Shanghai has two major train stations: Shanghai Main Station and Shanghai South Station, but Shanghai West Railway Station and Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station are also important. They serve, directly or indirectly, all the major towns and cities of the Chinese mainland, as well as Hong Kong and Macau. Train travel can vary in quality depending on the type of train you are on and the class of seat/carriage you opt for.
At its worst, rail travel in China can be dirty, slow and uncomfortable. At its best, many prefer rail travel to air travel for certain routes. You can find a train schedule from Shanghai to the main cities at this website: http://www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains/shanghai-schedule.htm.
Tickets can be purchased beginning nine days before your travel date. They are on sale at the stations, but also in any of the many booking offices distributed all around the city. Here there are a convenient few:
- 431 Nanjing Xi Lu
- 501 Wulumuqi Lu
- 230 Nanjing Dong Lu
An example to where the trains can beat out planes in terms of efficiency and comfort is the Shanghai – Beijing route that leaves Shanghai at 7 pm and arrives in Beijing at 7 am the next morning. This route costs two-thirds the price of its air equivalent and is ideal for the day tripper who will spend just a few hours in Beijing and wants to avoid the hassle of airport check-in as well as the extra cost of spending the night in a hotel.
There are various types of trains in China:
- G Train – High-Speed Electric Multiple Units (EMU) Train: This is the fastest for long distance in China and can reach 350km/h.
- C Train – Intercity EMU: Also the fastest option, but runs only for short travel distance between close cities.
- D Train – Electric Multiple Units (EMU): Also know as the bullet train, it can go at up to 250 km/h. You will find this train on the Nanjing and Hangzhou routes.
- Z Train – Direct Express: This is an express, overnight train which travels non-stop from departure point to destination. It has deluxe cabins with their own amenities and electrical source for laptops and portable DVD players. A favorite among business execs and foreigners traveling between Shanghai and Beijing.
- T Train: This is the “Superior Fast Train”. It stops in provincial capitals and major cities.
- K Train: Although this train is meant to be a fast train, it is, in fact, the second slowest classification of train and one rarely used by foreigners. It makes more stops than the T train and is the train you will want to catch if you want to make it to China’s smaller cities or villages.
- Accommodation Fast: These trains run slower than the K trains due to more stops. They are numbered with 4-digits and usually begin with 1, 2, 4, or 5. Most often, they are equipped with air-conditioning.
- Accommodation: This is the slowest of all the trains and is also marked a 4-digit numbering system, usually beginning with 6, 7, 8 or 9, for example, 6461. The ordinary train stops at all the cities along the route, large and small. There is rarely air-conditioning on these green trains.