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Sleeper train from Beijing to Xi'an?

Sleeper train from Beijing to Xi'an?

Old Feb 20, 11, 11:51 pm
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Sleeper train from Beijing to Xi'an?

I'll be traveling to China in early March (arriving on the 10th) for 8 days. I'm flying into and out of Beijing, and trying to make the most of my time. The only cities I'm trying to visit are Beijing and Xi'an, which seems like a reasonable amount of sightseeing in my limited time. I think the idea of a sleeper train seems exciting - the difference in price between flight/hotel and sleeper train is negligible, but I also want to make sure I'm making the best use of my time.

With that being said, is taking a sleeper train to Xi'an and then flying back the following day (or 2 days later) the best use of my time? In addition, I noted on several other threads (from the fall) that sleeper trains tend to sell out quickly - is this true in the Spring as well? Does anyone here have any better solutions to booking these tickets in advance than to try calling my hotel/hostel and seeing if they can book them for me? Are there any reasonable websites that I'm missing or are they all going to try to gouge me? Will I more than likely miss out on the train opportunity if I wait until a few days before my departure?

Thanks for any advice you can offer!
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Old Feb 21, 11, 1:22 am
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Your plan is solid and you will like the train (the train stations are the only real negative part of the experience). I don't think getting tickets will be that hard, especially if you inquire a few days in advance.
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Old Feb 23, 11, 8:54 am
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Thanks moondog! I'll probably ping my hostel a few days in advance to see if I can get my train ticket a little earlier. I've got everything else taken care of, including my return flight from Xi'an using ctrip.
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Old Feb 23, 11, 11:54 pm
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Originally Posted by halfpny View Post
Thanks moondog! I'll probably ping my hostel a few days in advance to see if I can get my train ticket a little earlier. I've got everything else taken care of, including my return flight from Xi'an using ctrip.
Unless you're prepared to send them cash in advance, this is a waste of time. But, don't panic; you'll (almost definitely) be able to get tickets after you arrive in Beijing.
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Old Mar 16, 11, 11:15 am
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I've got the reverse question.

We're flying into Xi'an and hoping to take a sleeper train from Xi'an to Beijing, but we want to do it on Saturday, May 7th. That's the end of the the big holiday week, right? Is that going to be a problem? We'd like to get a soft sleeper cabin.

We're planning on arriving in Xi'an on the 5th. We have flexibility enough to leave on the Sunday the 8th instead. Our other choice is to fly.

Also, are there any reputable online services with which we can book / reserve train tickets early? Or will we be ok getting tickets in Xi'an as soon as we arrive?

Thanks!
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Old Mar 16, 11, 1:35 pm
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Originally Posted by CrispyRice View Post
I've got the reverse question.

We're flying into Xi'an and hoping to take a sleeper train from Xi'an to Beijing, but we want to do it on Saturday, May 7th. That's the end of the the big holiday week, right? Is that going to be a problem? We'd like to get a soft sleeper cabin.

We're planning on arriving in Xi'an on the 5th. We have flexibility enough to leave on the Sunday the 8th instead. Our other choice is to fly.

Also, are there any reputable online services with which we can book / reserve train tickets early? Or will we be ok getting tickets in Xi'an as soon as we arrive?

Thanks!
It hasn't been a special holiday since around 2006, but even if it was, the holiday thing (that doesn't include May 7) would be more likely to help you than hurt you.

In light of the fact that I've burnt on the route in question on many occasions (though only 20% of the time), I advise you to:

1) buy airplane tickets
or
2) ask your hotel to fetch train tickets for you

Regarding #2, I've yet to see an online agency that can book train tickets for less than the fanciest hotels around.

ETA: Changed "can't" to "can" in final sentence. My point was that I don't think very highly of current online train ticketing services.

Last edited by moondog; Mar 16, 11 at 10:47 pm
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Old Mar 16, 11, 4:24 pm
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
It hasn't been a special holiday since around 2006, but even if it was, the holiday thing (that doesn't include May 7) would be more likely to help you than hurt you.
It was through 2007. Not weeklong official holiday since 2008, but still more mainlanders travel during that week - ask shopkeepers in Hong Kong, for example.
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Old Mar 16, 11, 10:16 pm
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Thanks very much, moondog and rkkwan! I wasn't sure how far through the week the holidays extend in practice. I was concerned people may still take the whole week and that trying to travel that weekend would be busy.

