China to us, seemed like a huge place of the unknown. It’s kind of one of those countries that’s shut off from everything else and know one really knows what goes on there. I think that’s why we were so intrigued to visit and see what the place was all about. So how to travel China was one of our main questions.
We didn’t really have a clue about China and what to expect. None of our friends or family had visited so we couldn’t get any tips or recommendations. I think it’s probably the first time we really had to organise everything from scratch on our own.
So we started doing some research. I say we, to be honest, Joe did pretty much everything. He researched places to go, what to do and how to get there. I just gave my input now and again but just went along with what he wanted to do. He was pretty dedicated to the role so I let him get on with it.
How much does it cost?
I came home from work one day and he showed me a whole route of China, where we were going and how. Pretty impressive! He even did some workings out of costings of travel. I mean nothing is guaranteed but it’s nice to have an idea.
The prices varied depending on the type of train and the duration of the journey. Some were as little as £20 but then I think the most we paid for our longest journey was £83.
We downloaded an app called Trip.com. This app allowed us to book & pay for trains in advance. Then all we had to do was pick up your ticket at the station. The only downside was having to pay a booking fee, but it was really helpful for us and allowed to plan more in advance and feel more organised.
So our plan was to fly to Beijing and head south. End up in Zhuhai, spend a couple of days over in Macau and then head over Hong Kong for a few days. All being done by train. Seemed pretty straight forward right?
Starting our Travel…
Our first journey was from Beijing to Shanghai. A nice 12 hours. Like many other places had, it was a sleeper train so we were able to travel over night which was way more convenient. As it was our first place and still figuring out what to do. We headed to the train station to buy our ticket. We left it pretty late so it was a gamble of what we were going to get.
Hard sleeper- This carriage accommodates 6 people in a cabin with 3 beds on each side. It’s less luxury and the cheaper option.
Soft sleeper- This accommodates 4 people in a cabin with 2 beds each side. The beds are a little comfier and has more facilities.
Due to our travel budget, we initially wanted to book a hard sleeper as they are cheaper. Although when we tried to book, the hard sleepers were all gone. So the soft sleeper was the next option. Although after seeing how busy the hard sleeper was with families and children, we never considered it again.
Tickets & Train Stations
So we had our tickets and were told to get there 30 mins before the train leaves. The doors to the platform close 15 mins before, so you need to get there in enough time.
The train stations in China are pretty huge and are like small airports. Our bags had to go through scanners and ourselves infact. With our tickets we had to show our passports.
The whole place was filled with shops and restaurants and each platform had their own waiting area with ticket staff. It was quite intimidating to begin with but I suppose we got used to it.
Remember to check your ticket before getting to the station as quite a few places have north & south stations. You don’t want to be in a situation of running late and heading to the wrong station in the wrong direction.
Getting our first train
For our first train, we quickly got in the queue and made sure we were some of the first to get on the train. I’m not sure why. I suppose we wanted to make sure we were there ready to go and nothing to worry about. We soon learnt that there was no need to queue for half an hour. We just sat in the waiting area until the last few people went on, then joined. We had booked our seat so it wasn’t as if it was first come first serve.
We quickly learnt our typical British ways went out the window in China. Our polite ways of loving to queue, letting people go past or holding the door open, was completely ignored. Even with our massive bags on, people pushed in front or were no help whatsoever. We were on our own here and we had to get to A to B however possible.
The trains themselves weren’t actually that bad. The sleeper trains had a blanket and pillow and if you take some food with you, your pretty much set up for the night. Just remember to take ear plugs with you as we experienced a lot of snorers!
There are two types of trains in China. Just the normal train but then also a bullet train. As China is so huge, it can take up to 48 hours to get to places. So a bullet train can cut that in half and get you there a lot quicker. Obviously it’s a bit more expensive so it depends on your budget, time and how well you can manage on a train for that long.
We got the bullet train from Huangshan to Chengdu. It should have been 30 hours but the bullet train got us there in 15. Unfortunately we didn’t have a sleeper train but we were lucky enough to get seats right at the back with loads of leg room and a table. We had a lot of food, downloaded films and playing cards to keep up occupied.
The best way to travel China.
Travelling by train didn’t seem appealing when we first started planing our trip. But it worked out to be so easy and convenient once we got used to it. Aslong as your organised and know where you going, it’s such a popular and easy way to get around. Just make sure you give yourself enough time just in case you do that lost or get into any trouble. The train won’t wait for you and are pretty strict once the doors to the platform close.
Travelling China can be overwhelming so please feel free to leave any comments if you have any questions 🙂