China has one of the biggest and busiest rail
networks in the world, and trains link almost every Chinese
town and city. There is currently no railway into Tibet, but
a line to Lhasa is under construction, due to be completed
The rail network forms the backbone of the Chinese transport
system and serves most of cities. Visitors can explore much
of China by train and many find it an efficient and inexpensive
means of travel. The cost is around 25 percent less than comparable
Chinese trains differ from those in other countries as the
seating is not separated into first and second class areas.
In China, the accommodation on the trains is divided into
four categories, namely, soft-sleeper, hard-sleeper, soft-seat
[Hard Seats] Contrary to
what the name implies, the seats are upholstered. These
are the less expensive seats. These seats tend to be crowded
and are not always very clean.
Soft Seats: These seats cost rather more but are very comfortable,
with plenty of leg room. The carriages are less crowded
than the hard-seat carriages.
[Hard Sleeper] The hard-sleeper
carriage is made up of door-less compartments. Each one
contains six beds in three tiers. Sheets, pillows and blankets
are provided and it somewhat resembles a budget hotel. Comparing
with the soft-sleeper, hard-sleeper is less comfortable
and accordingly, the price is lower than that of the soft-sleeper.
Competition for hard-sleepers has become keen in recent
years, so if you get one, you are very lucky.
[Soft-Sleeper] The soft-sleeper
carriages are divided into separate compartments and each
compartment has two lower and two upper berths. Sheets and
blankets are provided and are generally of good standard.
Western style washrooms and toilets are located at both
ends of the compartment. Soft sleeper costs twice as much
as hard sleeper and almost the same price as flying. Therefore,
soft sleeper tickets are more easily available.
There are washrooms on the trains. The toilets, irrespective
of class, are not usually very hygienic and it is a good idea
to bring your own toilet paper! Boiled water is available
on trains and dining cars on long distance routes only.