When you visit China, you may want to visit some other places besides Beijing. The speed train which connects major cities of China to each other, is a good option for comfort and saving time. A regular flight from Beijing to Shanghai will take about 2 hours. If you include time to reach the airport and check-in, the whole journey easily takes at least 4 hours or longer. The speed train takes about 6 hours and avoids the hassle. This is a good option for business travellers who need to work during the journeys. I also attach a video of the speed train which reaches above 300 km/h during the journey.
West Railway Beijing Station was opened for operation in 1996. It is the largest railway station in Asia, with 510,000 square meters. Most of the trains here are heading to the west or South west of China including Xian, Chongqing, Wuhan, Chengdu, Changsha, Xiamen, Guilin, Hohhot, Jinan, Urumqi, Lhasa, Hong Kong, Guangzhou etc.
Major Speed Rails to major cities will start here as well:
Beijing --> Baoding --> Shijiazhuangbei --> Yangquanbei --> Taiyuan.
I was there to take the Speed-rain to Taiyuan. It took 3 hours only, Y149. From Taiyuan, I took the 1.5hours train to Pingyao.
The metro station is under construction. So, you can get public bus to this station from most part of Beijing. Look out for this Chinese Character " 北京西站 " (Be Jing Xi Zhan) at the bus-stop.
There are many hotels near the station including Home Inns, but the rate is slightly higher than other area. Restaurants, shopping malls, banks and shops are easy to find in the neighborhood.
Inside the Railway Station, you can continue shopping, dinning, watching movies, and booking hotel at the Ctrip office for your next destination.
Beijing Railway Station is the main railway station since 1950. It was the busiest railway station in China before the opening of Beijing West Railway Station in 1996. This railway station serve the following destinations include Shenyang, Dalian, Qiandao, Jinan, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Mongolia regions and etc.
I took the pictures on the 6th day of National Holiday, which is almost the end of the holiday period. Thousands of Chinese people were either coming back or leaving Beijing through this Station. There is a metro station " Beijing Railway" in front of the station, it was an long queue of the people to get into the metro station.
Tips: If you face this situation at the metro station, go to the nearby bus-stop, most of the buses will stop in some other metro station nearby.
I was here to check out a train ticket "Taiyuan to Xian (Hard Sleeper)" . I could buy it here, but they were all sold out...
In Chinese: 北京站 (Bei Jing Zhan)
* * * * * Located in the west of Beijing city, this building is considered to be one of the greatest milestones in Beijing building history, largest station in Asia =
==5.8 million square feet, comprised of 8 sections = completed June 6,1997
== I personally have not seen this station, but it is part of the modernisation of Beijing preparing for the 2008 Olympics
== hopefully the HUTONGS of the old inner ciet shall not be ravaged for the sake of " Progress "
there are 4 other Train Stations in Beijing
The West Train Station is HUGE - like everything in Beijing!!!
Ensure you know which station your train is leaving from - in most big cities of China there is a West, East, North and South Station (similar to Paris). If you are going to the West of the country, i.e. Xi'an - you will catch your train at the West Train Station - obviously.
If you have purchased soft sleeper tickets - you are entitled to wait for your train in the '1st class waiting room' we weren't made aware of this in Beijing and it proved very uncomfortable waiting for our train especially with sooooo many locals waiting for trains and eyeing our daughter and being very persistent in taking our photos with their camera phones... it nearly resulted in my husband having a punch up!! It was borderline sleezy.
To save time and money - we opted for the overnight train to Xi'an from Beijing - Z19.
Z19 – leaves Beijing West at 21:18pm and arrives Xi'an 08:19am (1200kms)
– travel time = 11:00 hours
Booking train tickets from Oz was probably the hardest and most stressful thing as train tickets are only sold a few weeks prior to departure and must be delivered or collected at the city of departure - we paid approx $70 per soft sleeper and weren't guaranteed soft sleepers until delivery date.
The cabins have 2 bunk beds - the bottom bunks are slightly more expensive than the top bunks. You have to share a western toilet and squat toilet with the entire carriage - not the place you want to visit 1st thing in the morning - and a washroom for teeth brushing etc.
Some trains have dining carts but with smoking permitted in these it is like a gas chamber when entering. Food is sold onboard but it is traditional Chinese food and with no English spoken you would have no idea what was being served.
I would strongly recommend you take food onboard for dinner and breakfast. The Chinese bakeries have the most delicious buns with sausage and onion baked in it.
There are 4 classes for overnight train travel - soft sleeper - which is what we purchased - 2 double bunks in each room (4 people), air conditioned with lockable door and storage space.
Hard sleeper which is a carriage divided into approx 8 sections with 2 triple bunks - no doors and extremely noisy - how do we know this - on one of our o/n trips we were unsuccessful in securing soft sleepers and had 2xsoft and 1xhard. Adrian drew the short straw and spent the night sleeping with the locals!!!
