Overnight Train from Beijing to Xian

Mar 6th, 2015, 12:11 PM
  #1  
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Overnight Train from Beijing to Xian

I'm planning a trip from Beijing to Xian and was looking for the most efficient and safe way to travel. My planned activities in Beijing should end around 7pm on a Sunday night.

I want to hit up Xi'an for the Terracotta Soliders next, but I wasn't sure what would be the best way to get there. Should I get an overnight train (the Z19?) from Beijing to Xi'an? I will be taking the journey solo, and as a young woman, is it safe to travel?
pdal is offline  
Mar 6th, 2015, 12:12 PM
  #2  
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Also, any suggestions on booking tickets are welcome! I reside in the United States.
pdal is offline  
Mar 6th, 2015, 03:07 PM
  #3  
 
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Lots of good info here: http://www.seat61.com/China.htm

I (solo female traveler, but older) have done it twice, but the last time was 2004, so my info is out of date. I would not worry about safety, although I would wear a money belt.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 6th, 2015, 05:38 PM
  #4  
kja
 
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Ditto what thursdaysd said, except that my one trip was in 2010.
kja is offline  
Mar 7th, 2015, 03:52 AM
  #5  
 
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Could you fly? Safer if that is a worry. There are some discount airlines..
kmkrnn is offline  
Mar 7th, 2015, 04:01 AM
  #6  
kja
 
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@ kmkrnn -- I would be interested in knowing the relative safety information. What comparisons have you considered, and what are the relevant safety statistics? Thanks!
kja is offline  
Mar 7th, 2015, 05:46 AM
  #7  
 
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Really, I have never felt unsafe on a Chinese train! My fellow passengers have been fine, on my second Beijing to Xi'an trip they even offered me a lift to my hotel, and jumped me to the front of the taxi queue when I demurred.

The stations can be a little overwhelming (I once took a train out of Beijing the night before National Day!) but if you travel soft sleeper (recommended) you get a separate waiting room. Just give yourself time.

@kmkrmn - have you actually ridden on a Chinese train?
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 7th, 2015, 10:14 AM
  #8  
 
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As far as safety goes in China, being a solo female foreign traveller is irrelevant, and you'll merely be one among many.

There are several express overnight trains between Beijing and Xi'an [note 'Xi'an', not 'Xian'] leaving with a short time of each other at the same times daily.

The fastest trains, with the prefix G, take 5.5 to 6 hours, and there are 12 of them a day, the earliest departure being at 7am, and the latest arrival at 22.52. But the last G departure is 17.27, so you'd need to leave this until the next day. You might want to do that for the pleasure of rattling along at 300kph.

If you want to go overnight on the Sunday (two to three times longer, but when you're planning to sleep that's a good thing). Perhaps your best choices would be:

Z43 at 19:58 arriving 08:33
Z19 at 20:41 arriving 08:15

but if you leave it until the next day there are several others with decent timings and several more with arrival times between about 3am and 5am which probably wouldn't be your first choices.

Note that the super express G trains arrive at Xi'an North, and there's a metro line that runs straight south from and straight through the middle of Xi'an. The other services stop at the original Xi'an station, immediately outside the palace (now called city) walls, and served by various buses. Taxis can be problematic here, and it's best to walk away and flag one down in the street. But Xi'an Station is in walking distance of assorted hotels and hostels of all grades, assuming you're not taking vast amounts of luggage (which would be unwise).

Beijing has many stations, but all these trains to Xi'an you might want go from Beijing West.

Note that though it's an heroic effort, and the Chinese coverage is recently improved, ticketing advice on Seat 61 is mixed, and there are massive mark-ups on some of the sites it recommends.

You should simply look to buy your ticket once you arrive in Beijing, although make that a priority. You can buy it from any station in Beijing, or from myriad ticketing agencies all over the city for a surcharge of ¥5. Your hotel or other travel agencies may obtain it for you for a charge of around ¥20 to ¥30. But they just walk down the road a block into precisely the same agency you could walk into yourself. These are generally marked with the symbol of Chinese railways you can see top right on the Wikipedia page

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rail_transport_in_China

not necessarily to be regarded as reliable in any other way), and/or with the characters 火车票. Simply ask the hotel to direct you, and to write down your requested destination, class of seat, date of travel, and preferred train number or time of departure.

