Hard Sleepers/卧铺


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.











Trains! 火车!

Trains, hands down, are my favorite way of traveling China (behind hitchhiking, of course). They’re economical, and they’re more scenic than taking a plane. If you have the time to spare, hop on a train!

On my last trip out west, I rode very long trains: a 36-hour train out to Xining, a 21-hour train to Lhasa, and then a 48-hour train back to Shanghai. In my time in China, I’ve managed to ride every type of train there is (even the Maglev in Shanghai). While I’ll get into more details about the different places to be within trains, let me first do a quick run-down of train types.

Fast trains
There are two types of fast trains: the G train (高铁, gao tie) and the D train (动车, dong che). These trains are pretty damn fast, and also tend to connect bigger cities together. There’s even a line between Chongqing and Shanghai!

What are the differences between a G train and a D train? A D train is the slightly older model that runs ever-so-slightly slower. The G train is the newer model. A G train is more expensive than a D train, by a little bit.

For example, as of writing this, a G train to Shanghai takes 45 minutes or an hour, and costs 73 rmb (about 10 USD). A D train takes one to one and a half hours to get to Shanghai, but costs 56 rmb (about 5-6 USD). It’s a slight difference, but a worthwile one to know. That being said. There aren’t as many D trains, so the tickets sell out very quickly.
The major perk of the high-speed trains is that, obviously, you get to your destination faster. The hot water machines and bathrooms tend to be cleaner. The only downside (for some) is that people tend to be a bit less chatty on fast trains. Then again, that might be a nice thing, too.

Slow trains
There are several types of slow trains. There are the T trains. There are the K trains, the Z trains, and the trains that are a string of numbers without a letter. These are the trains that tend to make overnight trips, and have different cabins: hard sleeper, soft sleeper, hard seat, and sometimes soft seat (but don’t be fooled: the seats aren’t actually that soft).

The T and Z trains are the faster ones of the bunch, though the K train is also decent. (Fun fact: the Chinese names for these trains all mean “fast,” but in different degrees. T is 特快 which means “especially fast,” Z means 最快 or “the fastest” and K means 快 which is just the plain ‘ol “fast,” which isn’t to say that any of them are actually all that fast. Oh well!) The string of numbers train is definitely the slowest, though depending on where you’re going, you might not actually have a choice of train type. Most train booking places show the amount of time it takes to get there.

I actually do like these slow trains when I have a longer journey to make. They’re meditative in their own rights, you meet an interesting array of people, and you get to see the scenery unfold. If you’re going a short distance (like from Hangzhou to Shanghai) and a fast train is available, though, I don’t really recommend this route. Because for short distances, the slow speed is maddening.

With any luck, you can avoid the L train, which is a very old model sometimes used out west in Xinjiang. How old is it?! The AC unit is just a fan bolted into the ceiling. The hot water machines are still powered by coal. I mean, it was cool for me to experience, but given the choice, I might have chosen a T or K train.

Crazy fast train
This would just be the Maglev. It goes over 300 km/hour, and it’s currently in Shanghai, connecting the airport with the downtown area. When is it a good idea to take it? Aw, just take it. It’s pretty wild to experience something that goes that fast!

So fast it doesn’t exist yet train
Is there something faster than the Maglev? Maybe in the near future! If you check out this link, you can read about some of the super-fast trains that are bound for China!

Those are some train types in China! Stay tuned for more information about hard sleepers, hard seats, and so on.








如果我要去比较远的地方,我其实很喜欢慢车。游客可以聊天,你可以见到各种各样的人,也可以看风景慢慢的改变。但是如果你要去稍微近点的地方, 我并不建议你坐慢车。去那么近坐那么慢的车会让人疯掉。