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Most trains will be shown as 'on time' with the most immediate departures shown as 'waiting', which means you can enter that train's specific waiting room.

Once a train is ready for boarding, usually about 30 minutes before departure, it's shown as 'check in', meaning you can proceed through to the platform.

Soft sleeper consists of spacious carpeted & lockable 4-berth compartments, with toilets & washrooms at the end of the corridor.

Note the lacy decor & flower in a vase on the tablecloth!

Immediately afterwards there's a luggage X-ray check into the departures hall. Indicator boards on the departure concourse show which train is allocated to which waiting room - here you can see G71 is allocated to waiting room 8.

There is usually at least hour between departures from a given room. You may also find departure boards showing the status of each train.

At other times, trains can still sell out but it's usually possible to secure seats or sleepers a few days ahead. If you run an enquiry on for today, tomorrow or a few days time, you'll see how many tickets are left in each class for each train.

As I write this, most Beijing-Shanghai trains are sold out for the day after tomorrow, but a few trains still have seats left the day after that. First the good news: Chinese Railways launched online booking in 2011 at

Train tickets are best booked at least 3-4 days in advance, preferably more, apart from peak holiday periods when they should be booked as soon as reservations open or secured through a train ticketing agency who knows the ropes, as trains get very fully-booked weeks ahead.Luggage & bikes on Chinese trains Recommended guidebooks for China Travel insurance Hotels in Beijing Hotels in Shanghai Hotels in Xian Hotel suggestions in Beijing & Shanghai Chinese Railways. Reservations usually open 30 days before departure for online bookings and 28 days before departure for sale at stations, for most long-distance trains.Some overnight D-category sleeper trains only open 20 days ahead, some C-category trains only 10 days ahead. The booking horizon used to be 12 days (10 days at stations), but was increased to 20 days in January 2013, then to 60 days in December 2014.Back to top Chinese trains link virtually all main cities and towns in China, and are a safe, comfortable & civilised way to travel, even for families or women travelling alone.Chinese trains generally have four classes, although you won't find every class on every train: Chinese train numbers usually start with a letter, which indicates the category of train.

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