Transport In China
China is a vast country and most trips will use a variety of transport to cover the large distances between popular destinations that feature on many China tours. Flights, overnight sleeper trains and bullet trains are the most common way but some distances can also be covered by car or boat. Travel connections are usually very frequent as China has such a large population to move around leading to plentiful departures although not always enough tickets to go round! We think it is all part of the experience of a trip through China to use a mixture of transport options.
Overnight Trains In China
Up until the advent of the new bullet trains it was quite normal to take the convenient and comfortable overnight sleeper trains and they still remain the only option aside from flying on many routes – at least for now! We normally use soft sleeper class which is made up for 4 berth compartments with a lockable door and plenty of luggage space. Standards are usually high. Some routes also have 2 berth deluxe sleeper compartments, notably Beijing to Xian. For couples it is possible on many routes to buy additional berths so that you can secure a 4 berth cabin to yourselves as is possible on the Trans-Siberian.
Bullet Train In China
China continues to expand its bullet train network at a breathtaking pace with new lines opening every few months. These 300 km / hour trains are becoming very popular and are often a viable and more reliable alternative to flying internally once you factor in all the waiting around at airports and the fact that stations are often located more centrally than airports. Popular routes now include Beijing to Shanghai (5 hours) and Beijing to Xian (5 hours) as well as short 2 hour routes from Chengdu to Chongqing (for Yangtze Cruises) and Xian to Luoyang.
Internal Flights In China
China has had a recent binge of airport building opening up scores across the country that are, for now, far larger than passenger numbers warrant. Major cities often have many flights a day linking them up. Punctuality can be a problem and poor weather will often delay or cancel flights which might still run elsewhere on the world. Safety records are good though and most airports are fast and efficient to get through. Most larger itineraries in China will need to include a few flights although we prefer to replace flights with bullet trains where available.
Yangtze Cruises in China
The Yangtze Cruise usually taken from the mega city of Chongqing to the somewhat smaller city the other side of the Three Gorges Dam, Yichang, are very popular and make for a nice, relaxing break during your China travels. Departures are daily during the season from April to November. It is also possible to take a once a week cruise ship from Chongqing all the way to Shanghai. In addition to the Yangtze a short day cruise along the Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo is very popular and an excellent way to see the stunning scenery this part of China is so famous for.
Getting To & From China
From the UK there are direct flights to Beijing, Shanghai Hong Kong and Chengdu on British Airways, Virgin and Air China. Direct is usually the way go as the flight is long enough that way without making a stopover. If you are happy to stopover for a cheaper fare Emirates are very good and KLM and Finnair have time efficient routes via Amsterdam and Helsinki respectively. Book airfares as far in advance as you can for the best deals in most cases. Of course, you can also enter and exit China by train from Vietnam, Mongolia, Russia and Kazakstan which is a far more interesting travel experience!