The transportation system in China has developed dramatically since 1949. In Present, China has a comprehensive transportation network of subways, ports, airports, trains, highways, and waterways. Among these, high-speed rail lines, highways, and many new subways have perhaps developed the daily lives of local people most dramatically.
This article introduces basic transportation such as air, rail, waterway, highway and urban transport in China.
1. AIR :
Airlines in China offer safe & comfortable service for travelers. Presently, there are about 1,279 air routes. Amongst them, 1,035 are domestic, including the routes to Hong Kong & Macau, and 244 are international. Most airlines and airports provide world class services & facilities. They are all under the charge of CAAC, the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China. The most famous airports are in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. Apart from Hong Kong and Macau, there are more than 200 airports in mainland China, connecting over 100 internal cities & 80 foreign cities.
The following are the major reliable airlines in China :
Life is like a journey. No matter what the destination is, the scenery along the way is meaningful. Train travel is convenient for tourists who like to kill time leisurely on their journey. Self-driving travel may sound free & convenient, but train travel also has its own advantages. Firstly, train travel can help you meet many new friends who will share with you their experience on the train, so you will not feel lonely. And secondly, it is a visual enjoyment to appreciate the scenery along the way through a train window. You can have much time to think about something that has troubled you or shocked you.
a. China High-Speed Train Travel :
Various trains can take travelers to almost every city & region. China has the world’s longest HSR network with more than 16,000 km, extending to 28 of China’s 34 provinces and regions. You are highly recommended to travel around China by high-speed train (G trains, D trains, and C trains) with an
average speed of 250 km/h or higher. Fast, safe, reliable, comfortable and high-speed trains are now rivaling air travel as a cost-effective of transportation for long distance. Most of the tourist cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Luoyang, Guilin, Chengdu, Guiyang, Guangzhou, Huangshan, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and more have the high-speed train running through and most of the travelers choose high-speed train travel as a part of China experience during their trip. It is very famous to travel Beijing-Xian, Beijing-Shanghai, Xian-Luoyang, Chengdu-Chongqing, Yichang-Wuhan, Guilin-Guiyang, Lanzhou-Urumqi, and Pingyao-Xian…by high-speed train.
b. China Train Types & some Classified of China’s train :
The train is a kind of common vehicle which runs on its special railway line. It consists of many carriages and is popular with passengers because of its high speed and low ticket price.
Generally, the train number starts with letters, which represent the types of trains.
China’s trains are classified as :
G trains (high-speed trains, “Gaosu 高速” in Chinese) are the fastest and most convenient trains in China with a speed of 250–400 km/h, for example, G101 from Beijing South to Shanghai Hongqiao.
D trains (bullet trains, “Dongche 动车” in Chinese) are the next fastest and convenient trains in China after G trains, usually running at a speed of 200–250 km/h, for example, D333 from Beijing South to Qingdao.
C trains (“Chengji 城际” in Chinese) are high-speed metropolitan trains running for a short distance between two nearby cities with a top speed of 350 km/h, e.g. C2003 from Beijing South to Tianjin.
Z trains (“Zhida kuaiche 直达快车” in Chinese) are direct express trains with a fast speed of 160 km/h, for example, Z19 from Beijing West to Xi’an.
T trains (“Tekuai leche 特快列车” in Chinese) are express trains traveling at the fastest speed of 140 km/h. There are usually a limited number of stops along their routes, e.g. T321 from Shenyang North to Baotou.
K trains (“Kuaisu leche 快速列车” in Chinese) are literally called ‘fast trains’ with a high speed of 120 km/h, e.g. K5 from Xi’an to Chengdu.
China High-Speed Train (Bullet Train) :
China high-speed trains, also known as the bullet or fast trains, can reach a top speed of 350 km/h (217 mph).
More than 2,800 pairs of bullet trains numbered by G, D or C run daily connecting over 550 cities in China and covering 33 of the country’s 34 provinces. Beijing-Shanghai high-speed train link the two megacities 1,318 km (819 mi) away in just 4.5 hours.
