When it comes to public transport in China, you have so many options! But for those of you who want to travel long distances in comfort and for a budget, the Hard Sleeper Train offers you the best of both.
You can buy tickets for these trains two ways: firstly going to any train station (not tube station) and buying them over the counter. If you are a foreigner in China you will need to bring your passport along with you, and find the ticket office. If your Chinese isn’t too great though, I would suggest booking your tickets through CTrip, allowing you to pre book tickets for trains, flights and even hotels! CTrip is perfect for foreigners buying train tickets in China, as it makes both booking and picking up tickets super easy! Once you have paid for your tickets, CTrip will email you both a booking reference and a ticket pick up number. You can give the ticket pick up number to the pick up desk in the train station, along with your passport, no need to speak any Chinese atfor those of you who want to practice your Chinese, simply say 我要取票 (Wo Yao Qu Piao).
Depending on which train station you go to, you will want to arrive about 1 hour early, to ensure you can find the ticket office and platform waiting area. Some train stations will be massive and have very long queues, so allowing yourself this extra time is essential to avoid missing your train. However, if you have bought your tickets in advance (and collected them) then about half an hour should be enough time.
Remember: Tickets for traiens come out two months before they leave, so if you are planning a long journey, or including several people you will want to book in advance in order to ensure there are enough tickets.
Once you’ve picked up your tickets you will need to find your boarding gate. Chinese train stations work more like airports than western stations, so you will not be able to wait on the platform for your train. On your ticket will be a few letters and numbers, for example K564. Throughout the train station you will see electronic notice boards which give all train information. You must match up your train number to the Boarding Gate, last time mine was A1/2, B1/2, and there you can wait until it is time for your train to board.
After this, you will know when your train is boarding because everyone will get up and crowd around the platform entrance- you must use your ticket to get through these gates. On your ticket, both your carriage number and seat number/position will be printed. The first number will be for your carriage and look similar to this: 7车, with your seat number and position as follows: 3下 (Bottom bed, no.3) 3中 (Middle bed, no.3) and 3上 (Top bed no.3).
Each carriage consists of about 10 compartments, each including 6 beds. Passengers can also sit on small seats with tables at the end of each compartment, if you are not ready to climb into bed yet. By far the Bottom beds are the most desirable, giving both extra head room, and the use of a table. For both Middle and Top beds, there will be a ladder at the end of each set of beds which you can use to climb up. The Middle bed is the second best option, as it is less effort to reach than the Top bed, provides slightly more head room and allows you to look out of the window.
Once you have boarded the train, an attendant will come around and check your tickets, making sure you are in the right bed. They will swap your ticket for a boarding pass, and then swap it back at the end. This process both adds security to your journey and ensures you will be awake for your stop, as attendants will swap your ticket back to you about half an hour before your train arrives.
The beds themselves are small, but large enough to fit an average person inside them comfortably, for all the tall people out there, you may not be able to fit your feet on the bed. Each bed comes with a pillow, bag hook and duvet. Each mattress is no comfier than your standard Chinese mattress, but for one journey is perfectly acceptable. All carriages are air conned.
- air con
- ‘smoking area’ -actually just a small ash tray stuck on the wall in between carriages
- toilets- no toilet roll
- hot water facilities
- food/drink cart- including noodle pots, and soft drinks then a variety of strange Chinese snacks
- no wifi
- plugs- there are about 4 plugs in each carriage, which passengers are free to use as they wish, most of these are very poor quality though and my adaptor didn’t work in them (i tried all 4)
- music- each train has a train attendant which will play random music through a loudspeaker on the train, although this is not played at a loud volume it will continue throughout the night
The toilets on the train are all traditional squatter ones, which would be fine if they were cleaned regularly. As they aren’t cleaned at all, you will notice the smell gradually grows and starts to spread throughout the carriages.
On one of our trains, at about 9/10 o’clock a man came round trying to sell overly expensive sweats to passengers, he continued to shout about his product for about half an hour.
There is no toilet roll on the train, and i didn’t see anywhere to buy it once i was one, so make sure you’re prepared.
Unlike normal trains in China, these ones didn’t sell coffee pots.
Overall i would say the Hard Sleeper Train is about a 6/10, whilst it is not the most comfortable journey of your life, for the average traveller trying to not spend too much it is the perfect way to get around.
Buying train tickets in china
Hi, I am Monica, an intern in InternChina. Today, I want to talk about how to get a train ticket in china. It’s not as hard as it seems! Just keep calm and follow these steps.
1. Where can you get a train ticket?
You can purchase train tickets from three places: online, at the train station or from a ticket booth.
We usually use the websites like Ctrip.com or Qunar.com to buy tickets online.
Several Chinese words you’ll need to buy a train ticket:
Train ticket :火车票 huoche piao
Train number: 车次 che ci
Soft sleeper:软卧 ruan wo
Hard sleeper: 硬卧 ying wo
Soft seat: 软座 ruan zuo
Hard seat: 硬座 ying zuo
First-class seat:一等座 yideng zuo
Second-class seat:二等座 erdeng zuo
Business-class seat:商务座 shangwu zuo
Window seat:靠窗的座位 kaochuang de zuowei
Pathway seat: 靠过道的座位 kao guodao de zuowei
2. How to get to the train station?
There are three ways to get to the train station in general, taxi, bus and subway.
