EXPLORING CHINA AND ALL ITS NOTABLE ATTRACTIONS CAN BE A DAUNTING FEAT, BUT NOT WITH THE HIGH-SPEED TRAIN SYSTEM THAT ENABLES YOU TO ENJOY THE JOURNEY. CHINA’S NETWORK OF TRAINS, PARTICULARLY THE HIGH-SPEED ONES, RUN WITH EFFICIENCY. OWNING A CAR IS NOT SO COMMON IN CHINA, WHICH IS WHY TRAINS ARE REGULARLY USED FOR LONG DISTANCES. FOREIGNERS USING THE TRAIN FOR THE FIRST TIME WILL NOT FIND IT SO DIFFICULT, ESPECIALLY AFTER KNOWING THE BASIC KNOW-HOW OF TRAIN TRAVEL IN CHINA.
Which Train To Take
Before you embark on your trip, it’s important to learn about the type of trains in China to help you decide which ones to take. The newer, more modern high-speed trains are classified as G, D and C, with the G train running the fastest at 350 kph or 217 mph. The slower option is the D train, which has similar facilities to the G train, yet is much cheaper in ticket price. Lastly, the C train is used for commuting short distances within the same province.
China has regular trains that have been operating for quite a number of years. Direct overnight trains or Z trains are a good option if you want to save money (as high-speed trains are expensive). The other two types, T and K, tend to have more stops and therefore adding to a longer travel time.
What to Expect
On your departure date, check the name of the train station carefully. In major cities, there may be two stations that could leave you confused. Get to the station a couple of hours before your departure time so that you can find your way around the platforms. Packing light is essential for train travel. Keep your belongings safely locked and within your sight. It is also wise to keep your passport and ticket on hand because you’ll present it for check-in.
As with the facilities and conditions inside the trains, expect to get what you pay for. High-speed trains are more modern, clean and up to the standards of Westerners. Food items and drinks can be purchased on-board, but you can bring your own packed meal and snacks.
The most popular routes taken by travelers in China are concentrated on the major cities like Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an and Guangzhou. For first-timers, using the Beijing-Shanghai route of the high-speed rail is the ideal icebreaker. You get to see historical and picturesque spots in the capital coupled with the experiences of a cosmopolitan and fast-paced life in Shanghai.
When To Travel
Trains are punctual in China so there’s no need to worry about delays dampening your travel plans. The best times to visit the country strictly depend on the season. In late April, it’s common to see flowers abloom in Beijing. Cruises along the Yangtze River will reward you with favorable views during the months of June and July, and in Autumn the weather is perfect for sightseeing.
National holidays are best avoided for train travel. Locals, who travel to the capital or visit their relatives in the provinces, make train stations crowded, noisy and chaotic. Check the calendar to cross out the exact dates of Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day.