commission per purchase.
P.s. Pay special attention to the train station name, as most Chinese cities have more than one train station, sometimes up to 4 per city!
3. Read Chinese Train tickets:
The main two types of train tickets are red and blue. The blue ones are magnetic tickets that can be read by the automatic gate machine, while the red ones can only be checked manually at the gate by a railway employee.
4. Plan your trip
For the off-peak travel season, it is suggested to arrive at least 35 minutes to the train station before the train’s departure. Usually, it takes you from 5 to 30 minutes to wait in the queue and get through a security check before heading to the boarding gate. During peak season, you may need to get prepared for over one hour of waiting time!
5. Entertain yourself onboard
Well, entertainment on the train may not be the most exciting thing you should expect. There is one LED screen hanging in each carriage playing some random (and propaganda) videos, though… Maybe the best that trains have to offer is the beautiful scenery along the way!
High-speed trains are designed to be very electronic devices friendly, as there is a little foldable table for every passenger, also a USB port under your seats. 4G signal may not work well all along the ride depending on the area the train goes through, but getting some basic phone signals and the internet should not be a problem. Enjoy the ride!
Food and drinks are sold on board at a higher price than usual (no surprise). For long train rides, they also offer package lunch with rice meat and vegetables for 40-60 RMB, which… may not be the best Chinese food you have ever had.