Soft seat - like an aeroplane seat
Hard seat - not appropriate for us Westerners on such long trips!!
The sleeper trains in China are quite popular among tourists. After all you don't "waste" daytime travelling, and you save the cost of a hotel room. However, for the last leg of our itinirary we changed our plan an took the day train K616 from Datong to Beijing. It leaves Datong at 8:33 am and arrives at Beijing West station at 14:25 pm. Price for the 6 hour trip RMB 54.
We found this not a wasted day. On the contrary, we enjoyed the views. Especially the last part through the snow-clad Western Hills was spectacular. Here the rail tracks in both directions are far apart, and they pass through several tunnels. Which kept us guessing where the other track would next emerge from a tunnel.
(As the pictures were taken from the train, we could not always avoid reflections on the window.)
The train going to Yanqing stops in Badaling, where you can easily walk to the Great Wall entrance from.
This train departs from Beijing North station (served by Xizhimen metro station, circular line) every hour between 6am and 8pm and the ride, which I found quite scenic, takes about 50 minutes. From Badaling station you walk about 700m to the entrance of the Wall and the way is clearly marked. Note that the first scheduled return train from Badaling departs at 3:15pm.
As of Oct 2009 the ticket costs 17 RMB one way for a numbered seat. The seats are very comfortable and can be turned around if you feel like sitting with your back towards the direction of the train.
This was my second long distance train trip and I liked it a lot. I was eager to take a day train for the scenic views and the different social interaction compared to the night train.
We got our seats on the diner car, but we didn't get seated together. When we boarded, someone was sitting in one of our seats so we took 2 seats together, but 3 times someone came to us and said that one of us was sitting on their seat (in Chinese), and 3 times we explained that someone else was sitting on the seat and if we please could sit together. 3 times we got a positive answer. How did they manage to sell the same seat number to 3 different people? Different legs of the journey have different train numbers. Ah well, this is one more thing to experience =)
We bought a soft seater on the D32 train departing at 10:42am from Shanghai Railway Station and arriving at Beijing South Railway Station at about 8pm. The train isn't non-stop, it stops about 8 times along the way to let off or pick up passengers. The ticket cost 327 RMB (as of Oct 2009) for a one-way journey, definitely much cheaper than a flight ticket if we had bought one the day before departure (which is why this tip is classified as budget travel).
One part of the journey I liked was when a group of men, unknown to each other, started playing some sort of checkers/board game (picture #3) and thus killed about 3 hours when some of them had to get off at their station.
I thought that the price of food and drinks was going to be expensive compared to the prices in town, but they were more or less the same for what they served. You can, of course, bring your own food and drinks to cut the costs. We ate a dish with rice, beef, vegetables and one of those funny looking eggs (I didn't eat it) and had beer.
One good piece of news is that the bathrooms (with squat and Western toilets) were very clean and with TP, tissue and soap.
Beijing has long been the largest railway hub in China. The city has three main stations: Beijing Railway Station, Beijing West Railway Station and Beijing South Railway Station. I used two of these stations:
Beijing Railway Station - opened in the 1950s and is the best located within the city centre. It used to be the busiest station in the city until the West station opened. Generally, trains for Manchuria (including Harbin, Shenyang and Dalian), Shandong (including Qingdao, Jinan), Eastern Seaboard (including Shanghai, Nanjing and Hangzhou) as well as for Inner and Outer Mongolia depart from this station. The remainder depart from Beijing West. Some international lines (notably the railway line linking Beijing to Pyongyang, North Korea (DPRK), amongst others), also depart from this station. It is also located on line 2 of the Metro.
Beijing West Railway Station - opened in 1996, is a huge looking station and, in fact, is the largest in Asia. Trains departing here leave for destinations to the west (including Xi'an, Chongqing and Chengdu, and transcontinental trains for Lhasa and Urumqi) and the Beijing-Guangzhou and Beijing-Kowloon (Hong Kong) routes. Check-out the useful website below for train departure planning and timetables:
Here's a lowdown on the train choices for this route. Listed from the best quality train to the lousiest quality -- in terms of comfort.
