© 2012; 2010 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Lin Biddle. Information.
NOTE: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.

A Newbie's Guide to Train Travel in China – A Solo Travel Report

Text & Photo By Lin Biddle

China has many gorgeous sites to see outside the usual tourist packed cities. Traveling this amazing country by train is much less expensive than flying; you get an up close view of the land; you get to share stories and trip tips with Chinese travelers, and it is a safe and social way for solo travelers to see the country.

Arriving at the train station may feel a little overwhelming due to the vast number of people, but it is simple and safe to find your way if you just relax and follow the signs, as schedule boards are posted in English as well as Chinese.

Once on the train, a ticket collector will take your ticket and give you a token with the berth number. The ticket collector will also notify you when the destination is near and will exchange the token with the return of your ticket. This means you won't have to worry about when your stop is coming up.

>> Each train has various rates according to class, which is determined by how hard or soft the berth is plus the level of privacy. A four-berth compartment is considered first class and gives more privacy. Second class, on most trains, has six berths to each compartment. Second class is by far the least expensive way to travel but is certainly comfortable enough. A few newer trains also have deluxe soft sleepers, including those running from Beijing to Hong Kong, Beijing to Shanghai, and Beijing to Xian. These are two-berth compartments with a private toilet.

>> Compartments are made up for sitting during the day and sleeping berths at night.

>> Long distance trains have restaurants on board as well as vendors that sell snacks and drinks. I suggest that you take on board a few bottles of water, some favorite snacks, and a few packs of instant noodles. This will save some money along the way.

>> Lights go off on the train around 10pm, and just beforehand, the Chinese passengers will change into their pajamas. You may prefer to wear comfortable clothes on the journey and sleep in them. While there are no showers on the trains, you can wash your face and brush your teeth at the public sinks.

Beijing to Shanghai Train

>> Traveling by train from Beijing to Shanghai is a perfect first time China Temple of Heaven, Beijing Chinatrain travel experience because it is not too long – about ten hours, and you have a choice of day or overnight runs. While you get to see more of the landscape on the day train, the upside to overnight trains is that you save the cost of a hotel.

Also, the newer "D" and "T109" category trains are available on this route, and these provide the most modern accommodations and services. Toilets on older trains are likely to be squat toilets and not usually very clean. Toilets in first class may be cleaned more regularly, but don't expect them to be pristine by any means. In any case it's always a good idea to have your own tissue ready.

Tibet Train Tour

Train tours of a few hours to several days depart from many different locations. Multi-day train tours can even be scheduled on the Tibet Train, which give you the opportunity to stopover in the cities of Shanghai, Chengdu, Lhasa, and Beijing. While in the cities, there are excursions to highlight the magnificent sites along the way, such as a forbidden city, an authentic tea house, a giant stone Buddha, and the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base where you get up close to adorable pandas.

Not only is traveling by train the most economical way to see all the beauty China has to offer, it is also completely safe for solo travelers, both male and female. You will meet and interact with many interesting people along the way. Be bold, have fun, and enjoy seeing China from the train.

Train Info and Fares

>> Lin Biddle writes for Briefcases Direct, a website that offers luxury briefcases and a unique women's briefcase selection, direct from the manufacturer. She has lived in China over three years and has traveled all over the country by train, many times as a solo traveler.

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