There are new fast trains up and running in various parts of China, (Beijing to Shanghai for a couple of years now) and still more routes being constructed at the moment - such as Xi'an to Tianyan which is meant to be ready by the end of the year. It would be great for travelling to the popular town of Pingyao which usually takes 8 hours by bus and not much quicker by normal train from here in Xi'an.
Went on my first Gaotie train today with a return day trip to Luoyang which has historically taken 4-5 hours by usual train. This is the fast train that goes from Xi'an to Zhengzhou (a city usually about an hour from Luoyang)
Today we went at speeds showing up to 297 kilometres per hour! and we did the trip in only 1 and a half hours. This is brilliant for day trips such as our purpose today in visiting an orphanage for the bulk of the day.
Have since had a one way trip back from Luoyang (had a private driver with car from Pingyao to Luoyang via a visit to Guoyu) and a return trip with 2 nights in Louyang to visit for the Peony festival (Peonies in season with many parks around Luoyang with thousands of peonies in flower)
Prices are of course a lot more than the usual trains - but for the amazing time savings you get a lot in return! It cost 137 yuan one way - thats only £14 for 387 kilometres of travel - great value!
Toilets were clean, ladies went up and down with their trolleys selling snacks and drinks (didnt need them as brought my own bottles of fluid and didnt need snacks as having lunch at our destination).
The gates open only 10-15 minutes before the train is due to arrive - I assume this is part of their security features to minimise the number of people on the platforms. The stations are usually new stations built away from the usual trains train stations as the train lines for these trains are highly developed high rise train lines - called Gaotie trains. So if catching these trains you need to particularly ensure you are going to the correct train station.
In Xi'an you can catch the metro/subway train to the gaotie trains at Bei Ke Zhan metro station which is the last metro station on the line heading north. In Luoyang the gaotie/fast trains go from the Longmen train station.
A good website to look at timetables is the TravelChingguide.com site - you can also see the actual number of available tickets for each journey, travel times, the train code (which will help you enormously if you have with you when you want to buy a ticket at station counter or at a local Railway ticket booth) and the price....great for making comparisons and decisions for your journeys
Xi'an Metro Line 2 is an connection metro line serving the from south to North, cut through the city center including the South Gate (Nanmen), Bell Tower, North gate or Bei Dajie, Daminggong West, all the way to North Railway Station (Beikezhan).
This is a clean and modern metro system. In fact, it is no different comparing to metro lines in Shanghai and Beijing. Despite it has only one connecting line now, but the master plan has 7 connecting lines which will be completed in 2020.
Xi'an North Railway Station is a new and modern railway station, look similar to Tianjin Railway Station or Suzhou Railway Station. This square and modern building is the railway station for passengers to catch the speed rails to Luoyang, Wenzhou, Huanshan, Beijing and etc. It is fully air-conditioning with shops and restaurants.
You can take the metro to reach this Railway Station, stop at Beikezhan.
Note: You can catch a speed rail to Huanshan from this Railway Station, 1 hour. You can buy train ticket from Xi'an Railway Station too.
Xi'an Railway Station is main railway station for Xi'an. It is located northeast corner of the city wall. Unfortunately, the metro train does not stop here, but there are many public buses stop and leave here. In fact, it is also a transportation hub for the city as the long distant bus stop and tour buses stations are nearby. You can also find hotels and restaurants nearby Jiefang Road. This is not a great place to hang out as many touts, prostitution, and crowded streets.
I arrived this station at 5:00am from Taiyuan. It was an great experience to see the wall once I came out from the station. The sky was still dark, so I went to the ticket office to purchase my train ticket to my next destination, Luoyang. You can buy the speed rail ticket on a special counter here, the queue was shorter.
Good news is there is only 1 train station in town!!!
We took an overnight train to Chengdu. K879 – leaves Xian 17:20pm and arrives Chengdu 11:20am (842kms) – travel time = 17:50 fastest = $50 approx for soft sleeper –from 302 RMB p/p. Refer to my Beijing page for train travel and difficulty in obtaining train tickets.
