Train from Shanghai to Beijing

Mar 11th, 2003, 10:42 AM
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Train from Shanghai to Beijing

I've never been a big fan of overnight trains, but I'm tempted to do the one from Shanghai to Beijing just for the experience. On the internet I see the two of us can do the top priced private compartment with two berths and private washroom for $150 each. I suppose we might be able to get that cheaper if we waited and tried there, but I fear it wouldn't be available then, and it really isn't much more than the four person soft sleeper, so I really like the idea of our private compartment.

On the other hand, how much should it normally cost us for plane tickets from Shanghai to China? Rates I find on the internet are certainly more than $150 each, which really makes the train trip even more tempting. But what should we normally expect to pay for a flight if we did that in Shanghai a few days before flying?

Any other comments on the train vs. the plane (and yes I did a search and have read previous comments on the subject).
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Mar 11th, 2003, 11:22 AM
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I'd be interested to know which Web site is offering the two-bed compartment between Shanghai and Beijing, as I haven't come across it before on this route (and the latest edition of the national rail timetable doesn't list this class as an option, but then it has many other mistakes, too, and things change fast in China).

As was mentioned to you under the 'Intrachina Travel' thead, the soft seat cost Shanghai to Beijing is only about Y499 (~US$61). Taking the Shanghai to Hong Kong train as an example the difference between soft sleeper and 'gaoji' soft sleeper is 26%, so if this two-bed class exists now on the Shanghai to Beijing run it should be at most US$77. The agent appears to be doing very well indeed here. Perhaps the rest is for the private washroom, which didn't exist in this class last time I looked. Does the site have pictures?

Also under the same thread, on Shanghai to Beijing airfares:

"The air ticket price could be anything between around Y650 and Y1100, depending on how you buy, and how much you shop around. Probably you'll end up paying around US$100-120 or so if you can book a day or two ahead." The most I've ever paid was Y1100 or about $134 when I walked up and flew straight away. Air fares officially went up 16% last month for fuel surchages, which would make that maximum price about $155. But most people, most of the time, travel for much less.

Peter N-H
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Mar 11th, 2003, 12:16 PM
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Peter, the site I'm looking at is www.china-train-ticket.com
It is also odd that they quote the price as equal in euro and US dollar, since 150 euro should be something like $166 US dollars. Incidentally they also show the four berth soft seat being $100 US.
I'm obviously not buying, I'm looking a year ahead, but just trying to get some ideas of the ways to schedule and allow for plans to develop.
I'm not crazy about over paying, but as mentioned before, I have no desire to get to Shanghai and spend a full day or two trying to compare prices and maybe even finding that none of the two berth sleepers are available. I suppose I don't mind paying $300 for two people for an overnight and the transportation to Beijing, considering that's close to what the plane would cost and an extra night at the Hyatt in Shanghai would certainly put us past the total cost. Plus a private compartment on a train sounds kind of neat. Are there other sites that might offer it at less in advance? Or are you saying that the site I'm looking at is incorrect and that 2 berth with private washroom might not exist?

And yes, I hear you loud and clear when you say I can get the tickets later (maybe, with fewer options) by waiting till I get there, but as you yourself have mentioned it might be worth the extra money for assurance to some people (and I guess I'm one of those people).
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Mar 11th, 2003, 12:54 PM
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Soft sleeper: Y820 for a Y499 ticket! Outrageous! That's a commission of Y321 per ticket!

Even if you want to book in advance you surely can't be serious about paying this price, which will expand to even more of a rip-off if you are considering the deluxe soft sleeper.

It's unlikely that even the Grand Hyatt's travel desk will charge you more than Y50 per ticket to obtain them for you. Why not email the GH and ask? Even for advance booking shop around a little--look up Shanghai CITS, CTS, CYTS, and other Shanghai travel agents on the Web, and see what their commissions are.

I can't say that the de luxe soft sleeper definitely doesn't exist on the Shanghai to Beijing route, but the national timetable doesn't list those compartments, and they aren't mentioned on any other Web site I've looked at. I can say that I've been in the compartments your site also lists as de luxe soft sleeper on the Hong Kong to Beijing train, and they did *not* have a private washroom. It's always possible that the rolling stock has changed, or its mysteriously different on the other routes (in which case the site ought to point out there's no private washroom Hong Kong to Beijing, don't you think?) I'd give these people a wide berth. Pun intended.

Peter N-H
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Mar 11th, 2003, 03:40 PM
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Peter, I appreciate your efforts I really do, but far more helpful than saying that price is outrageous would be to give me a clue as to where one could book for less. You have failed to do this. I don't care if the possibility exists that someone might walk down the street and hand me a free ticket, the point is I'd like to know in advance how I'm getting from point A to point B and when I'm going. Do you have a better suggestion or are you still just saying, take your chances when you get there and if there are no 2 berth sleepers, too bad???

