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Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 6:58 am
by LY777
Hi
I read some time ago that before taking the train for the first time in China, foreigners have to register (but I don’t remember where). Is that true?
Also, are trolleys available in Chinese train station?

I am hesitating between bullet train and a private car to go from Hangzhou and Shanghai. We are a family and we will have many luggage.

Thanks

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:31 am
by Braybuddy
Foreigners have to buy tickets in advance online through an approved company. It makes sense anyway given the country's population and the number of people travelling by train. For some reason, tickets are only issued one month before travel, so you apply for your ticket as early as possible and wait. Seats are allocated one month before travel, so the company will contact you once the booking has been made and you will then be charged, plus a booking fee. You are given a booking number with instructions in English and Chinese, which you print-off and present at a ticket desk when you arrive at the train station. You will then be given your tickets. You just have to make sure you have enough time to collect the tickets, given that train travel is popular in China and stations can be very busy, even for high speed rail. I'll see if I can find the name of the company we used last year, they were very good.

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:36 am
by Braybuddy
Here it is:
https://www.china-diy-travel.com/en/

They are very good. Commission is $10 per ticket, but it's well worth it as they do everything for you, and you get full instructions on how to collect your tickets at the various staions, inculding videos of how to navigate them.

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 7:55 am
by Aeroflot777
I'll second what Braybuddy has said, it's super easy to use a company to do everything for you. And it's cheap to do so.

A few months ago, I had two train journeys on China's High Speed Rail, one from Chengdu to Xian and the second from Xian to Beijing. The train was a wonderful experience, it was a beautiful and very comfortable journey. Glad I chose it over flying. We booked the tickets 2-3 hour prior to traveling, and had no issues in confirming travel with the company and them issuing a pickup number for us to use at the train station.

https://www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains/

That's the company we used and I had absolutely no complaints. Good luck!

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 4:51 pm
by LY777
Thanks guys
Do you remember if there were luggage carts in the train stations?

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 5:23 pm
by N14AZ
LY777 wrote:
Thanks guys
Do you remember if there were luggage carts in the train stations?

No, I have never seen one.

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:11 pm
by Aeroflot777
LY777 wrote:
Do you remember if there were luggage carts in the train stations?


Not that I recall. Everyone was just with their roller bags.

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 8:49 pm
by SanDiegoLover
LY777 wrote:
Thanks guys
Do you remember if there were luggage carts in the train stations?


You’re going to China, things are inexpensive there. Having a ton of luggage on Chinese trains is going to be burdensome.

Definitely give yourself plenty of time, stations are busy at major centers. I almost missed a train because I thought 35 mins would be enough time....it nearly wasn’t.

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:15 pm
by alfa164
I have taken the train many times; I usually buy my ticket from the hotel concierge or at the station ticket window (most stations have a special window for foreigners) the day before the trip. I have never had any problems; there is no need to pay a travel agent an excessive fee (some charge that, some do not) for tickets.

The best info for trains in China (or anywhere in the world, for that matter) is seat61.com. This man loves train travel - and is a real expert!

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:33 pm
by aloges
My wife and I lived in Shanghai until May of this year and during our year in China, we made lots of train trips.

Despite that, I can only encourage you to hire a private car, such as a minivan. The reasons are:

Chinese train stations in large cities are gigantic and frantic. You have to walk long distances, navigating these places can be difficult - it certainly was for me at the start - and there are usually crowds. And these are mainland Chinese crowds, a whole different animal than in the West.

You also need to obtain a physical ticket for every passenger and there are security checkpoints as well as boarding and exit gates at the stations.

All of this would be manageable for a single foreign traveller or a couple, but for a family with lots of luggage who are new to train travel in the PRC, it could very easily turn into an annoying experience.

I’ll be glad to help if you do decide to take the train. We used CTrip (www.trip.com) for everything from train tickets to hotels to airline tickets and I strongly recommend it. Apart from that, you can check if Klook has any offers.

Also, have you considered taking a coach/long distance bus? That could be cheaper than private hire and easier than the train.

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Tue Sep 24, 2019 9:37 pm
by aloges
alfa164 wrote:
The best info for trains in China (or anywhere in the world, for that matter) is seat61.com. This man loves train travel - and is a real expert!

I second that recommendation. Their/his explanation of the different train categories and travel classes certainly helped me, my wife and our visitors a lot!

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Wed Sep 25, 2019 9:36 am
by LY777
aloges wrote:
My wife and I lived in Shanghai until May of this year and during our year in China, we made lots of train trips.