We secured two first class sleepers (for the girls) on the Xi'an to Chengdu trip but a hard sleeper for my husband, triple bunks which were surrounded by locals - they proved to be extremely friendly and wanted to share their food and drinks with him!!! Nice.
A very inexpensive way of traveling throughout China is to catch the overnight train services.
The ticket from Shanghai to Xian was approx 50 Yuan (US$8.00 in July 2008) and represented the transport and accommodation costs.
The trip took 16 hours, the compartments sleep 6, the beds are very comfortable and the trip proved to be hassle free. (For the cheap cost of the ticket you can always book out the entire compartment!!)
When you choose to take the overnight train I would suggest packing food and drinks for both dinner and breakfast. (And perhaps a few snacks.)
Anne and I took 5 overnight trains in China and we chose to either eat with the “locals” in the dining car or to purchase fresh fruit, drinks or pre cooked meals from the “snack” trolley that comes along at regular intervals.
We found that eating in the dining car was fun as we laughed and joked with the locals, drank beers and played cards.
Unless you speak Mandarin, China can be a challenge! We did not speak Mandarin and we got by, but be prepared.
The train station we used twice; once upon entering the city and again on departing. Tickets to foreigners are usually more than what the Chinese people pay. You can usually only buy from a particular booth too.
Beijing to Xi'an was approx 13 hours and Xi'an to Chengdu was about the same again if I remember correctly. The train station is busy; keep a tight hold on your ticket and when you go into the station there is a conveyor belt for luggage checks, much like what you get at the airport.
Trains in standard sleeper class were always fine. Sometimes a little smoky, but fine.
Some hostels will book your tickets for you, so that you don't have to visit the train station until you leave; of course this will cost a few yuan extra.
There is always hot water available on the trains in flasks. In this case all you need to bring are noodles in tubs to eat - everyone does this.
We took the overnight Z train from Beijing to Xi'an. OUr wonderful guide, Alvin bought us the tickets before we arrived in China, and they cost 417 RMB for soft sleeper bottom bunk.
I think if you are not worried about which day you travel you can buy them yourself,or get your hotel to reserve them when you reach Beijing.
It was really easy to find the right platform and everything, and the compartment was clean and comfortable. We should have bought some food before we boarded the train, though because the food was lousy and expensive.
The little disposable slippers were cute.
If you want to see what the train looks like, check out the man in seat sixty- one .His website has all the pix of all the major trains.
Managed to booked 5 soft sleepers on the train from Xi'an to Beijing. My wife shared rooms with 3 ladies while me and kids take a whole compartment with 4 soft sleepers.
This new train is an all soft sleepers at 417RMB for lower level and 408RMB for upper level. No hard sleepers, soft seats or hard seats.
Available on the same train in a single carriage, is the Executive Soft Sleeper with 2 soft sleeper with attached toilet and a sofa. Price about 700RMB.
The journey was very smooth and the toilet was clean.
Each soft sleeper comes complete with a LCD TV. i.e. 4 LCD per compartment.
Best to book the tickets 2 days in advance.
Train Station is on the north side of the City wall and next to the Bus Station. Taxi fare to the Train Station should be in the region of 6-10RMB (pending distance). 6RMB is departing from North Main Street.
Train departs about 7:30pm and getting a cab at about 5:00pm (during office rush hours) is a problem. Advised from locals - catch a cab from the north bound traffic on the North Main Street if you are staying in the vicinity of the Bell Tower.
1.Get on public bus No.307 on Railway Station Square, paying for the ticket after getting on the bus. Once a day in the morning, around 8:00, please check the timetable because I'm not sure if it changes.
