China's Fancy New Shanghai-Beijing Sleeper Train: A Video Guide
Is it worth the extra cash?
Last month, the China Railway Corporation released the fanciest train to ever ride the rails between Shanghai and Beijing. While I'm not big into sleeper trains, the prospect of riding a pimped out train on the company's dime was far too enticing to pass up, so with that in mind I shelled out ¥730 for a 12 hour ride up to the capital.
Watch our review here:
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The first thing to note about this trip is that unlike the normal bullet trains that go to Beijing, this one DOES NOT leave from Hongqiao Railway Station. Instead, you’ll need to get train D312 from the Shanghai Railway Station (SRS). If you’re coming down from Beijing South, you’ll need to ask for a ticket for train number D311 instead.
Train D312 from Shanghai to Beijing South Station departing at 19:10
As with most Chinese train stations that I’ve visited, the food options at SRS are pretty terrible. The food on the train isn’t much better, so make sure you eat before you head off. Also, remember to pack some snacks for the journey. The new train comes with a hot water machine at the end of every carriage which is perfect for making coffee, tea or ramen on the go.
The main thing I loved about this new train is it mostly eschews the cramped compartments that you'd share with 3-5 other people (depending on the model) in favour of personal bunks where you can sleep, work or watch movies without people looking over your shoulder.
The upper bunk
Each bed on the train comes complete with a privacy curtain, an overhead light, a reading light, several hooks to hang your clothes on, a table, two plug sockets (one that takes three-pronged Chinese plugs and one that takes two-pronged European or American plugs) and a USB plug. You also get your own window with a blind that blocks out all light from outside, allowing you to sleep in darkness throughout the whole trip.
There’s also a large amount of space under the bottom bunk where passengers can store two 25 inch suitcases. I travelled up on a Thursday evening in the middle of the summer and didn’t notice anyone carrying anything bigger than medium sized holdall, so if you’ve got a lot of luggage you should be alright stashing it under someone else’s bunk. Just ask first.
Aw yeah, we've finally got plugs on a train
Nice little reading lights for when the overhead light is too bright
As for the comfort of the bed, I was pleasantly surprised. Despite being 6”4/1.94m I was just about able to fit in my bunk. The mattress was comfortable and the pillow was fairly adjustable. The comforter was a little too thick and took up too much space in the bunk, but it kept me warm against the cool air in the train.
Private bunks let you sleep in peace
If you are travelling in a small group and want to be together, I did notice that the train I was travelling on had a few carriages with 4 bunks in a private compartment. On this train every bunk in the compartment did come complete with its own power socket, so you won’t be fighting with your family members to charge your phone.
For light sleepers I’d recommend bringing decent earplugs. While the train is quiet and people spoke in mostly hushed voices, once the other passengers fell asleep I was stuck listening to their incredibly loud snoring. Trust me when I tell you that nothing will make you hate a stranger faster than having their snoring prevent you from getting any sleep yourself.
As previously mentioned, the food on the train is edible but terrible. Anyone who’s travelled on trains in China before will know what I’m talking about. The options tend to be a bunch of vacuum packed duck tongues, chicken feet, nuts, and Chinese beef jerky. They also have cup noodles and microwave meals, none of which taste particularly good or are reasonably priced.
Chinese train food, avoid it wherever possible
For those worrying about the toilet situation on a 12 hour train journey, each carriage comes complete with a western toilet and an Asian squat toilet. Surprisingly, all the bathrooms I checked during my trip had paper and were spotless. However, this may just be temporary measure for the train’s launch, so definitely make sure to bring your own tissues to avoid getting caught out in future.
Six hours in, and the toilets were still clean and had plenty of toilet paper left
One of the only negative things I can say about the train is that it doesn’t come with Wi-Fi. So if you’re a tourist in China who doesn’t have a local sim card or a Wi-Fi hotspot you’ll be disconnected from the world for 12 hours. Bear that in mind when you’re planning your journey.
Overall I was pretty impressed by the new train. At ¥730 for a one-way trip, it is more expensive than the standard bullet train ticket (¥553) but given that you leave at 19:10 and get in at 07:10 you don’t lose any valuable time in the day where you could be working/ seeing the sights. Also, you save on the cost of a hotel for a night in Beijing or Shanghai which for me makes the overnight train a complete bargain.