How to get around China?
There are plenty of ways to get around in China and it’s generally pretty well organised. As there are so many transport options, we’ve put together a handy guide below. Our China trips usually include at least one train journey, alongside domestic flights, high speed bullet trains and local transfers. All of our itineraries can be flexible, so do let your Travel Specialist know if you have any preferences for travelling through China.
Flights around China are a popular option as they are affordable and can help save time and long uncomfortable bus journeys. We can include flights in your itinerary to fit with the rest of your plans.
Depending on the airline and the time of your flight, you may get a small snack or sandwich but this is always an added bonus and not a guarantee.
Travelling by train in China is not only a very efficient way of getting around, but it’s an excellent way to mingle with the locals. We recommend arriving at the platform gate one hour before departure to alleviate stress and allow you to have a bite to eat at the station before departure. You’ll usually be allowed to board the train when you get there.
Departure and arrival info can be found on signs at the station and isn’t provided by destination, but by train ID number which should match the number on your ticket. Your ticket also indicates which carriage and bed number you have. Once you’ve boarded, the steward will collect your card in exchange for a kind of ‘credit card’ with your seat number on it in return. You’ll have to keep this card on you during your trip. Half an hour before arrival at your destination, the steward will come back and collect the card and return your original train ticket to you.
Hard, Soft & Duluxe Soft Sleepers
We book two classes of night train; hard sleeper (2nd class, which is our standard) and soft sleeper (1st class). Despite its name, ‘hard sleeper’ isn’t as bad as it sounds and is referred to as a ‘hard sleeper’ because class differentiation is strictly prohibited in China.
Hard sleepers are open cabins with 6 beds. Their size is quite generous (roughly 60 cm wide by 2 metres long) with ladders for the top bunk. For parties of less than six, spare beds will be used by other travellers.
Soft sleepers are closed cabins with 4 beds which convert to two sofas for daytime use. This is a closed cabin which is locked at night, so it’s a little cosier than the hard sleeper. For parties of less than 4, spare beds will be used by other travellers.
Deluxe soft sleepers are 2-berth compartments with a private toilet. Availability can be tight so it may not always be possible to get beds in the same cabin as your companions. We don’t offer this class of travel as standard.
Once you’re on board, you’ll likely be travelling long distance, so when you’re stomach starts growling, you can head to the train’s restaurant which isn’t fancy but is reasonably priced. Here you can order beer, coke and simple meals. There will also be a very basic food and beverage cart will ride through the train. Most locals bring along their own water, food and drinks- and we suggest you do the same just in case. If you allow yourself enough time, you’ll be able to purchase snacks at the train station.
Bullet or High Speed Trains
There are more and more high-speed routes opening up in China which makes travelling by train even more efficient. The main routes are between Beijing-Xi’an, Shanghai-Beijing and Guilin-Guangzhou. There are more routes in the south of China available; these can be very busy during public holidays and Golden Weeks.
Please note: Due to regulations with China train reservations, we will require scanned passport copies in order to book train tickets.
Taxis in China are affordable and a good way to get around the cities. As most drivers don’t speak English, we suggest carrying your hotel’s business cards with you, and asking the receptionist to jot down the address in Chinese on the back.
In Hong Kong and Beijing you can also take the Metro; the fares are cheap, the signs are in English, making it easy to navigate and it is quicker than above ground. Local buses are also a cheap way of getting around but can be more challenging due to the lack of English signs. If you don’t mind getting a bit lost, it’s an insightful way of seeing China the local way.
Travelling with Meaning
We encourage our travellers to use local transport wherever possible in China. It’s a really authentic way of getting around and a great way of meeting the locals. Having a wander on foot also provides a fantastic opportunity to soak up China’s bustling cityscapes and picturesque countryside.
We also recommend travelling by overnight sleeper train at least once during your trip! It’s more environmentally friendly than flying and is sure to be a really memorable part of your holiday.
Riding China's trains is an efficient way of travelling long distances in this large country, and with snacks, drinks, and comfy beds it's surprisingly easy!
3 min readRead More - All Aboard! | A Guide to China’s Trains