China Top Train Journeys Recommended to International Travelers

China is a vast country with the second longest railway system in the world (146,000km), and the most extensive high speed rail network (39,000km by the end of 2020). With the rapid development of rail services, there are different options available for the passengers. And you can find 7 good reasons to travel by train in China. Here below are the recommended train journeys for international visitors.

1. Maglev Train from Pudong airport to Longyang Road Station

Shanghai Maglev train is the first commercial high speed maglev with cruising speed of 431 km/h (268mph), and also the fastest commercial electric train in the world. The distance is 30.5 km from Longyang Road Metro Station to the Pudong International Airport. With the 8-minute ride time, it is not an actual train journey we usually think, more like a short Wow experience after landing in Shanghai. Alternatively, passengers can also take the metro instead, 45 minutes for the same route. It is recommended to the first timers if they crave for a feel of flying on the ground.

Board the maglev train in Shanghai

2. Beijing to Shanghai Journey by Fuxing train

At 1,318 kilometers (819 mi) long, the high speed rail from Beijing to Shanghai is the world's longest high-speed line ever constructed in a single phase. It is also China's most profitable high speed rail service, listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. The railway line was the first one designed for a maximum speed of 380 km/h in commercial operations. 

By adopting the newest Fuxing model, the non-stop train from Beijing South to Shanghai Hongqiao was expected to take 3 hours and 58 minutes, making it the fastest scheduled train in the world, compared to 9 hours and 49 minutes on the fastest trains running on the parallel conventional railway. 

The train traverses across one of the most prosperous areas in this country. The high-rise buildings in metropolis, new-sprouting towns, land of fish and rice at the Yangtze Delta will be unfolded to you along the route. Another feature is that you will see the longest and second longest bridges in the world during the journey: Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge (165km/103mi) and Tianjin Grand Bridge (114km/71mi).

3. Qinghai-Tibet Railway and Lhasa-Shigatse Line

If you plan to see the world engineering feat of the railway built on the highest plateau, this is the choice. At the same time, you will be rewarded with the amazing view along the route. You can either experience the longer Qinghai-Tibet train journey from Xining to Lhasa or its extension railway between Lhasa and Shigatse.

With a length of 1,956 km (1,215 mi), Qinghai-Tibet Railway is a high-elevation railway connecting Xining (Qinghai Province) to Lhasa (Tibet Autonomous Region). The line includes the Tanggula Pass, which, at 5,072 m (16,640 feet) (3.15 miles) above sea level, is the world's highest point on a railway. Tanggula railway station at 5,068 m (16,627 feet) is the world's highest railway station. More than 960 km (600 mi), over 80% of the Golmud–Lhasa section, is at an elevation of more than 4,000 m (13,123 ft). 

There are 675 bridges, totaling 159.88 km (99.34 mi); about 550 km (340 mi) of track is laid on permafrost. The passenger carriages used on Lhasa trains are specially built and have an oxygen supply for each passenger. Every passenger train has a doctor. In the high altitude, plastic bags of chips and toiletry bottles may explode. 

You may see the amazing views along the route, like Qinghai Lake, Qarhan Salt Plain, headstreams of Yangtze River, Hoh Xil Nature Reserve, snow-capped mountains, green highland lakes, etc. The downside is that the journey from Xining to Lhasa is about 21.5 hours, a bit long for the regular tourists. Passengers will have to stay on board overnight.

On Qinghai to Tibet train journey, take in great views

The Lhasa-Shigatse line was a spur line of the Qinghai–Tibet railway, running inside Tibet. The travel time on this railroad is less than 3 hours with a length of is 253 km (157 mi). Construction began in September 2010 and was completed in July 2014. It opened for commercial operations on August 16, 2014. Soon after opening, the line became the primary mode of transport between Lhasa and Shigatze as it takes more than 5 hours on the road by car.

4. Hangzhou-Huangshan High-speed Train Journey

Opened in the end of 2018, Hangzhou-Huangshan High speed railway is regarded as one of the most beautiful lines connecting the two fascinating destinations: Hangzhou and Huangshan respectively. With a distance of 287km (178mi), the EMU trains can finish the trip within 2 hours at the speed of 250km/h. 

If you are on board in March or April, you will be impressed by the great view along the route: Hui-style architecture with grew flying eaves and white walls, ancient bridges over streams, explosive bloom of canola, and other rural sceneries of China. The rail line passes by 7 top 5-A tourist attractions and more than 50 4-A attractions rated by China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. So this is a very scenic area, rich in cultural heritage. 

5. Kunming-Dali-Lijiang Railroad in Yunnan

Before the rail line was put into use in 2018, there had been only conventional trains available between Kunming and Dali, no train between Dali and Lijiang. When the EMU D trains were launched, two third of the travel time has been saved compared with the previous conventional trains. It absolutely made the transport among the three places much easier and more efficient. Since travel by train is much fastest than by car, and a lot cheaper and more punctual than by air, more and more locals and tourists prefer to adopt this mode of transportation. The view of the 3.5-hour-long journey may not be as impressive as other routes, you will see the mountainous areas of Southwestern China scattered with some ethnic villages. More importantly, it will take you to the remoteness of Yunnan via Dali and Lijiang, where hides the real charm of Yunnan. Now the ambitious provincial government is working on another 350km/h+ maglev train project covering the 3 destinations with an investment of CNY 100 billion (US$14 billion). >> Recommended South China Train Tour to Yunnan

Travel to Lijinag Old Town

6. Xian-Chengdu High Speed Railway

Also called Xian-Chengdu Passenger Dedicated Line, it is a dual-track, electrified, high speed rail line between Xian and Chengdu, which are both popular destinations of international travelers. Like an old poem written by Li Bai of Tang Dynasty (618-907), “The road to Sichuan is harder than climbing up to the blue sky”. Stretching 510km (320mi) in length, the high speed rail was put in use in late 2017, which reduces the travel time from 16 hours to less than 3 hours. Since the railroad goes through plains and mountains, the geological conditions are extremely complex, which add more difficulties during the construction. At the Qin Mountains (Qinling) section, it is 135 kilometers long, the tunnel mileage reaches 127 kilometers. So the bridge & tunnel ratio is as high as 94%. There are 7 over 10-km-long tunnels in this part. This is very challenging to all the railway builders of the world. At the same time, it is amazing to see that the 4G signal of mobile phones is strong on board, even traveling inside the tunnels.

7. Travel from Hong Kong to Guilin by high speed train

Only a few cities in China connect Hong Kong via high speed rail. Guilin is one of them. The train traverses rugged karst terrain in Guangxi via extensive bridges and tunnels, and then to prosperous Pearl River Delta, with its final stop in the Pearl of the Orient – Hong Kong. It takes only less than 3.5 hours, while before it was a 12-hour overnight journey by conventional train to Shenzhen, then walk to cross the Luohu Port to Hong Kong side. 

Up to now, there are 2 trains available between Guilin and Hong Kong: one starts from Kunming, another from Chongqing, or vice versa. You will embark/disembark the train on the half way. This is really a fascinating experience to travel by train from the most scenic place of China to the most westernized metropolis in Asia.

Li River Cormorant Fisherman in Guilin

Further Reading:

  • Must-knows Before Making a Train Travel Plan in China
  • Traveling by train in China with children
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