In another post, I talked about the different kinds of trains, and also touched upon five different types of slow train tickets: soft sleeper, hard sleeper, soft seat (sometimes), hard seat, and no seat. I’ll write about hard seat/no seat soon enough, but for now, let’s dive into the wonderful world of hard sleeper tickets!
First off, when is it a good idea to get a hard sleeper?
Well, I personally think hard sleeper tickets are the most cost-effective way to do overnight trains. True, you can save a lot of money by getting a hard seat (and if money is a big issue for you, then you might not have a choice), but the major downside to a hard seat is that you probably won’t sleep. (Unless you have buns of steel). For some, it’s a worthwile trade-off to save that much more rmb. However, as I’ve come to appreciate more and more, sleep is a GREAT thing! Get a hard sleeper if you have a long ways to go, and enjoy your night’s rest. (Tip: bring earplugs and a face mask, in case your bunkmates are there to play poker all night…that, or join them!)
So, okay, you’ve chosen a hard sleeper. Which bunk should you get?
I’ve slept in all three beds (top, middle, bottom), and there are advantages and disadvantages to each one.
Bottom bunk: This one is indisputably the best. The ticket is slightly more expensive than the others because of this, but for good reason. As a bottom bunk, you don’t constantly have to climb in and out of bed, AND your bed doubles as a seat with its own side table for when you want to enjoy the scenery. The only disadvantage: others may crowd your bed to use it as a seat, too. But most respect you if you want to lay down. You just have to speak up!
Middle bunk: This is my personal LEAST favorite, if only because it’s the most awkward for me to climb into. Others may have no problem whatsoever getting in, but not me. I have to weirdly swing over from the side ladder and unceremoniously plop into my bed while shimmying in the rest of the way. Some (*coughmostcough*) are more flexible than me and don’t mind. Alas, this one feels awkward to me. Though, two major perks: you can look out the window from your bed (because it’s not too high) and you can still reach the side table by the bottom bunk to leave your water bottle at night.
Top bunk: This one’s the cheapest, and most people don’t like it. I like it more than the middle bunk, if only because it’s easier for me to climb into. I just have to go all the way up the ladder and then fall onto the bed. True, there are some major disadvantages: you have no side table access, you can’t see out of the window, and if you’re tall like me, you also can’t sit up without hitting your head. Major perk: you can easily access your luggage from the top rack, which for a fatty like me who likes to snack, this is a great thing.
Once you get a hard sleeper ticket, the rest is pretty straightforward. The conductors take your ticket and give you a plastic card in exchange so that they can keep track of when you need to get off. There are side tables by the windows across the aisle and enough walking space if you need to stretch your legs.
Sure, planes are faster ways of travel, but sometimes, it’s nice to take the longer route, and this is a good way to do it.