You suggest I should ignore this website, but can you give me one I should try??
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Mar 11th, 2003, 03:45 PM
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OH, and I'm sorry I'm not an experienced China traveler like you, but I really don't know what you mean by asking CITS or other Shanghai travel agents. I thought that's what I had found with this China-train site, but you tell me it's no good. So what is?? I've googled and don't find another site where I can get these prices. I'd really appreciate if you or someone else could be more specific in this department.
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Mar 11th, 2003, 05:20 PM
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There is a specific suggestion in the previous posting that you email the Grand Hyatt to ask their travel desk about the costs of Shanghai to Beijing tickets and their commission. I'm sorry if I'm mistaken, but I don't think this fails to give you a clue about where to make further enquiries.

You might also call them. You can find their email and contact numbers at hyatt.com. It has been mentioned several times that hotels all offer booking services (as they do everywhere else in the world) so the same procedure could be tried for any other major hotel's travel desk, although the Hyatt was suggested because you mentioned the hotel yourself.

I entered 'Shanghai travel agent' into Google, very quickly found a list of 32 Shanghai travel agents with complete contact information including email addresses and phone numbers. The first page (of four) is:

www.sh.com/listDir.jsp?dirId=46&rootId=44

The China National Tourist Office in your country may be able to help you, and the nearest branches of China International Travel Service, China Travel Service, China Youth Travel Service, may all be prepared to quote you for Beijing to Shanghai tickets, although not as cheaply as an agent in Shanghai. You can find the nearest offices of these organizations via a Google search, or through your Yellow Pages or directory enquiries.

The train ticket site you found does say that it's based in the UK.

I'm sorry if the advice I've been giving you hasn't been very helpful. I'm sure someone else will be able to help with further enquiries. There's a Shanghai resident who frequently makes detailed and helpful postings here. Perhaps she'll pop up presently.

Peter N-H
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Mar 11th, 2003, 05:35 PM
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I am sorry Peter that you are obviously upset with my stupidity or lack of knowledge in these matters. It's just that on a recent post you made clear that it was foolish to book train travel through a hotel as they overcharge you, so it seems surprising that now you suggest I do that. In fact it was because of what you said about hotels definitely overcharging that I had first chosen not to contact them, which I thought would be the easiest way to book travel. I guess either you have changed your mind, or I totally misunderstood your position about booking through hotels. But on the other hand, I have already emailed the Hyatt asking for that information but have not heard from them. I'm not sure how these things work, but since I am not booked there as it is over a year away and I don't have a clue about the actual dates, I'm unsure if they will answer.

And you are right about travel agents listed on the internet. That's exactly where I got this one I've tried using, which now appears to either be totally inaccurate or overcharging by almost double or more. Most of the others either will not come up, or all I get are things saying that train or plane tickets will only be booked as part of "packages", the very thing I'm trying to avoid. I have lots of time, so I will continue to look. Sorry. Just thought maybe an answer would be easier here.

And it is not that your information is not helpful. It has been already. It's just that I have a hard time figuring out which direction to go as your directions seem to keep changing. It is like that suggestion that you don't need an English speaking agent to work with, but then you say don't let them charge you a commission, and I have no way how to figure out whether they are or not if they don't speak English. But all of this confusion is part of the total adventure, I guess.
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Mar 11th, 2003, 06:25 PM
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I think this will be my last post on this topic, but to sum up:

It is not suggested that it is 'foolish' to take any one of the several ways of travelling in China which were set out in detail in earlier posts, but there has been an attempt to make sure the hidden costs, likely overheads in terms of time, and other variables, are set out and appreciated before a method is chosen

It is on air tickets, not train tickets that it has been said that it is not necessary to pay commission

The general advice has been not to book rail tickets through agents in your hotel because they tend to charge more commission than other agents. However, it has also been said that you may not consider the difference in commission worth worrying about if you are short of time

The general advice has also been not to book rail or air tickets in advance, and the actual prices payable on the ground have been given in some detail. But your approach is apparently to find out every single detail in advance (in a country not at all amenable to this approach), and for that the obvious thing to do is to contact English-speaking agents including those in major hotels, or representatives of Chinese national tourism organizations overseas who would certainly not be recommended under other circumstances.

In short, the advice has been entirely consistent, but it has been admitted on more than one occasion that you might be quite right to consider a tour, given your approach. But perhaps on your analysis it is indeed best not to provide anymore apparent zig-zags.

It's worth pointing out that a year in China usually brings several years' worth changes in other countries' terms, and all advice is frequently outpaced by events. A year from now things may be very different.