2. Take train from Railway Station, you have many choices.
From Lintong (After you finish visiting the Terracotta Army)
3.If you finish visiting the Terracotta Army, you can contiune to head to Huashan Mountain. From 10 am to 10 pm, there are 14 train via Lintong to Huangshang Mountain. The price is 8~16 yuan, and it just takes you within 1.5 hours to get there.
We caught the train from Xian to Pingyao. It was organised for us by the guide through the hotel. Cost: 127 Yuan for a seat in a 4 berth cabin. Our train number was 1676. It left at 14.32 and arrived at 11.30pm in Pingyao. After getting a taxi to the railway station because we had soft seats we went to a special waiting area and were called by a staff member to board the train. On boarding the train we found that we both had top bunks in a 4 bed cabin. The girl who had one of the bottom bunks immediately closed the curtains and proceeded to lie down fully on her bunk. This was a signal that we should not sit on the lower bunk. We ignored her and stayed on the other bottom bunk until about 8pm Luckily, the person who had the rightful claim to the bottom bunk came on after Pingyao so we were able to look out (we opened the curtain on our side of the window) and get a bit of a glimpse of the country while it was still daylight. Our arrival in Pingyao at 11.30pm was quite surreal. (see Pingyao)
There is a China Rail ticket window on the second floor (first floor=ground floor) of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China on the corner right in front of the Hyatt Regency hotel (+/- 1,5 km straight south from the train station and +/- 1,5 km east of the Bell Tower).
Office hours: 09:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:00.
Only a couple of people queuing here and the service is very fast.
The staff who served us did not speak one word English (I did not hear/see her utter a single Chinese word to her Chinese customers either), but was extremely efficient in communicating in writing (train number, departure/arrival times, price, etc.). Very easy and fast to buy train tickets here.
Address: on the north/east corner of the intersection of Dongda Jie (east-west) and Jiefang Lu (north-south). The black circle in the right lower quarter of the map indicates the intersection where the office is located.
Aknowledgement: the map is a copy of a free leaflet edited by the Tourism Bureau Of Shaanxi Province and made available at hotel desks. If anybody objects to the use of this map on my tip, please contact me.
Thought the taxi situation couldn't get much worse than Beijing Zhan, but Xian has successfully managed to do that.
When you come out of the doors into a true mass of people, there is absolutely no sign of taxis or where to go for them.
There are plenty of taxi touts who will find you, but these are just 'brokers' who will then find a taxi and mark the price up substantially. If you do not have much luggage, then it is better to walk straight ahead PAST the big blue hoardings and the taxis are on the left hand side on the other side of the hoardings (taxis here are bright green).
If you have a lot of luggage, then you may have to just pay the rip-off rate. (We paid RMB100 for a minibus for 6 to the southside of the city....two taxis would have cost us around RMB28)...and this was after a lot of negotiating in Chinese. The one satisfaction was that we managed to avoid paying the taxi tout 'broker' anything because she lied to us about the price and we and the minibus driver refused to have anything to do with her!
Picture at left is my ticket from Xian to Lanzhou cost RMB94 seated. --306-- To visit The Terracotta Warriors, remember (No.306) Big green bus, not those mini-bus with fake 306 tag. Yes, you want to see Terracotta warriors but you don't know how to get there? I repeat again, it's --306-- Big green bus, it takes only 20-30 minutes. If you take the fake 306, then you need 3 hours to get there, I don't know why but they will send you to jade shop, tea garden or medicine research center. You pay RMB5 only. The location is just outside the railway station, stand and wait but hey not easy, there will have many peoples trying to pull you into their fake 306.
To get around city of Xian is very easy, you can buy a local roadmap at railway station for only RMB1.
I went to Xi'an from Beijing by train (soft-sleeper) on both occasions. It was fun for the first time and the experience is worth it but if I return to Xi'an I will prefer airplanes (China Northwest Airlines flies to Xi'an mostly). It takes about 14 hours from Beijing to Xi'an and the train mostly goes at night so most of the time it's dark and you don't see much of the landscape.