3 Ways to Travel China Faster
If you’ve ever been frustrated by the amount of time it takes to get from one place to another in China, read this. Although the methods below won’t make time go by more quickly, they may help shave off a couple of hours here and there.
1. Take Fast Trains & Buses
In the old days in China, there were two types of travel options by bus or train: slow and deadly slow. Nowadays, it’s more like this:
- Deadly Slow
- Super Sonic
While not all options are available everywhere, it’s good to be aware that the first two are available everywhere, and hence to try to avoid them if at all possible.
One easy way to tell if you are getting on a fast bus or train is the letter before the bus or train number. A “K” almost always means you will be on a fast train or bus, and a “D” usually means the train is almost super sonic.
As an added bonus, the quick train or bus is usually much less crowded, has more comfortable seating, and costs just a little more.
One last bit of at advice: You are going to be in for a long, long ride if you don’t get on a direct bus. Like twice as long. Always confirm that the bus you are getting on is a direct one (å€¼ç), or at the very least one with stops limited to once every several hours.
2. Think About Buying “Yellow Cow” Tickets
Scams abound in China – and you always have to be careful not to buy into one. If you’ve ever seen someone selling tickets outside of or right at the entrance to a train station in China, you might think this is one such scam.
From personal experience, though, these guys or girls are virtually always selling real tickets that have been bought up in advance to scalp at a small profit. In Chinese, such tickets are often given the nickname é»„ç‰›. I’ve never bought a fake scalped ticket.
What’s the benefit in buying these types of tickets? Many times the earliest train you can get a ticket through “proper channels” doesn’t leave for 3-4 hours, or even the next day. Part of this is because many of the tickets have already been bought up – the train station might even hand these tickets under the table to scalpers as the time to departure draws near.
“Yellow Cow” tickets often have decent seats on fast trains at a minimal markup (as an example, the “Yellow Cow” ticket counter / war zone at the Suzhou train station sells tickets to Shanghai departing in 30-45 minutes with a 5 RMB mark-up – even with the scary Chinese police all standing around I still go for this kind of ticket) – just check to make sure that the ticket looks and feels real. That way you’ll get on the train even if your ticket is fake – you just won’t have a seat.
3. Buy Departure Tickets When You Arrive
This is pretty obvious advice, but it is often helpful to buy your departure tickets from a particular place the moment you arrive there. This forces a bit of extra planning and perhaps sacrifice (after all, who wouldn’t want to spend an extra three days in Lijiang in Yunnan province after learning how relaxing it is?), but means you don’t end up having to stick around an extra unexpected day or three if you can’t get é»„ç‰› tickets because of particularly strict train station management.
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