On my recent visit to China, as well as searching the internet for any information about catching the train to the Great Wall of China, I was also looking for information about the new G-Class bullet trains that travel from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station to Beijing South Railway Station. Once again I found very limited information online in English and I couldn’t find the answers to any of the questions that I had myself – namely about buying tickets for the trains on the day itself as I would be getting the train to Beijing immediately after landing into Shanghai from the UK. I have tried to include as much information as I can in the hope that this post will help others wanting to make this journey.
Once again before travelling I had visited the CNVOL website and printed out the schedules from Shanghai Hongqiao to Beijing South – this information was invaluable and will help you considerably as on this printout you will have all the train numbers which will assist you when buying tickets on the day.
After landing that morning into Pudong International Airport I made my way to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station using both the amazing Maglev train to Longyang Road and then transferring to Line 2 of the Shanghai Metro. There were plenty of signs for the high speed trains in all areas of the Metro station.
Immediately after exiting through Exit A from the metro station you are in the shopping concourse of Hongqiao Railway Station. There are four ticket offices on this level – one in each corner of that floor however only one was open that morning which was the one closest to the Metro Station entrance. There are also ticketing machines which cannot be used by foreigners as they cannot read our passports which must be provided when booking high speed railway tickets.
The information boards at the ticket offices are all in Chinese and only a small amount of English (if any) is spoken at the desk. I have read that there can occasionally be a desk with an “English Spoken” sign but there was not the day that I travelled. It is very easy to book tickets though without being able to understand any Chinese. All you need is the train number which can be found on the schedule printout from the CNVOL website. You can then find the train number on the information board and see if there are any seats available (just make sure to look at the right date as each board shows availability for the next few days). I didn’t have a problem just turning up and booking a seat on the day as there was plenty of availability on every train however during busy times and holidays such as Chinese New Year, it might be more difficult to get a seat straight away.
Next to each train number and departure time on the board are different numbers in columns – these refer to how many seats are left in each class on that particular train.
一等座 is First Class
二等座 is Second Class
Once you know that the train that you want has seats available, make a note of the train number (I just circled the train number on the printout I had) and join the queue for tickets. When you get to the front of the queue, show the person the train number you would like to book and how many seats you would like. I found that most of the ticket agents know the words “First Class” and “Second Class” as well as confirming that you want to travel all the way to Beijing. You will need to hand over your passport as well at this point as your passport number will be printed on your ticket. Second class seats on the G-Class train from Shanghai to Beijing cost 555RMB per person and first class costs 935RMB and only cash is accepted.
You will then need to make your way to the departures floor where you will need to go through security to get to the waiting area. There are toilets and some shops here too though I found the food choices better on the shopping concourse on the lower level.
The platform number for the train is printed at the bottom of the ticket whilst your carriage and seat number is printed in the top right corner. As you can see from my ticket, the train boarded from Platform 6 and I was seated in carriage 12 and seat 6A.
Boarding starts 20-30 minutes prior to departure and you will need your ticket to get through the barrier – you might also be asked to show your passport though I didn’t have to on either journey. Depending on what carriage you are sitting in depends on whether you board from door A or door B on the opposite side of the waiting area. You will then take an escalator down to the platform. On the train there are overhead racks for smaller bags whilst there is space for large bags and suitcases at the back of the carriage.
The journey from Shanghai Hongqiao to Beijing South can take from 4 hours 48 minutes to 5 hours 30 minutes when more stops are made. Train staff come through the carriages with drinks and snacks to purchase and there is also a buffet car. Hot water is also available at the end of each carriage. The only downside I found is that everyone on the train seemed to shout loudly into their mobile phones so getting some peace and quiet to sleep was quite difficult – I found this strange after travelling in Japan where people do not use their phones on public transport except to text.
All G-Class trains are non-smoking hence why on arriving in Beijing, everyone seems to light up as soon as they have left the train!
On arrival at Beijing South Railway Station you will need your ticket again to pass through the exit barrier. If getting a taxi to your hotel, follow the signs to the taxi rank and join the queue. Ignore anyone who says they are a taxi driver before you join the queue and even when you are in the queue. These are a scam and not legitimate taxis. Official Beijing taxis have registration plates starting with “B”. Make sure you have your destination written in Chinese as hardly any English is spoken or understood.
Beijing South Railway Station is also on Line 4 of the Beijing Subway however the trains can be packed at all times of the day so if you have any luggage, a taxi even with the infamous Beijing traffic will be easier.
If departing Beijing South Railway Station, the process to buy tickets is exactly the same as in Shanghai. I once again turned up at the station and purchased my ticket there and then for a train departing within 30 minutes.
For my journey back to Shanghai, the train boarded from Platform 12 and I was seated in carriage 2 and seat 8B.
There are a lot more English signs at Beijing South Station though the information screens do not display English for very long – if you miss it you might have to wait for a minute or two to see the information again!