Unfortunately, subway is still in construction in some cities; otherwise, it will be the best option. If your train is very early in the morning, I have to say you are lucky. It means you don’t need to worry about the traffic. However, if your train is some time during the day or around the peak-hour traffic, I strongly recommend leaving at least one hour earlier. Maybe you would arrive too early but at least you wont miss your train! And in some cities there is more than one train station and it can be quite hard to find the right platform.
3. What should you do after you arrive your destination?
Before you arrive, you should make sure that you have an address written in simple Chinese with you, the address of the first place you want to go from the train station. The best option would be to take a bus or the subway. If you have a lot of luggage with you or there is no right bus or subway to take, make sure you have the address with you and take a taxi away from the train station. Show the address to the taxi driver and everything should be fine.
Last weekend Lars, Max and I visited Chongqing – the biggest city in the world!On Saturday morning we took a modern Chinese railway from the central station in Chengdu. During the 2 and a half hour train ride we were able to see the beautiful countryside which surrounds these metropolitan cities.
Chongqing is located in a valley, which has created Chongqing’s two main features: First, it is quite hilly. Second, it is usually really hot during the summer (up to 45 degrees).
Chongqing is famous for these features and we were hugely looking forward to see the city that is home to 35 million people!
As we arrived in the city it was not as hot as we had expected – only 32 degrees. We quickly got in a taxi and headed towards our hostel. When the taxi driver found out that two of us were German, he started to point out every German car on the street while driving!
Just by looking out the window of the car we realized that this city is unlike anything we had ever seen before. It was massive, futuristic, crowded, Chinese and Western.
We booked a nice hostel, called Yangtze River hostel, (which I would strongly recommend!). Since we were so close to the city centre, we decided to travel by foot. That’s when we realized how hilly Chongqing really is; it reminded me of climbing up Emei Shan… After having lunch in a good local restaurant we visited an old Buddhist temple located between huge skyscrapers.
It had one hall with hundreds of life sized monk statues – really impressive!
The main shopping street easily offers everything a global city should nowadays. We saw that Chongqing is not only very modern, but also very wealthy!
In the evening the hostel organized a dumpling party. Therefore we were able to spend a nice evening with locals and tourists.
What do three guys do in the biggest city of the world on a Saturday night? PARTYING! I can say that the clubs in Chongqing are definitely as good as the clubs we have in Chengdu. We met many friendly locals in the club – interesting chats and free drinks included 😉
When we woke up the next morning, Lars, Max and I took Chongqing’s famous cable car, which crosses the Yangtze River. You do have an amazing view on the platform. From this spot, we saw only skyscrapers in every direction, no horizon! The city is really huge!
Furthermore, we saw a city map which exposed the monstrosity of Chongqing.
The Sheraton seems to be a golden reproduction of Kuala Lumpur´s Petronas Towers.
Important information for everybody from Northern Germany: there will be a Flensburger Brauhaus opening in September!!
In the morning we were feeling exhausted after partying and being in the heat – what’s worse, on Sunday it was nearly 40 degrees!
We had the brilliant idea to climb up to a park which is one of Chongqing’s highest points. But the view was worth it. Anyway we still could not see the horizon, again only skyscrapers. I guess that’s the only way that a single city can be have a larger population than the whole of Australia!
All in all we spent an exciting weekend in Chongqing and we have decided that it is definitely worth visiting again!
On Saturday it started- the awesome InternChina trip to Guangzhou. Meeting at 8.30 am and taking the new Zhuhai-Guangzhou High speed train. That was the plan so far.
But how boring would it be if everything would work as it should. No tickets anymore, no chance to go to Guangzhou by train before lunchtime. But instead of getting nervous we just decided to have a little breakfast and take the bus. Buying tickets for that is just a lot more relaxing and easy. Just go to a bus, with some people standing in front of it (there was nothing like ‘Guangzhou’ written on it), go into the bus, wait half of the way and give a little money to a guy that is walking around then to collect it. Easy.
About two hours later we arrived in Guangdong’s capital. Sunshine, good mood, great start to a great weekend.
After checking in into our hotel, right in front of the river we enjoyed the traditional Guangzhou food like wu liu jia dan (fried egg and onions in sweet sour sauce).
We crossed the river with one of the ferries and went to one of the biggest fish markets in Guangdong. After visiting the Cheng Clan Academy we all went to Beijing Lu to do some shopping, to have some awesome Thai food and just to enjoy all the lights and the city life.
Like most of the great days in China that one ended with some beers at the Street BBQ.
Sunday: Skydrop on the Guangzhou tower! And that was definitely the best seconds of the weekend!
Eating Guangzhou noodles, seeing the famous five goats, the Guangzhou museum, Yue Xiu Shan, the oldest stadium in Guangzhou, built in 1950, going to IKEA- there’s a lot of great opportunities to spend your time in Guangzhou.
And our way back home we finally could take the new Guangzhou-Zhuhai train.