We're still debating between flying and taking the train. The train sounds like fun, but, of course, we won't see much overnight, and it will save time (and money, actually) to fly. But at least I can be fairly comfortable with either option. Thanks!
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Old Mar 17, 11, 4:33 am
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Getting sleeper tickets out of Xi'an to anywhere has been an obnoxious exercise for many years--as long as I can remember and at nearly all times of the year. Somebody on the ground in Xi'an needs to be working on your behalf to get those, especially if your plans are kind of tight and you can't take pot luck or hang out for extra days. For those who want to do train one way and fly the other, usually easier to train Beijing-Xi'an and then fly back.

Note that now there are alternate ways to train back that require only seat tickets, not those precious sleepers:
1) Leave Xi'an North station in the morning on a G bullet train to Zhengzhou, change to a D train for Beijing arriving late afternoon.
2) Spend most of the day in Xi'an, leave late afternoon from Xi'an North station on the G bullet train to Zhengzhou and then change to a night-time Beijing-bound D train. (For those who don't mind not stretching out to sleep.)
3) Xi'an North G train to Zhengzhou late afternoon, spend the night in a hotel in Zhengzhou, then take the 7:30 D train Zhengzhou to Beijing arriving at lunchtime.
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Old Mar 17, 11, 5:55 am
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Originally Posted by jiejie View Post
Getting sleeper tickets out of Xi'an to anywhere has been an obnoxious exercise for many years--as long as I can remember and at nearly all times of the year.
Getting out of there by can also be challenging at times (I've spent many, many hours killing time at that dreary airport down there).

CrispyRice: If you really want to take the train, get your hotel list down to a reasonable number (3 or 4), call them, and ask if they can help you book train tickets. Almost all hotels have the ability to get train tickets, but you might receive a bit of pushback because they need to front cash for you. To get over this hurdle, simply tell them that you are willing to send them money before they make the purchase. There are lots of inexpensive ways to send money to China.
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Old Mar 17, 11, 10:30 am
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Thank you both, moondog and jiejie!

I'm leaning toward just buying plane tickets, but I'm waiting to hear back from my friends as to just how set they are on taking the train. We can buy a multi-city plane ticket for less money, and it sounds like much less hassle.

Thanks for the other train options, too. Definitely something to keep in mind. If we go with the train, I'll contact our hotel ASAP.
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Old Mar 17, 11, 2:32 pm
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Originally Posted by CrispyRice View Post
Thank you both, moondog and jiejie!

I'm leaning toward just buying plane tickets, but I'm waiting to hear back from my friends as to just how set they are on taking the train. We can buy a multi-city plane ticket for less money, and it sounds like much less hassle.

Thanks for the other train options, too. Definitely something to keep in mind. If we go with the train, I'll contact our hotel ASAP.
Don't be intimidated by the logistics of the train option. I can all but assure you that you'll be able to (easily) find a hotel that is willing to purchase tickets on your behalf.

Insofar as the money part of the equation is concerned, I propose the following solution (assuming you are US based):

1) you and the hotel figure out the exact cost of your train tickets (including whatever service fee you agree upon; between y10 and y50 per person)... this can be tricky because they won't know what class they're going to nab until they (or their delegates) show up at the ticket window

2) deposit the USD equivalent of #1 into my BofA account, plus the costs of me sending money to them (very low)

3) I send the hotel the RMB needed to pull off your desired journey, directly to their bank account

4) if the cost of your train tickets is lower than the amount transacted, it's your responsibility to recover the difference

While the above might seem complex, it works. Email me (please, no more PMs!) if you're interested in exploring this option.
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Old Mar 17, 11, 2:54 pm
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... or simply book a western hotel (reservation guaranteed by credit card) and send them an email. They'll get the tickets for you and you pay at check-in/out. This has always worked for me - regardless whether a Holiday Inn or an Intercontinental.
(Specifically in Xi'an, I stayed at the Sheraton)
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Old Mar 18, 11, 9:32 am
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Thanks, moondog!

And good point, Chinatrvl. Thanks!
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Old Mar 20, 11, 1:03 am
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Smile

Originally Posted by moondog View Post
Unless you're prepared to send them cash in advance, this is a waste of time. But, don't panic; you'll (almost definitely) be able to get tickets after you arrive in Beijing.
Your advice was spot on. Got my soft sleeper (upper bunk) on my first day in Beijing and it was cake. Thanks again!

PS - China was a ton of fun!
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