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Train travel in China: How do I book a train from Guilin to Beijing?

Train travel in China: How do I book a train from Guilin to Beijing?

Old Jun 20, 06, 3:27 am
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Cool Train travel in China: How do I book a train from Guilin to Beijing?

I知 travelling to China with Mrs. Nollag in the Autumn. Our tour ends in Guilin, but we would like to get the overnight sleeper train to Beijing.

I致e tried booking this through chinatripadvisor.com, but they cannot send tickets to the UK, and rather want to send them to me at the hotel I値l be staying in in Guilin on the morning of travel.

I知 anxious that the tickets may not arrive on the morning as promised, or that the desk clerk may not sign for them, etc. Is there some way to pre-book the tickets, so that I can be in possession of them before I leave the UK?

Thanks for your thoughts
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Old Jun 20, 06, 3:42 am
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Originally Posted by nollag
I知 travelling to China with Mrs. Nollag in the Autumn. Our tour ends in Guilin, but we would like to get the overnight sleeper train to Beijing.

I致e tried booking this through chinatripadvisor.com, but they cannot send tickets to the UK, and rather want to send them to me at the hotel I値l be staying in in Guilin on the morning of travel.

I知 anxious that the tickets may not arrive on the morning as promised, or that the desk clerk may not sign for them, etc. Is there some way to pre-book the tickets, so that I can be in possession of them before I leave the UK?

Thanks for your thoughts
We've had the best luck contacting the hotel we will be staying at in a particular town and having them obtain the tickets, usually through their in-house travel agent. The Chinese typically queue up the day before to get tickets. This seems ridiculous but my in-laws swear it's the only way they can buy them. Huge lines form right before New Years in train stations all over China to buy tickets at midnight.

Anyway, I've heard there are ways to purchase online but I'm not sure they are more reliable.

One thing you definitely don't want to do is wait around to get them right before you leave. Although as long as it's not during peak holidays I've found that the Soft Sleeper seats are typically available. On the overnight trains to Beijing the hard sleepers sell out a lot, though, I've found.
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Old Jun 20, 06, 9:49 am
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Originally Posted by jedison
We've had the best luck contacting the hotel we will be staying at in a particular town and having them obtain the tickets, usually through their in-house travel agent. The Chinese typically queue up the day before to get tickets. This seems ridiculous but my in-laws swear it's the only way they can buy them. Huge lines form right before New Years in train stations all over China to buy tickets at midnight.
The one time we took a train in China it was done this way--go stand in an insane crowd. "Queue up" hardly applies to Chinese behavior in lines.

In our case this worked as there was no language barrier--my wife is a native speaker. I wouldn't recommend trying to buy them at the train station if you don't speak the language.
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Old Jun 20, 06, 9:59 am
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I donエt think there is much reason to buy anything but Soft Sleeper seats if you are on a normal "Western" income. Iエve used trains quite a lot on short routes around Shanghai ( 1-2 hrs ) and do not really enjoy the jam packed waiting areas and the mad rush to overcrowded compartments even then. The Soft Sleepers give at least reasonable comfort and separate waiting lounges.
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Old Jun 20, 06, 6:59 pm
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As long as it's not a "Golden Week" (Spring Festival, May Day and National Day), you shouldn't worry about getting a seat. Have your hotel book you the ticket, which should cost a small fee (say 30RMB). Soft sleeper is quite nice, depending on the route; I've found Shanghai-Beijing to be one of the best. It's also quite reasonable - I think Guilin-Beijing is something like 1200RMB, and the route passes through some nice scenery (and industrial areas, which I find interesting). The one advantage of hard sleeper is that, if you speak Chinese, you'll have a good opportunity to chat with the local Chinese, which certainly makes a 24-hour train ride pass by quicker!

The one thing you want to avoid is hard seat (or 'wuzuo' - no seat, which is exactly what it sounds like). Trust me. I did Nanning-Wuhan in wuzuo, and few days have been worse!
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Old Jun 20, 06, 7:51 pm
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Just FYI -

Guilin - Beijing. Soft sleeper: 574 yuan for the upper berth on train number T6. 600 yuan for lower berth. Takes about 22.5 hours.

There are 4 other slower "K" trains. But instead of 22.5 hours, those take over 27-29 hours to get there, and slightly more expensive, as the route may be slightly longer.

Taking the train will not save you time or hotel money. Unless you really like to taste train travel, you may want to just fly.

Last edited by rkkwan; Jun 20, 06 at 7:56 pm
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Old Jun 20, 06, 9:59 pm
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Originally Posted by mosburger
I donエt think there is much reason to buy anything but Soft Sleeper seats if you are on a normal "Western" income.
agreed 100%
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Old Jun 21, 06, 12:51 am
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Originally Posted by nollag
I知 travelling to China with Mrs. Nollag in the Autumn. Our tour ends in Guilin, but we would like to get the overnight sleeper train to Beijing.

I致e tried booking this through chinatripadvisor.com, but they cannot send tickets to the UK, and rather want to send them to me at the hotel I値l be staying in in Guilin on the morning of travel.

I知 anxious that the tickets may not arrive on the morning as promised, or that the desk clerk may not sign for them, etc. Is there some way to pre-book the tickets, so that I can be in possession of them before I leave the UK?

Thanks for your thoughts
I would suggest either booking them on an agent online like chinatripadvisor in advance and ask them to deliver to your hotel maybe a day or two before departure, or wait until in China and book them at your hotel. Usually most hotels have an agent located in the hotel. Usually most train tickets in China can not be purchased much more than 10 days in advance. Some locations only 5 days or even less. Some other posters have mentioned that the locals stand in line at the train station the day or two before departure. I would not recommend this unless you really enjoy that kind of chaos. Using an agent at your hotel should work fine. They will probably charge a 5 or 10 rmb "service charge", but that sure beats standing in line if you ask me. If you choose that route I would suggest trying 5 days or so in advance (not sure how long you are in Guilin). If for some reason you are unable to get a ticket on any of the trains to Beijing (which I think is unlikely) then you should not have any trouble booking an airline ticket. You would miss out on the train experience, if that is what you are after but it would get you there. China has not really caught on to the "book in advance" mindset that we westerners are so accustomed to when it comes to travel. It does make us westerner's a little nervous to not have a leg of our travel plans booked but it really does work in China! I think the closest you can come to booking in advance is using chinatripadvisor.com, and have them deliver to your hotel, just ask them to deliver earlier for your peace of mind's sake.
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Old Jun 21, 06, 2:01 am
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Originally Posted by AandT
Some other posters have mentioned that the locals stand in line at the train station the day or two before departure. I would not recommend this unless you really enjoy that kind of chaos.
I wouldn't recommend doing that either. While I think the hotel suggestion is the best, it's worth noting that most Chinese cities have train ticket windows scattered about; there are 3 such locations within 500m of my place in Beijing; buying from them is no different than buying from the ticket office at the train station itself (in fact, if detune yourself from your surroundings, you actually feel like you are at a train station).

I checked out tripadvisor once and was slightly put off by their service charges (much more than even the most expensive hotels).

In regards to the earlier mention of 无座 tickets, it is worth noting that at many, if not most, midpoint stations, you can't buy anything else. However, upgrades to soft sleeper tend to be pretty easy to snag for those with enough determination (most Chinese fight over the hard sleepers, leaving the soft sleepers for the taking).

For anyone that's interested, I explained the upgrade process to the best of my knowledge in my recent xinjiang trip report; searching that thread (and sorting by post) using the term "upgrade" should get you to the right place.
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Old Jun 23, 06, 1:49 pm
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Buy (4) tickets and get the entire room to yourself
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