1) Overnight D train (10 hours, 5 daily): 2nd-class sleeper 655 RMB, 1st-class sleeper 730 RMB
2) Daytime D train (10 hours, 1 daily): 2nd-class seat 452 RMB, 1st-class seat 542 RMB
3) Overnight T train (13.5 hours, 2 daily): hard seat 179 RMB, hard sleeper 306/317/327 RMB for upper/middle/lower bunk, soft sleeper 478/499 RMB for upper/lower bunk
4) Lousy slow train (22 hours, 1 daily): hard seat 88 RMB, hard sleeper 176/183/190 RMB, soft sleeper 290/304 RMB
I wouldn't suggest going by hard seat, it's really too traumatic (unless you're a masochist, perhaps) and not worth the savings. The daytime D train is too expensive and a waste of money for most of us. The hard sleepers for the T trains are almost impossible to get so don't count on them, but count your blessings if you do succeed in getting them! My best option would be sleeper on the overnight D trains.
we wanted to experience train riding in China. So, we took an overnite train from Beijing to Shanghai recently. The train itself was clean and comfortable. However, Beijing Train Station is another story. First of all, the entrance to the train station's parking lot was fenced off. So, we had to drag our luggages thru the parking lot. Once inside the train station, it was chaotic, crowded and miserable. The lounge area was no better. People were smoking even though there were no smoking signs everywhere.
Our train was scheduled to leave at 9:15pm . You would think that they would allow different boarding time for different trains. nope, that was not the case. They actually had the same boarding time at 8.55pm for the 9:15pm, 9:30pm and 9:45pm trains all at the same time. Not only that there was only one entrance to get to the platform. The one entrance was probably about 10 feet wide. can u imagine over a thousand people pushing and squeezing their way thru this one entrance? we thought we could wait but after seeing the scenario we had to push thru as well, otherwise we would have missed our train. Once we squeezed thru the entrance, we had to lug our luggages down the stairs to the platform. there were no escalator. The one elevator was not in service. Amid the chaos, my big toenail had cut open and was bleeding. Never again.
I think the city of Beijing has the capapbility to expand their train station or at least have better orderly control. Maybe the locals are used to the chaos of the train station, but for foreign travellers, it's a nightmare. If Beijing wants to be at the level of an international city, they need to do something about their train station.
My hometown is Tianjin, which is 120km from Beijing.
10 years ago, it takes two hours to travel between the two cities by tain.
5 years ago, it takes one hour.
Now, it takes only half hour!
The train runs up to 350km/h. It departs around every 10 or 15 minutes in day time from Beijing South Railway station and Tianjin Railway station. There is no need to buy ticket in advance at all, you can get to the station, buy the ticket, then leave in around 10 minutes.
There are two classes on the train, the first class is 69RMB, the second class is 58RMB.
During the half hour riding, they also give you a small bottle spring water. The most interesting thing about the spring water is, the water is from Tibet!
The high speed railway between Beijing and Tianjin is part of the high speed railway between Beijing, Shanghai, which is scheduled to open by year 2011. By the time, the train speed is also plan to increase from 350km/h to 380km/h.
After travelling in India on 20 hour train rides, I suppose I expected the same in China. I was very wrong! We boarded the train in Hong Kong - it was luxurious! There, and as we soon found out exist on most trains in China, was hot water readily available free and easy for your noodles!
The beds were comfortable and being up high was great because there was ample room to store our luggage.
A catering cart exists, taking both Yuan and HK$, they serve coffee etc etc.
Remember - if you need a Chinese visa this MUST be arranged in HK or elsewhere beforehand, you can't get it at the border.
When I was in Beijing just over 2 years ago on arriving I asked the hotel if they could organise my train tickets to Xian, I wanted Soft Sleeper tickets on the overnight train. I was staying in Beijing for 6 nights and they said it was not a problem and would get it done and it was not a rush, in the end it was done just a couple of days before you wanted to travel, without a hitch. At our hotel the man who organised it for us also got his Wife (who speaks english) to go with us in the taxi and take us to where we needed to be, escort us to the platform and into the train. We were not asked to pay for this service but we gave her the return taxi fare plus extra. We were truly grateful for her help especially after arriving at the station with hundreds of people going in all directions. She took us to a waiting room for foreign tourists. We did get a shock when we were taken to the correct carriage by her to find 2 young men allready there, luckily they spoke quite good english and even though they were there first volunteered to take the top bunks for this we were truly grateful - I was travelling with my girlfriend who is 61 and I was - 55 - so you might understand our gratitude.
The help we received from our hotel was wonderful.
The bunks were very comfortable, however if I do it again, and I hope I can, I would book 4 bunks and leave 2 unused, I forget what we paid but it was not a lot compared to Australian prices.
Another tip would be, if you want to have a meal in the dining section then as soon as you have setteled go to the dining area and grab a table, we went when we heard that you would now be able to have a meal and when we got there had to wait for a spare table. Other tourists who came after us had quite a long wait. There were a couple of tables where the occupants were really setteled in for a good night so the turnover was not as you would expect. You could say that was bad luck that night however they were not tourists and seemed used to taking the train, I had the feeling that it was not a one off and were possibly regular users of the service and found it better than trying to socalise in the compartment.
It was a really good trip.