In 2018, China keeps the world’s largest high-speed rail (HSR) network with a length totaling over 29,000 km (18,000 mi). The world’s longest HSR line, Beijing – Hong Kong High-Speed Railway, extends 2,440 km (1,516 mi).
c. Why travel by high-speed trains? :
1. Fast : The running speed of China high-speed trains is between 200 & 350 kph. G trains cut more than half the time off the duration of a journey compared to a normal speed train.
2. Flexible : There are so many bullet trains running during the day (especially between popular cities), so you can choose the most convenient one according to your schedule. It’s easy to cancel or alter, if necessary.
3. Punctual : Unlike the high delay rates of airplanes and normal speed trains, high-speed trains have a high punctuality rate. This type of train is less troubled by weather conditions or traffic control. It also has priority over a normal speed train on the same railway line.
4. Convenient and comfortable : In modern facilities on board make your China trip more comfortable. You can enjoy almost the same service as on an airplane, and you can walk around on a train. Moreover, you can use the Internet on a high-speed train without worrying about interfering with the train’s signals.
d. How to buy tickets at the station Useful booking form :
It’s easy to buy tickets yourself at the station even if you don’t speak Chinese, although trains are busy so book as many days ahead as you can and be prepared to take the second choice of train, class or date. Expect an X-ray bag check to enter the ticket office. Take your passport! Remember to take your passport & that of all other passengers with you. New rules introduced in June 2011 make it necessary for foreigners to show a passport to buy tickets for any long-distance train. You will also need your passport to board the train. A Chinese citizen ID card, foreigner’s temporary residence permit, exit-entry permit or diplomatic certificate can be used to buy tickets instead of a passport.
Check the train availability board! At major stations, you’ll see a colorful LED display showing that how many seats are left in each class on each main train departure today and for the next week or so. Do not waste time queuing to ask for a ticket today if the board above your head is clearly showing zero seats left on that train!
e. Which ticket window for which trains?
Ticket windows are only signed in Chinese, apart from some labeled as for cancellations & refunds. However, in a major station ticket hall, all ticket windows can usually sell tickets for all trains and routes. Chinese Railways have a central computer reservation system so you can buy tickets for any route at any station. But when picking a train, remember that it’s generally easier to get tickets for a train which starts at the station you’re at, rather than one starting somewhere else & picking up passengers at your station on the way route.
English-speaking ticket windows : There is a special English speaking ticket window for foreigners at Beijing main station, generally window 16 in the separate ticket office to the right of the main building accessed off the forecourt.
Useful booking forms : You won’t always find an English speaking window. Use these handy forms written by Chinese rail expert Duncan Peattie’s, which not only help you ask for what you want but also they will help you understand the booking clerk’s reply if your first choice is not available. Your hotel can help you to write down the place names.
You cannot use the self-service ticket machines in spite of their English language facility, as they only accept Chinese ID cards, they don’t recognize foreign passports which are now essential to buy or collect tickets.
At Beijing station (Beijing or Beijing Railway station), the ticket office is a separate block to the right of the main building as you stand on the forecourt, clearly marked ‘Ticket Office’. Expect a baggage X-ray check at the door. Only domestic Chinese tickets are sold, not foreign tickets. 1 or 2 of the many ticket windows are designated for foreigners, a red LED display may tell you which one. It’s often window 16, but not necessarily. Allow a huge time to buy your ticket, as you may have to queue. It looks chaotic, but it takes only 15 minutes to queue up and collect my tickets here.
At Beijing West station (Beijing Xi or Xi Zhan), there are various ticket offices including offices on both the north and south sides of the station, directly accessed from outside the station. At Beijing West, you need a ticket to enter the departures area. As Beijing West is 1 mile or 2 miles outside central Beijing, you may find it easier to buy tickets at Beijing station.
At Beijing South station (Beijing Nan or Beijingnan), there are different ticket offices inside the main departures hall. Go through the X-ray and metal detector security checks into the main departure hall and look for one of the offices around the sides. As Beijing Nan is a few miles outside central Beijing, you may find it an easy way to buy tickets at the Beijing station.
At Shanghai station, the English speaking ticket window at the main station was window 43 though this has now been reported as changed to window 10 on the ground floor of the main ticket office to the southeast of the main station.
