Train travel in China

Jul 5th, 2005, 06:56 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 193
Train travel in China

I'm taking the train from Beijing to Xi'an (the night train). I'm not sure which class I'm taking as the tickets are arranged with a group, but I'm pretty sure we're in 2nd class or above (with beds). Can anyone tell me what the trains are like, as in are there compartments like the European "couchettes," or are all the berths in one large room? How safe is it on the trains? Should I leave my valuables (computer, etc..) in Beijing and pick them up when I return?
TransitBuddie is offline  
Jul 5th, 2005, 01:07 PM
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There are 2 main classes of service, both with either sleeper seat. So, 4 services - primarily.

Hard Seat (Ying Zho) - 2nd class seat. Except for very short distance, you really don't want this.

Soft Seat (Ruan Zho) - 1st class seat. Perfect for day trains.

Hard Sleeper (Ying Wo) - 2nd class sleeper. There are no seperate compartments, but 6 berths facing each other, stacked 3-high. Be careful with belongings. And really really avoid the middle berth as headroom is so little that you can simply slide yourself into it. Also, 6 people sitting together facing each other during the day isn't that comfy either. I'd only do this if you're in a big group and you know the other 5 persons sharing that 6-berth "compartment". Or if you are really adventurous and like to talk to strangers in a different language.

Soft Sleeper (Yuan Wo) - 1st class sleeper. 9 compartments per car, each with door. 4 berths in each compartment.

Because the actual difference in cost isn't really that much for a trip like Beijing-Xi'an. The Soft Sleeper should be in the only one you should be considering. Another plus is that passengers in soft sleepers will be "invited" to the dining car first, before they serve the others.

On some other trains, there's also a "deluxe soft sleeper" with just two in a compartment. Only lower berths, and no climbing. Not sure if they have it on your train.
rkkwan is offline  
Jul 6th, 2005, 04:19 AM
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Thanks rkkwan for the information. I appreciate it.
TransitBuddie is offline  
Jul 9th, 2005, 06:58 AM
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I did a soft sleeper from Shijiazhuang (which is just 2.5 hours down the tracks from Beijing) to Xian (10 hr I think)a couple months ago. It was pretty comfortable, I prefer the top bunk (shang) because there's some storage space up top (as opposed to under the bed) and people don't "hang out" on your bed.

I JUST returned this morning on a Nanjing to Shijiazhuang (14.5 hr) with hard sleeper because I had no choice. Middle bunk as rkkwan says really is not ideal. Hard sleepers are typically louder (or more lively depending on how you look at it), more crowded, smoky on mine and during daylight (5am - maybe 8pm or so) people are up and moving around. I found hard sleeper warmer, probably because no door to keep the a/c in the room.

The actual seats and beds are not that different in "softness," maybe a tiny bit I think. Soft = more space and Hard = more people.

One HUGE benefit of choosing soft seat or sleeper is that there is a separate waiting area for these ticket holders. The general waiting area is like the mosh pit at a rock concert, seriously. The soft seat waiting area has big, soft chairs to sit in, in Beijing there's a little cafe, didn't see it in Xi'an, it's more relaxed, a good way to avoid the masses. Maybe avoid isn't the word...
jimdrew is offline  
Jul 11th, 2005, 05:56 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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If you can afford, always go for the best class. Anyway, it's relatively cheap compare with western train. After a long journey, you probably don't want to spend another 5 hours to recover from the overnight train journey .

For lower class, it's designed for locals who can't afford luxury. For most western, it may not be suitable for them in terms of cleanness, comfort, etc.

Regarding safety, unless you need your computer in Xian, it's good idea not to bring valuables with you for night train (not only in China but also around the world).

Enjoy your trip.
r_shum is offline  
Jul 11th, 2005, 08:36 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,638
We travelled deluxe soft sleeper from Hong Kong to Shanghai. I would not consider any other class unless deluxe soft was unavailable. And we're budget travellers! It can be a jungle in the cheaper classes. And security is non- existant. Our compartment door did not lock and one of us had to stay put while the other went about their bathroom business!
Lyndie is offline  
Jul 11th, 2005, 08:41 PM
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I've never thought security to be a problem on Chinese trains if you're travelling in soft sleeper or deluxe soft sleeper. Train cars are usually lined up so that passengers in the "hard" classes don't go through your cars.

I'd suggest keeping the passport, the camcorder/camera and money with you when going to the dining car (as you'll be out of your cabin for a while), but other times I don't think one should be worried about belongings.
rkkwan is offline  
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