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Month: October 2018

Trains in China

Trains in China

I have to confess that I like going by train in China. I think it is a bit funny because I really hate taking the train in Sweden. Swedish trains or at least those I am on doesn’t seem to be on time. Ever, witht the exception of Arlanda Express that goes between central Stockholm and Arlanda airport. Actually that is the train I am hoping will be late.  A three minute delay gives you a new ticket!

Anyway since I left Moscow I have spent a lot of time on trains on the transmongolian and in China. I have tried the bullet trains that have been going between 249-299 km/h. Imagine that swedes! I have went in second class between Beijing and Xian and between Shenzhen and Guilin. The second class is obvioulsy the one that the chinese choose and first class is more for foreigners. I am taking second class because I don’t think the cost difference is worth it when you are budget traveling. There are also standing places if you are desperate because they cost the same amount as the second class tickets.

The second-class seats on the bullet train. There are two plus three seats in a row.

The night trains are good if you want to save money on hostels or hotels by spending one night on the train. You can choose between a hard or soft sleeper if you want to have a bed. The hard sleepers don’t have walls on all sides while the soft sleeper is a cabin with 4 beds. There is no such thing as female only cabins so be prepared to spend your night with three men in worst case. I did it on my trip to Shenzhen.  I shared the place with an old man and two younger men. I never felt unsafe though. Because there is not lot of room but everything you need for the night in a bag that is easy accessible so you don’t need to go through the whole bag to find your stuff.

A good suggestion is to also bring food with you on the train. I read somewhere that the food on the train is pretty expensive and not so good. What I saw it looked like airplanefood. Most of the chines have with the a cup of noodles or other things to eat during the trip. You can get hot water for free in all the trains.

So how do you buy the train tickets? For foreigners there are a couple options.

  1. Use an internet bookingservice as DIY-travel. On their webpage you can find the available trains between your intended destinations and the price. To the price you also have to add a booking fee of 10 USD and a paypal fee of 4,4%. I have used them for booking my tickets to from Beijing to Xian, Xian to Shanghai, Shanghai to Shenzhen and Shenzhen to Guilin.
  2. There are some others bookingsites as well but check the final price because some of them have prices in USD that are containing an add on plus a booking fee. I looked at some of them and found DIY travel cheapest but do your own research!
  3. Go to the trainstation and buy your own ticket. I did that with my ticket from Guilin to Nanning. It felt ridiculous to use a service with a 10 USD fee to buy a ticket for 124 yuan. Basically the fees would equal the ticket price. I used the dictionary in my Lonely Planet guidebook and wrote on a note that I wanted to buy a windowseat in second class on train x to Nanning on date x as well as the departure time. I believe I got it right. I went to the ticketsales area and picked a booth. Obviously the one that sold tickets for the same day but got pointed to another. Write down what you wish to buy so you can only hand over a note and have some backup options because their english is probably bad if existant.

On the day of departure be on the train station early because the lines to the ticket check can be long and thereafter there are lines to the security check. Look for the train number when you arrive to the station and go to the waitingarea for the train. The trainnumber and the number of the waiting area is probably the only things that you will understand on the display.


Good luck and enjoy the ride!

Shanghai – top 3

Shanghai – top 3

Shanghai is a more modern city then Beijing. It is the city of highrises combined with some history. It is also the city known not to care about the history but rather development.

I like high places and if you also like it I can recommend a visit to Shanghai tower. It is the worlds second highest building with it’s 632 meter and the highest in China. After you have passed the security control you come to an area were you learn about different high buildings in the world. If you wonder were you can find the worlds hightest building the answer is in Dubail. According to my sister the view was not worth the price of seeing all that sand. I can tell you that it is worth to get to the Shanghai tower even though you had to pay 180 yuan for the cheapest ticket. One warning though, bring your passport because without it you cant buy tickets. One american couple got the surprise. By the way, you have to carry your passport with you in China. Up from the observation deck you got an 360 view of Shanghai. What struck me was that Shanghai is not built for cars or as I learned from an acquaintance that no Chinese cities are. Actually cars has gotten more common the last 10 years which explains the bad driving in China. The traffic feels like radiocars in a circus. So get up there! I also managed to get up there the only day with a blue sky in Shanghai.

Shanghai tower is the one on the right side

Although I am on a sabbatical I am still interested in the environmental field. So Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibiton hall were you can learn about city planning in Shanghai. It sounds really boring but they have a really nice photo exhibition of the city on ground floor with stunning photos of the city. They also have an exhibition about Shanghai in the past. You get an overview of the development of the city. Then we are at modern city planning, the Shanghai of today and in the future. There is an interesting part about the environmental plans for the city. The plan is a sustainable city with water that meets drinking standards, a city with even more subway lines. There are a lot of different goals that the city strives for. What strikes me is that there are actual numbers in place and you can follow the progress. If the city accomplice all that I am impressed.

The third one is the Bund. The place by the river were you can take pictures of the Pudong skyline and the old english style buildings on the other side of the river. It is an interesting mix of the modern and old. If you like to take selfies is the place for you.

Pudong skyline
The Bund

I also visited the French concession that is supposed to be a good mix of stores. As I am not in shopping mode and there were a lot of tourist crap I was a bit disappointed. It was a horrible crush.

As I only promised my top 3 places to visit in Shanghai enjoy!