At Shanghai Hongqiao from where most fast trains to Beijing now leave, there are many ticket offices inside the main departure hall. Go through the X-ray and metal detector security checks into the main departure hall & look for one of the offices around the sides.
Alternatively, buy from a local train ticket agency In major cities, it can be more convenient to buy tickets at one of the numerous ‘holes in the wall’ ticketing agencies situated all over the city. These local offices charge an RMB 5 or $1 extra fee, just ask your hotel if there is one nearby. Don’t expect these local agencies to speak English, so ask your hotel to write down your destination, date, time and class in Chinese to show the staff.
f. The Most FAQ about China Train Tickets :
- Q: What to do if I lost my passport but need to buy a China High-Speed Train Ticket?
A: You should hold the certificate issued by the local embassy and consulate.
- Q: What to do if I lost my tickets before entering the train station?
A: The procedure may be a little complicated. You should buy a replacement first then show it to the railway attendant when you get on board. They will give you a voucher, and you can get the full refund of the replacement at the arrival railway station, with the voucher & your identity documents equipped.
- Q: What to do if I lost my tickets on the train?
A: Ask the railway attendant for help. If they can get your booking result from their system, you can get a replacement ticket marked with “车票丢失”(lost ticket) after paying the service cost(CNY 2). But if they can’t find your booking result, you should buy a replacement from them first & get a refund at your arrival train station.
- Q: Can I buy a ticket for others?
A: Yes, but you have to take his / her original identity document (like a passport).
g. China Highway: Long Distance Bus or Private Car Travel :
Traveling by highway or road is not as convenient as traveling by flight or high-speed train. But it is useful to use it to the remote areas with interesting scenery, such as Yuanyang Rice Terrace, Dongchuan Red Land, Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan, Mount Everest, Namtso Lake in Tibet, Huitengxile Grassland, Siguniang Mountain, Hailuogou in Sichuan, and Gegentala Grassland in Inner Mongolia, etc. Generally, there are some departures for long distance bus & you’d better purchase the ticket in advance. The economic long-distance bus can take you to the tourist spots but it is both time & energy consuming. China Discovery suggests you choose the transfer between 2 destinations with 6-8 hours’ drive in one day.
With China Discovery, travelers can enjoy private service with private guides and expert drivers for you, your family & group. Guiders try their best to explain the history and facts about all the sites you’ll visit with their expert knowledge. The drivers are licensed, experienced and helpful. Using the private car service makes your tour comfortable, and enjoyable.
h. River Cruise in China :
China has over 5800 rivers with a total length of 400,000 kilometers. Among the total length, China has 110,000 kilometers of navigable streams, lakes, rivers, and canals, more than any country in the world. The main navigable rivers are the Yangtze River, Huangpu River, and Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, Yellow River, Pearl River, Xijiang River, etc. Taking cruise sailing along the rivers is not only a means of transportation but also a relaxing and enjoyable way of sightseeing in China.
1. Yangtze River Cruise – 4 days and 3 nights downtown from Chongqing to Yichang, 5 days and 4 nights upstream from Yichang to Chongqing;
2. Li River Cruise: four hours from Guilin to Yangshuo;
3. Huangpu River Cruise: forty-five minutes on Huangpu River, passing through The Bund;
4. Grand Canal: 40 minutes to an hour on Grand Canal in Suzhou
i. Subway in China by Metro :
Taking the metro is a low cost and green way to explore in the city. In present, travelers can use the subway in over 25 cities of China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Wuhan, Changsha, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Kunming, Zhengzhou, Harbin, Dalian, Tianjin, Shenyang, and more cities.
Amongst all the cities, Shanghai has got the longest length at 567 kilometers for metro rails with 14 lines (metro lines 1-13 and 16) opened. In Shanghai, travelers can take a subway to transfer amongst Pudong International Airport, Hongqiao International Airport, Hongqiao Railway Station, The Bund, Nanjing Road, Renmin Square, Yu Garden, etc. The length of Beijing metro rail is 527 kilometers, ranked as the 2nd with 18 lines. In Beijing, travelers can take a subway to transfer among Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Beijing South Railway Station, Beijing West Railway Station, Beijing Railway Station, Summer Palace, Lama Temple, Yuanmingyuan Garden, Beijing Capital International Airport, etc.