I am travelling to China in May for a month and plan to do a good amount of my travelling by rail - any tips/advice on this this would be greatly appreciated.
What I'd really like to know initially is if it is necessary to book my tickets through an online agent, or will I be ok to buy while travelling across the country? My first leg of the journey starts in Beijing, moving onto Xian and then further afield.
[ Edit: Edited on 14-Jan-2012, at 05:59 by carbonblue ]
A great resource for train travel is here. Reading about Chinese rail, it looks like you can book seats yourself at the English speaking window at every train station.
Good luck with your planning.
I travelled China by rail last year in March. We just booked our tickets in China as we went. It's a good idea to book/buy them a couple days before you want to travel as they often get sold out though.
Most hostels will help you book them, or you can just go to a ticket counter.
The trains I went on had the options of soft sleeper (4 people to a room and really comfy) hard sleeper ( 6 people to a room, i think still quite comfy but a bit more crowded) and then I think soft seat and hard seat options which are cheaper.
I travelled in 2 overnight soft sleeper trains and 3 hard sleeper overnight trains.
Yeah, definitely don't wait until the last minute and make sure you book way ahead of time when it comes to holidays and weekends. Don't count on the English speaking window to always help you though - half of the time you get to the front of the line to find no one speaks english. If you can get someone at your hotel/hostel write things down for you in Mandarin.
It's often easier in terms of sanity to pay a small feee to have a hostel or service get them for you. Some hotels would get them for you for as little as 5 yuan.
Great info team - Thanks
I also found this great little blogpost also that was quite informative:
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]