Despite that, I can only encourage you to hire a private car, such as a minivan. The reasons are:

Chinese train stations in large cities are gigantic and frantic. You have to walk long distances, navigating these places can be difficult - it certainly was for me at the start - and there are usually crowds. And these are mainland Chinese crowds, a whole different animal than in the West.

You also need to obtain a physical ticket for every passenger and there are security checkpoints as well as boarding and exit gates at the stations.

All of this would be manageable for a single foreign traveller or a couple, but for a family with lots of luggage who are new to train travel in the PRC, it could very easily turn into an annoying experience.

I’ll be glad to help if you do decide to take the train. We used CTrip (http://www.trip.com) for everything from train tickets to hotels to airline tickets and I strongly recommend it. Apart from that, you can check if Klook has any offers.

Also, have you considered taking a coach/long distance bus? That could be cheaper than private hire and easier than the train.


You are right.
Hiring a minivan will be a better option for us :)

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Wed Sep 25, 2019 12:55 pm
by mad99
You can’t drive in China unless you have a Chinese driving license

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Wed Sep 25, 2019 1:21 pm
by aloges
mad99 wrote:
You can’t drive in China unless you have a Chinese driving license

Yes, and I think that’s for good reasons. My recommendation was for a hired minivan with driver, that’s the most convenient option for a family with luggage and not prohibitively expensive.

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Thu Sep 26, 2019 7:38 am
by mad99
aloges wrote:
mad99 wrote:
You can’t drive in China unless you have a Chinese driving license

Yes, and I think that’s for good reasons. My recommendation was for a hired minivan with driver, that’s the most convenient option for a family with luggage and not prohibitively expensive.



When I’m in china we have drivers arranged by our ‘fixer’ and wouldn’t recommend it. I’ve been on some wild rides and have no interest in dying in china. I didn’t know that you have to buy tickets in advance for the train but then again the fixer does that. Air travel in China is cheap, even last minute tickets.

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Thu Sep 26, 2019 9:27 am
by LY777
mad99 wrote:
You can’t drive in China unless you have a Chinese driving license


Yes, I know. Anyway, I never rent a car when I am abroad

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Thu Sep 26, 2019 9:28 am
by LY777
mad99 wrote:
aloges wrote:
mad99 wrote:
You can’t drive in China unless you have a Chinese driving license

Yes, and I think that’s for good reasons. My recommendation was for a hired minivan with driver, that’s the most convenient option for a family with luggage and not prohibitively expensive.



When I’m in china we have drivers arranged by our ‘fixer’ and wouldn’t recommend it. I’ve been on some wild rides and have no interest in dying in china. I didn’t know that you have to buy tickets in advance for the train but then again the fixer does that. Air travel in China is cheap, even last minute tickets.


It is not possible to fly from HGH to SHA ;)

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Thu Sep 26, 2019 9:48 am
by Airstud
Braybuddy wrote:
Foreigners have to buy tickets in advance online through an approved company. It makes sense anyway given the country's population and the number of people travelling by train. For some reason, tickets are only issued one month before travel, so you apply for your ticket as early as possible and wait. Seats are allocated one month before travel, so the company will contact you once the booking has been made and you will then be charged, plus a booking fee. You are given a booking number with instructions in English and Chinese, which you print-off and present at a ticket desk when you arrive at the train station. You will then be given your tickets. You just have to make sure you have enough time to collect the tickets, given that train travel is popular in China and stations can be very busy, even for high speed rail.


Which, is what I said basically.

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Sun Sep 29, 2019 4:03 am
by N14AZ
Okay, seems as if LY777 will not take the train. However, for those who want to take it there is something you should know. In their high speed trains they have business class and first class seats/coaches. But, as opposed to the system we all know from aviation, business class is superior to first class. Two weeks ago I took the high speed train in business class and the entire coach had just about ten very large seats. Cool.

I made this mistake when I took the high speed train for the first time. Our Beijing office asked me if I would like to take first or business class and I answered „oh, if I am entitled for first class, why not?“ Now I know the difference.

Re: Taking the train in China

Posted: Sun Sep 29, 2019 3:35 pm
by Aeroflot777
N14AZ wrote:
But, as opposed to the system we all know from aviation, business class is superior to first class. Two weeks ago I took the high speed train in business class and the entire coach had just about ten very large seats. Cool.

I made this mistake when I took the high speed train for the first time. Our Beijing office asked me if I would like to take first or business class and I answered „oh, if I am entitled for first class, why not?“ Now I know the difference.


Must be common with trains? Same situation here in Austria, Business is higher than First in the ÖBB system.