Let the Train Take the Strain

The High Speed Rail (HSR) link in China is expanding rapidly and is worth considering as an alternative to flying.

A few months ago, I had booked a trip that started and ended in Guilin but then discovered that there were no direct flights for my required start and end dates. Looking for alternatives, I first tried flights from Shenzhen. Yes, there were direct flights, but my experience of flying in and out of there has not been good; think delays and cancellations.

Next, I looked at trains and found an overnight train from Shenzhen to Guilin that would take 14 hours. Not ideal. I then found a link to the HSR with trains between Shenzhen and Guilin taking three and a half hours. Much more like it! Booking tickets was easy via https:// www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains/ Seats go online 60 days before the travel date and there are three classes: Second Class, First Class and VIP. I opted for the first class, which was very comfortable and at RMB264 each way, very reasonable. You’ll receive a confirming email with a link to upload a copy of you passport.

Once these have been received, the tickets are issued with your seat allocation, and you can collect them from any Mainland China station. Getting to Shenzhen North Station from Hong Kong is also easy. Take the MTR East Rail Line to Lok Ma Chau, walk through immigration and down to the Shenzhen MTR Red Line. It’s nine stops on this line to Shenzhen North Station. Here, you will need to pick up your tickets from the Ticket Office. There may be a queue, especially at peak times so you should allow some time here.

Once you have your ticket, you can enter the waiting area, and your train will board 10 minutes before departure. Although you can take the HSR to Beijing, Shanghai and Xi’an, at 10-12 hours this isn’t really practical. However, for shorter journeys, it is definitely worth looking at the HSR. I took the train from Guilin to Congjiang in under an hour; it would have taken at least three hours by road.

By Angela Bellas