travel by train in china

Travel by train in China

Travel by train in China is great way to travel cheap. China has an enormous train infrastructure all over the country. It is a good and reliable way of travelling around the country, and cheap as well. In this article we give you some tips how to travel by train in China.

Where to buy train tickets

Train tickets need to be bought before you enter the train. Tickets can be bought at ticketoffices in the city, or at the trainstation. More convenient for foreigners is the service of hostels, most hostels can buy tickets for you if you provide them your name and passport number.

Tickets can be bought 14 days before the actual trainride.


Tickets can’t be bought online, only some hostels provide you this service. Send your hostel an e-mail and ask them to reserve your trainticket.

Buy tickets yourself

If you want to buy train tickets by yourself, and you don’t speak any Chinese, prepare a paper with instructions. Most resellers of tickets do not speak any English. Let someone write down the following in Chinese characters:

  • Your name
  • Passport number
  • Date and time of train you want to take.
  • Trainstation of department and arrival.
  • Which ticket you want: seat, hard sleeper or soft sleeper.

Make sure you take your passport or identification to the ticket office.

Train Schedule – Travel by train in China

Before you buy a ticket, it can be convenient to check the train schedule. This can be done at

Seat, hard or soft sleeper

Prices of Chinese traintickets vary on your type of seat. Choices are:

  • Normal seat,
  • Hard sleeper
  • Soft sleeper

A normal seat is the cheapest option, but not convenient on rides longer than ± 5 hours. A hard sleeper ticket is a hard bed between 5 other beds within 2 walls. There is not door between the beds and the corridor of the train. A soft sleeper, is a soft bed in a private room with 3 other beds. The soft sleeper is less noisy and more convenient than the hard sleeper but also more expensive.

Inside a Chinese train

If you enter the trainstation, you have to show your identity card and train ticket. In China, usually the trains will arrive before anyone can enter the platform. Travelers are impatently waiting in a busy waiting hall, when doors open everyone will hurry to the train, but in fact this can be done in an easy tempo.

On your trainticket you see your seat or bed number and car number. If you take a sleep train, the staff will ask you to hand in your ticket after department (they will come to your room). This is for their wake-up service before arrival, so don’t care about your alarm.

The train network in China is great and trains are almost always on schedule. Don’t be afraid to travel by train in China, you will enjoy it!


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