Peter N-H
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Mar 11th, 2003, 06:48 PM
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Ok, fair enough, Peter. But before I go to China I hope you provide me with your home telephone number so that if I wait until two days before departure and find that there are no more two berth compartments available I can call you and ask you what to do now? (Only joking, of course). If there are two berth private compartments I would like to assure myself of one. I guess that approach is too rigid for you, but not for me. Yes, I do a lot of planning. I'm not the sort to arrive with ideas of traveling one way and then spending hours or even days trying to arrange that at the best price and possibly finding out that my original idea isn't even an option. But we all travel in different ways. I just prefer to do the planning in advance and enjoy my trip. I'd rather see sites in China, not the inside of dozens of travel agent's shops, while I run around at the last minute shopping schedules, options, and prices.

And I fail to understand why you suggest I should consider a tour. Are you really saying that "particular" people can't do things on their own, or must make too many compromises? Or are you saying that if we go independently we must be prepared to not be able to travel the way we wanted to? Are you saying that the only way to have a "planned" trip is by booking a tour, and if you want to travel independently you can't preplan much of anything?

The reason I am planning so far in advance is that I am soon off to Europe for several months. And I must book my various flights in September of this year to get the times I will want or even to be able to get the seats at all since I will be using FF miles to do so. That means I would like to have a pretty definite itinerary so I can book my major flights including the stopover stays almost a year ahead. I know things may change before then and certainly after, but it would be nice to have an outline of number of days I plan in each location and the time or nights involved getting from place to place by the time I book my flights. I know too many people who post that they have set their flights and have X number of days and now need to arrange their itinerary to fit their schedule. I'd rather arrange my itinerary and book my flights for that number of days. Sure I'm open to changes before I go, but at least I'd like to start with a plan. I don't think that is un unreasonable request of an independent traveler.

You say I seem to need to find every single detail. I don't even care whether the train is $75 or even $150, but it would be nice when the time comes to know where and what to book. I'm just trying to find out which will be more logical -- train or plane. I don't call that "every single detail".
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Mar 11th, 2003, 07:18 PM
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We took the soft sleeper (4-berth) from Beijing to Shanghai round trip last summer. It was a wonderful experience. Great service and amenities. Just stay away from the food--it was poorly prepared and outrageously expensive.
We did see the 2-berth private compartment. It was going for RMB911 per person.
I searched and found this page in Chinese about the luxury sleeper cars between Beijing and Shanghai:
http://www.sg.com.cn/704/a/704a012.htm

Yes, each compartment has its own private bathroom and each passenger has a private TV. The railway is raising the bar in competing with airlines. Indeed, a lot of people are fear of flying so it's a smart move on their part to capture this market.
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Mar 11th, 2003, 07:28 PM
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Thank you drpepper for being the friendly picker upper.
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Mar 11th, 2003, 08:18 PM
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Patrick, you're welcome.
I agree with Peter that you'll be able to get the ticket through your hotel service counter for a moderate fee.

Keep in mind that for each train there's only one car with six 2-berth compartments and it's supposed to be very popular. If you have a choice go for T14 instead of T22 (the two have the same price and almost the same schedule) as T14 is run by Shanghainese and has better service than the latter, which is run by Beijingnese.
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Mar 12th, 2003, 04:09 AM
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Thanks again for the specifics. In other words you agree that if I wait until two days before I leave Shanghai that it will probably be impossible to get the 2 berth sleeper? I suppose indedependent travelers aren't supposed to be so picky about how they travel, just so they get from Point A to Point B, but I am picky. I just suspect there's no way I'd get one of those special berths if I waited until I got there, and if I do the train, that's how I'd REALLY like to go.

I'm still waiting to see what the Hyatt says if they answer me, just to know how their price might compare with the website I found.
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Mar 13th, 2003, 07:58 AM
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I don't know. I suppose if you really must take the 2-berth train, the best thing to do is to hook up with a reputable travel agent or hotel service person and have them watch the availability for you. But then, I don't know who's reputable. I never used an agent in China--being a native, I always buy the ticket myself.
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Mar 13th, 2003, 03:57 PM
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Patrick,
Have you gotten a response from the Hyatt yet? I've emailed them in the past for local information and they've always been fairly quick to respond (even when I didn't have any stays booked there). Keep in mind though that things in China can change very quickly. The information that you find now may not be applicable a year from now.
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Mar 13th, 2003, 06:48 PM
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Nothing yet. I realize that it may change which is fine, just wanted to see what kind of price they might quote now compared to the $150 quoted on the only site I've been able to get a price from. I'm just assuming that if they quote less now, whatever the price is next year, they'd probably still be less.
But since I don't have a reservation yet at the Hyatt, I'm wondering if they will even respond to my question.
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