Train Travel in China

Information on getting around the country by train using China's rail network...

Rail travel is the most popular form of transport in China with over 90,000 Km of rail infrastructure in the country. The railway network is controlled by The Ministry of Railways of the People's Republic of China (in Chinese).

Types of Train

Chinese trains are classified in the following way:

  • Z (Zhida) - high quality sleeper trains
  • T (Tekaui) - express fast trains
  • K (Kauisu) - fast trains
  • C (Chengji), D (Dongche), G (Gaosu) - modern, high-speed trains

There are also a number of different classes of ticket available for purchase on Chinese trains:

  • Hard seat (Ying zuo) - basic seat
  • Soft seat (Ruan zuo) - cushioned roomy seat
  • Hard sleeper (Ying wo) - second-class sleeper with 6 bunks to a compartment
  • Soft sleeper (Ruan wo) - private compartment with 4 bunks

On high-speed train journeys other classes include:

  • 1st class soft seat - 4 comfortable seats in a row
  • 2nd class soft seat - 5 fairly comfortable seats in a row
  • Deluxe soft sleeper - 2 bunks in a luxury compartment

High-speed Rail Network

China has the longest high-speed rail network in the world - China Railway High-Speed (CRH), operated by China Railways. There are currently 18 high-speed lines in operation in China with more under construction. The main high-speed lines emanate from Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen and spread as far as Harbin in the north of the country, Dujiangyan in the west and Zhuhai in the south. There are also lines linking Taipei to Kaohsiung in Taiwan and Haikou to Sanya in Hainan.

Buying Tickets

Tickets are available to reserve ten days in advance if buying a C, D, G or Z category ticket for an express train. Tickets for other trains and categories can be reserved up to five days in advance.

Many large cities (including Beijing and Shanghai) have specialist windows for English-speaking travellers at the stations.

In order to buy tickets for category C, D and G trains it is necessary for all members of the travelling party to show either:

  • Passport
  • Entry/exit permit
  • Temporary residence permit
  • Diplomatic certificate

The same documents are required when boarding the train.

Online booking is also available through China Railways although this facility is currently in Chinese only. For a small additional charge it is possible to book train tickets in English via the following authorised agencies:

Metro and Rapid Transit Trains

There are 15 cities that have a metro system in China. The four major systems are in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen:

Further metro systems can be found in:

  • Changchun (Light Rail)
  • Chengdu (Metro)
  • Chongqing (Rail Transit)
  • Dalian (Metro)
  • Foshan (Metro)
  • Nanjing (Metro)
  • Shenyang (Metro)
  • Suzhou (Metro)
  • Tianjin (Metro)
  • Wuhan (Metro)
  • Xi'an (Metro)

In addition to a metro system, Beijing also has a commuter rail system called the Beijing Suburban Railway that currently operates one "S" line. Although six lines are planned, only the S-2 from Beijing North railway station to Yanqing County is currently operational.