Travelling around china need not be difficult so long as you have some inside tips. Here are a selection of my best tips to reduce the stress and keep you fresh for the business at hand.
High Speed Trains
Truly the best way to get round china if your flight is 2-3 hours. The high speed rail network will get you there in 5-6 hours but more importantly will get you into the centre of the city you are visiting. For example, Beijing to Shanghai takes c.6 hours by train to city centre and costs £70. A flight will cost about the same however you have to allow for 2 hours to get from city centre to airport at either end, plus the advanced check-in period, additional security and the 50% probability that your flight will be delayed either by congestion, bad weather or smog. By comparison, the high speed train network has an enviable record for punctuality that puts the Swiss to shame. So a 2 hour flight becomes at least 6 hours transit and significantly less comfort and chance to rest or work.
Which train to catch? You can check out the train times using ctrip English app. G trains are the fast ones and for popular routes there will be a train every 3-5 minutes. Each person is allocated a seat (no standing) so try not to leave it to the last minute to book tickets at busy times on popular routes. TOP TIP: unlike the UK where fast trains almost always are London centric, the Chinese high speed network connects all major cities in a complex and comprehensive way. As such you are almost always going to find a HST between you and your chosen destination.
Buying ticket: this is where you will need local help from your hotel or business contact as ctrip only accept credit cards from Chinese banks. I typically get my local contacts to book it up (just give them your passport number, date of birth and first/last name) flagyl australia. Once booked they will get notification and will send this to your WeChat account (see other posts on wechat usage). You pick up your ticket at the Station Ticket office by showing your phone with the photo of the booking and your passport. This requires no language skills at all but factor in a wait to pick up your tickets at busy times. TOP TIP: Be aware that ALL ticket office staff have lunch between 2-3pm. If you arrive during this time expect a long wait but at 3pm precisely all the windows will open crowds disperse quickly.
Entering the station: 1. first up is the police/guard who checks your passport and ticket then stamps your ticket. TOP TIP: have your ticket ontop of your closed passport. This avoids the freshly stamp defacing your passport and forcing you to get a new passport. 2. Bag security requires you to put your luggage on a X-ray scanner. You then pass a metal detector and physical search although this is fairly cursory due to volumes of people coming through. This is not like airport security so no need to take your jacket off etc. 3. You are now in the station and you will see your train indicated on the vey clear boards that are in English and Chinese. Look for your train time first then confirm the G-number on your ticket. Most train stations have a large central gallery with platform gates along the length of the station. Shops and fast food restaurants are placed on the outside walls away from the main waiting areas with waste bins on the side of each gate. 4. about 15 minutes before the train is set to leave suddenly 200 people will line up at the gate with their ID card and ticket ready to place through electronic gate. As you will have your passport you need to go to either left or right of these electronic gates for a physical inspection of your passport and ticket. For those of you with an English preference to wait in line, put this to one side. Just stroll up with confidence to this manual inspection and no one will bat an eyelid about you jumping the queue – they are just grateful you are not going to hold them up. 5. Long escalator down to platform where you will find signs on the platform edge stating the carriage and seat numbers of each carriage. There is no ‘short train’ as all are identical in length. Your ticket shows carriage number then seat row and position on the 2 x 3 seat configuration. All seats face forward by use of a highly efficient rotation mechanism with plenty of legroom, drop down table and power TOP TIP: charge up your phone/battery when ever possible but offer up the charging socket to others if they are very low on power. TOP TIP 2. Place your bags in the overhead shelves but make sure nothing hangs over the edge as this will get the train staff very agitated. 6. Getting off: as the train timetable is highly efficient, make a note of your arrival time then you will know that the station you arrive at will 99.9% of the time be the right one. Announcements are in Chinese and English so you should not have any problems getting off. As you exit the station you present your ticket at the gate. 7. Leaving the station: most stations with have East/West exits or North/South exits. If you are meeting someone then wechat them to ask which exit they are at. You will then have 2-5 minute walk to the greeting area (depending on size of station). Your guests will insist on taking your bags from you and it is a sign of respect to allow them this honour.
You are now ready to get on with your business in a stress free way. Happy hunting!