Cultural & Business Guide

Train in China


Chinese national railway network system is one of the most developed and biggest in the world.

In 2014, the Chinese railroad system transported 2.35 billion people and sometimes the train is definitely a much better way of commuting than the airplanes and long distance buses.

Travelling in China by trains is pretty safe, comfortable and cheap. Moreover, it can be considered a journey which allows you to experience on your own the Chinese people and get in touch with real Chinese habits and mentalities.

What are you waiting for?

C, D, K, G?

In China, thanks to the rapid development of technology and massive investment in railroad and infrastructure communication, there have been many changes and improvements which have positively affected also on Chinese railway services. You will easily find tickets for high speed trains, or, if you intend to take it easy, you can also try to book a sleeper train.

High-speed rail is one of the fastest Chinese long-distance passenger trains, and at the peak it can reach 350km/h. Here are some examples (distance, travel time):

  • Beijing-Shanghai: 1318 km, 4-5 hours.
  • Wuhan-Guangzhou: 1068 km, 3 hours.
  • Shanghai-Nanjing: 301 km, 70-80 minutes.
  • Zhenzhou-Xian: 458 km, 2 hours.

Train number usually starts with English letters, which represent different train types. For example, Z19 represents Direct Express, D316 represents EMU.

Below are the most common categories:

C (Chengji), D (Dongche) & G (Gaotie): these are Chinese high speed trains. There you will find high quality services, such as modern air conditioning system, power plugs, and even LCD screens in the top class (normally is Business class). All of the trains reach from 200 km/h to 300 km/h, depending on the type. G train is the fastest. Overall, free Wi-Fi on the high speed trains – when available - is not truly reliable.

Generally speaking, the classes are as follows:

  • Business class (LCD screens, electrically reclining seats, complimentary snacks and beverages)
  • Premium superior class (less space than business class)
  • First class (standard seats)
  • Second class (standard compact seats)
  • Sightseeing Seats: There is a sightseeing area in the business class carriage where passengers can enjoy the beautiful scenery through the extra large windows.

Z (Zhida):

this type still represents a high quality train, with all its comforts, but is slower than the others mentioned above. It is an express sleeper train.

Below are the lowest ranking, even if still modern and comfortable, but slower and not as posh as the others mentioned above:

T (Tekuai) - Express Trains

Express trains normally make a few stops within the journey, especially at the major cities. The Express trains’ highest speed is 140km/h. Bear in mind that most of the Express trains have no air-conditioning; do have soft sleepers, hard sleepers, soft seats, and hard seats in four different classes.

K (Kuaisu) - Fast trains

Fast trains can reach up to 120km/h, make more stops than the Express trains; and have soft sleepers, hard sleepers, soft seats, and hard seats in four different classes as well.

Last but not least, there are also temporary trains, which run during high season (like the Spring Festival and the Chinese National Day) but you won’t find these trains in the official published train schedules.

Can I seat there?

In China, as elsewhere, you will find many different classes and types of seats. Referring to long distance trains, you will have the opportunity to choose among:

Deluxe soft sleepers:

Generally here you will find 2 beds and a toilet in a single compartment which can be locked.

Soft sleepers:

They are generally 4 bed compartments, which can be locked and have room for your luggage as well.

Hard sleepers:

It is an open plan with 6 beds divided in two rows, three beds in each row (upper, middle and lower). You will be asked to choose which bed you prefer.

Soft and hard seats:

These are just the equivalent of first and second class of European standard, and are recommended for short distance or daytime journeys.

Can I have a ticket to...

If you intend to move by train, you may purchase a ticket on-line on many websites or through your travel agency. Take into account that in China it is not possible to purchase a ticket earlier than 5 – 7 days before your departure.

You may even consider to take a G Train from Beijing to Shanghai, which will take less than 5 hours and it will cost about 600 RMB in second class seat.

The most popular websites to buy tickets are:

Make sure you check them all because some of them may charge a commission fee from you.

If you’d rather buy a ticket at the railway station, there are a few hints which may help you:

  1. Take your passport with you. You will be asked this document to purchase long distance tickets;
  2. Check the availability of the seats on the led Board, which can be found in the biggest railway stations;
  3. In the biggest railway stations there is an information desk dedicated to English speakers;
  4. You can reach the departure platform only if you have your ticket.

For your reference, you may fill in this document which will Make the communication with a Chinese clerk easier:

Last but not least, do not forget that if you intend to travel in China during national holidays (October 1st, Spring festival and others) it is better to buy the ticket as early as possible.


JG. Ollivier; R. Bullock; Jing, Yin; J. Sondhri; N. Zhou; “Chinese high-speed: an evaluation of traffic”, International Railway Journal - Volume: 55; Issue Number 2; Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation.

Datas provided by CeSiF, Italy China Foundation Studies center

External links

Project 2014-1-PL01-KA200-003591