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19/12/2013

How to Travel in China by Train Safely II

5. Wait to board a train. For all ticket classes except "soft sleep", you will wait in the general hall. This is huge, noisy, dirty, crowded, but not dangerous except for pickpockets.

Sit on the benches. Notice your train number and look for the aisle and overhead sign at the end where that train will board. At the proper time, the gate will open and people will surge forward affordable China travel packages. Follow but don't worry, you have a reserved seat/bunk.

For "soft sleep" ticket holders, find the separate waiting room. Follow signs or show attendants your ticket and they can direct you. This waiting room is quiet, relatively clean and sane. Use the boiling water dispenser against the wall for hot tea or instant noodles. You will board first. Wait for your train number to be called or look confused and show your ticket. An attendant will guide you here.

6. Treat small town stations differently. Here there are few ticket windows, only a single waiting room, few amenities, and few trains. Be prepared to wait a long time, and bring your own food and water.

For the smallest places, take any train, any ticket top China tours, and pay on board to an attendant to upgrade your seat out of "hard seat". Pay any price and insist you must sit somewhere else. You may have to wait until a bunk is vacated ahead, but then watch for it and move your stuff quickly. Plop down and show your money. It will probably work.

7. Board the train. From any waiting room, pick up your gear, watch for other people grabbing it, and move forward. Show your ticket to the attendant to get it clipped (as used), then find the right car. Look at your ticket or ask a car attendant standing outside each car.

Board your car and look for the right bunk/compartment number. Many people are doing the same. Step carefully around luggage. When you find your bunk, put your stuff on the bunk first, then stow it on the overhead racks or spaces provided. Get out of the way first.
Place your food and water supplies on the bunk or the little center table. Smile at your bunk neighbors.

8. Wait for the attendant to come around and collect your ticket. They give you a chit to show you paid, and exchange it for your ticket again just before you get off of the train. Keep that chit. Without it, you are sunk. It is your receipt, As a foreigner, security will also come to inspect your passport, carefully, and write the details on their log. Be silent and polite. Smile.

9. Enjoy the ride. The train is actually fun. People mostly sleep, play cards, handle the kids. It's fairly quiet except for crying babies. You may sleep, read, practice your Chinese where people are a captive audience and will be curious, look out the window.

Bedding is always provided and is clean unless you upgrade on the train and take over a used bunk. You will get a pillow and quilt with clean cotton covers.

In "hard sleep" compartments, there are three levels. The top level is hard to climb to, and those people usually sit down below or at the window stools in the aisle. If you have a bottom bunk, and don't want it used as a couch, spread your stuff out and frown if people try to sit with you. This is why the middle bunk is best.

Each compartment has a little table, a garbage bin, and a hot water thermos. Fill it from the hot water dispenser at the end of the car and share it with everyone in the compartment.
Find hot water at the end of each car, and use it to fill your tea thermos, eat instant noodles, or wet a cloth for a face wipe. This water is clean.
Find a toilet at the end of each car. It isn't nice but it works. It is locked at stations popular China tours and you may have to ask the car attendant to unlock it again. It's best in the middle of the night. If critical, take a thermos of boiling water and wash it down. No one else will.
Find a sink near each toilet. It will be dirty and will run out of water after 18 hours.
"Soft sleep" cars have better facilities, and they restrict other class passengers from using them.

8. Be ready to get off. Listen to the destination or ask someone or the attendant. Get your gear packed and down off the rack. Exchange your chit for your ticket. There will be time, so don't rush.

9. Exit the train and station. Get off the train, follow the crowd to the exit, probably below or over other tracks to the station outlet. Here watch your possessions carefully. Ignore touts of all sorts, get to the gate, show your ticket and exit. Likely you will be in another large square full of people. In small stations, you will be alone. Find a taxi.

In a large station, move across the square to a taxi or your destination. All stations have a post office, police station, bank, and railroad hotel(s) next to them. Those hotels are usually satisfactory and relatively cheap. Use them as a base if you don't know the city at all, if you wish.

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