All you need to know about transportation in China

Despite very long distances and huge spaces, in China it is quite simple to move from and to different places. Be just aware that you’ll be asked to show your ID (passport) to book tickets, and to get on trains, bus and – of course – flights.

Bike-sharing / Motorbike taxi / Electric motorbike

China has a very rooted cultured in every two-wheels for the little distances! Cities are full of bicycles and motorcycles, most of whom electric! Pay attention while crossing streets… they can move on the opposite direction of the traffic, along bike lanes, and you do not hear them!! To rent a bike on bike-sharing, I recommend you Mobike app. Important: download the app BEFORE arriving in China or connect on GooglePlay by VPN (of course, download VPN App before getting to China as well..). To rent a motorbike, ask your hostel, most of them have a few for rent (50/100Y per day).

Bike Sharing, Chengdu | China | © Living-Meanwhile

As in Vietnam (get a look at my post here!), for small distances you can grab a motorbike taxi for 10-15Y. Unlike Vietnam, there is not, however, a specific app to call them, but motorbike taxi can be easily recognized, waiting and looking at you at street corners.

Public Bus

If you are ready to add some more adventure to your trip, take a public bus!! A lot of big cities are the starting point for some exciting trips, which will take not less than 8-10-12 hours by bus (like Chengdu for Huanglong).

Bus to Songpan | China | © Living-Meanwhile

Due to road conditions, you always know when you leave, but never know when (or maybe, IF!) you will finish your journey! After a rainy day, bridges could collapse, streets could be unusable, or just dirt roads require more time…

And typically, there are road works anywhere… That could create endless queues of hours, cars and trucks totally still. This so common, that along the “queues” you can easily find a “noodles lady” offering you some food!! (anyway, always take something to eat and drink with you, while traveling in China).

Noodles Lady | China | © Living-Meanwhile

Along the journey, the bus stop usually every 2 or 3 hours. There, you can buy drinks and food (sometimes cooked eggs and panicles) and go for toilets!

Bus to Lijiang | China | © Living-Meanwhile

In the toilets, don’t forget to pay 1 yuan. Bus stops are the only place in China where a little payment is needed (all others are totally free!). But..1 yuan for that…believe me, it worth the experience!!!! Forget about doors (and take a look at my post here!)

Public Toilets | China | © Living-Meanwhile


In China, it is not possible to buy train tickets no earlier than 30days in advance. If you have a strict schedule, my advice is to refer to an online travel agency to book your main routes on the journey. For bookings train from outside China, I referred to Travel China Guide (click here for the website). I found them super good and reliable. As soon as the possibility of buying a ticket opens, they book it for you, sending by email your TICKET ID. However, you can travel on China’s trains only with a PAPER ticket. So, you have just to go to the train station in advance, give to the office your ticket ID (and passport!) and they’ll give you back your paper ticket! For a deeper explanation about how to collect your train ticket, get a look here.

1°) Cheapest option – HARD SEAT: for sure not the most comfortable choice for long trips, but very inexpensive and can give you a nice picture of Chinese real life also in a short distance! If you want to be cool like a Chinese (get a look at my post, here!)… bring some food (better if dry noodles, there’s always a boiling water dispenser waiting for you!). It’s allowed to smoke, but only in the tiny spaces between coaches.

Hard Seat | China | © Living-Meanwhile

2°) Romantic option – HARD SLEEPER: the ultimate Chinese experience. Do it at least once in life! The coach becomes a kind of big family, eating, drinking, sleeping together. The most surprising thing to me was the deep feeling of security and welcoming. For night trips, you can also choose the SOFT SLEEPER option, more expensive. Hard sleepers compartment are usually composed of six berths, in three levels, on the two sides bed, with no door. While Soft sleepers have two upper and two lower berths (wider than the hard ones), and each compartment has a door. For more infos about train class choice, refers to the link here.

Hard Sleep | China | © Living-Meanwhile

3°) Fastest option – HIGH-SPEED TRAINS: also known as fast or bullet trains, with a max speed of 350km/h, these trains connect the most relevant destinations all along China. Just be aware, bullet train stations are sometimes a little bit farther from the city center than the slower train stations.

Domestic Flights

Despite I recommend you taking trains, due to reliability and fastness, as your primary transportation choice in China… for some destination domestic flights could be necessary. Especially for the smallest cities (<10mln habitant…!!), airports are usually located close to the city center and well connected by bus, train or metro.

For more pictures of my trip to China, click here!


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