You'll need to pay in cash (even if the hotel does the buying and generally takes credit cards). You can buy returns now, but the supply is very limited, and most commonly you buy the return (if that's what you're doing) when in Xi'an. Again, book the ticket first, at the station when you arrive (which will mean leaving it and the going round the front to the ticket office, marked in English), then get on with sightseeing. There are plenty of trains, and innumerable flights, too. You're not going to get stuck anywhere.

A first-class seat on a G train will cost ¥822.5, but second class is fine at ¥513.5. One is two pairs of seat with the aisle between, and the other has three seats on one side for a total of five across. The food is dreadful, so bring your own picnic bought from bakeries and supermarkets in Beijing.

On Z and T trains an upper soft sleeper is ¥398.5 and a lower one ¥415.5. The Chinese don't like the climb to the higher berth, and like to sit and chat on the lower one. You may prefer to be able to climb up out of the way. Variances in price per train mostly relate to their overall speed. You may pay a lot less for a hard sleeper, which is a couchette in a column of three, and one of many columns in an open carriage.
temppeternh is offline  
Mar 7th, 2015, 12:12 PM
  #9  
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Thank you all for the vote of confidence! I know in some countries/routes, it's not suggested for females to travel by train overnight.. I just wanted to be sure about this one!

temppeternh - Thank you sooo much for all the information. It's really helpful. I've seen seat61 but I heard that it can be a little outdated.

Again, thank you all for your help!
pdal is offline  
Mar 7th, 2015, 12:51 PM
  #10  
 
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" I know in some countries/routes, it's not suggested for females to travel by train overnight."

Hmm, which ones? Have done night trains across much of Europe and Asia, including Russia and India.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 8th, 2015, 01:28 PM
  #11  
 
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I used the Beijing to Xi'an overnight train a few years ago (2010 I think) and it was perfectly fine for a young woman alone. I used my hotel to book that train just because I didn't want to deal with it.

The staff were in and out of the cabin throughout the night to check that everyone had a ticket. I gave them my ticket the first time and they gave me back a card in its place. That way they didn't have to wake me up to see my ticket, they already had it. I had the cabin essentially to myself. A random drunk guy without a ticket came in and took the other bottom bunk and offered me a drink of whatever he had, but never bothered me in the least. The staff eventually came in to check his ticket and then very politely threw him off the train at the next stop since he didn't have one.

I then took the overnight train to Shanghai a few days later and shared the cabin with a young man who was very polite and spent most of the evening in the cabin next door with his friends. To book that ticket I looked up the appropriate price online, copied down the train number, date, time, etc in my journal and showed it to the lady at a ticket window. MUCH easier for me and her than trying to speak the details correctly.

It's not the greatest sleep in the world as there is general train noise, movement, etc but it was a fun experience and I never once felt any kind of danger.
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
Mar 8th, 2015, 03:20 PM
  #12  
 
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You do not say when you will travel so that will influence ticket availability. easier to get tickets for bullet trains than overnight trains.
temppeternh summarizes the situation pretty well although I would not consider the agents' commission as massive as it was just a few years ago.
Most agents have live schedules with ticket availability so you can use that as a tools to plan and based of availability, decide to book ahead or not. I prefer to book as soon as my plans are firmed up. The cost of doing so is minimal in light of the cost of the whole trip to China. i have suffered the inconvenience of booking late a few times in the past. but ultimately, that depends on your travel style and whether you are flexible.
There is nothing unsafe about the trains except for thieves. Keep any valuables with you on the side of the wall. Tons of phones are stolen on night trains for example. But it is not "dangerous" as such.
JPDeM is offline  
Mar 19th, 2015, 12:46 PM
  #13  
 
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If you can afford it then I would fly. I took the night train from Beijing to Xian in 2006; I had a bed in a 4 beds room. The train ride itself was perfectly fine, but I was horrified when I had to use the loo in the morning. It was a squat toilet and apparently it didn't flushed, or people didn't bother to. Maybe the bathroom situation has improved since then, but I would prefer flying whenever I can
Axel2DP is offline  
Mar 21st, 2015, 09:07 AM
  #14  
 
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I would train either overnight or bullet. Delays out of PEK are becoming legendary. By the time you deal with getting to PEK, into Xi'an from XIY, and the check-in/wait/boarding/inevitable delay, you could be there on the high speed train. As for the overnight train, I definitely like the Z19. The poster above apparently had a soft sleeper carriage and didn't find the western toilet that all carriages have in addition to the squatter. (Note that in China the squatter usually ends up being the more sanitary vs the throne.)
kvchina is offline  
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