Heading To China This Summer

Discussion in 'Freight, International and Other Rail' started by Deni, Dec 23, 2019.

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  1. Dec 23, 2019 #1

    Deni

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    Deni

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    Just scored a really nice price on plane tickets from Chicago to China in July for my wife, daughter and me. Will try to throw Mongolia in to the mix as well. I've been to Taiwan before but not China.

    Anyone here who has done the trains there any pointers would be awesome. I've looked through a lot of the info on Seat61.com and know how to book high speed tickets but people who have been on the ground there often have some nice specific quirks to point out.

    I guess the big thing I'm wondering how easy/hard it is to traverse the system without being able to speak/read Mandarin.

    Plan to start in Beijing then go to Mongolia (want to take the Trans-Mongolian Railway I'm told they won't sell you tickets for Beijing-Ulaanbaatar in the summer peak season), then down to Xi'an, then to Xingpingzhen/ Yangshuo, and back to Beijing. With a few cushion days in there to hit maybe one more location.
     
  2. Dec 23, 2019 #2

    flitcraft

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    In the Beijing railway stations, they have a window for English speakers, so that makes buying your ticket easy. This isn't true in the smaller cities, though, but Xian and Yangshuo are big foreign tourist destinations, so you'll be fine there. Ulaanbaatar doesn't see as many foreigners, so I would recommend that you have your Beijing hotel front desk staff write out your ticketing request in Chinese. In fact, you might as well have them create slips of papers in Chinese for all of your anticipated train ticket purchases.

    And be sure to have your passports--these days you need them to buy rail tickets. I learned this the hard way--I went via the Metro to the Shanghai highspeed rail station, which took me over an hour, only to discover then that I couldn't buy a ticket to Suzhou (less than an hour away by high speed rail) without my passport. Being unwilling to just turn around and retrace by Metro unless I absolutely had to, I pulled out my Global Entry card and explained in my limited Chinese that it was like a passport identification. One long consultation with two supervisors later, I had my ticket. While enroute to Suzhou, though, it occurred to me that I was going to have to have the same discussion all over again when I returned to Shanghai. (As it turned out, having the outbound ticket and explaining that the Shanghai ticketing staff accepted the Global Entry card as ID made the situation go away.) Still, I wouldn't rely on anything but a passport, now.
     
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  3. Dec 30, 2019 #3

    Deni

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    Good to remember. Even though I travel quite a bit I often forget which countries you really need to remember to keep your passport on you.
     
  4. Dec 31, 2019 #4

    Devil's Advocate

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    I rarely carry my actual passport when I'm not crossing an international border, and find such rules impractical and insecure for daily use, but I do normally carry a color laser photocopy of the primary information pages. This doesn't help in cases where the staff expect to scan your details by OCR or RFID, but being able to make a photocopy of a photocopy seems good enough in many cases. Personally I think it would make more sense to allow an A/B system where the formal entry document (A) is allowed to be stored in a secure location while a day-to-day verification card (B) fits in a normal sized wallet sleeve. There are forms of this solution available for limited regional use, including here in North America, but not for global intercontinental travel (at least insofar as I am aware).
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2019
  5. Jan 1, 2020 #5

    Deni

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    I do the same usually but there are countries (usually oppressive regimes) where you are required to have your passport on you at all times and can be spot checked by authorities at any time. Russia still has that rule leftover from the Soviet days and also legally required in China. I hate having mine on me and usually leave it in a hotel safe when I travel most places (I even forgot our passports once when crossing in to Sweden from Denmark and back for a day trip. No problem) but not an option in China.
     
  6. Jan 11, 2020 #6

    flitcraft

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    I've never been asked to show a passport in China (except for changing currency and buying train tickets!), and I travel to China frequently. Things are definitely tighter than they used to be, though. When I renewed my passport recently, I gave serious thought to getting a passport card in addition to the passport, for using as ID when out and about in countries like China. I didn't, in the end, but I did think about it.
     
  7. Jan 13, 2020 at 6:24 PM #7

    v v

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    flitcraft, have you ever visited SW China?
     
  8. Jan 13, 2020 at 6:51 PM #8

    Devil's Advocate

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    I believe carrying documentation as a non-citizen without permanent resident status is a legal requirement in most countries, including the US.

    Maybe China is different, but I would not expect most Asian countries to recognize or accept a North American passport card as legal documentation.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2020 at 2:56 AM
  9. Jan 14, 2020 at 1:59 AM #9

    TiBike

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    I did a Mongolia/China trip in 2018. Booked my rail tickets through a service. I used china-diy-travel.com but there are others. They were very careful to tell me to double and triple check my information, so it matched my passport exactly. I needed the passport to pick up the tickets at the station. They also gave me directions in English and Mandarin to show to cab drivers and at the station when I picked up my tickets. I took the high speed train from Beijing to Shanghai, a 24-hour train in a four berth sleeper compartment from Nanjing to Guangzhou, and standard trains elsewhere. No problems.

    In Mongolia, I flew. The train schedule didn't work for me.

    I needed my passport as I walked around Beijing, particularly in the Tiananmen Square area -- they even had checkpoints set up on the street. IIRC, there were also checkpoints in metro stations elsewhere in China. I don't know if a passport card or something else would have worked. I keep my passport with me when I travel out of the U.S.

    I mostly used the metro to get around Chinese cities, with an occasional cab ride here and there. Rode on the Mag-Lev in Shanghai, too – that was fun. It's a technology demonstration more than practical transportation, but no less cool for it. I booked my hotels mostly on booking.com, which let me print out confirmations in English and Mandarin, which was very helpful when I needed to take a cab from the train station. Chinese cabbies do not speak any English – I've yet to come across one who does, in either the PRC or ROC. I also picked up a business card or similar when I checked into hotels, and kept it with me just in case I took a cab home.

    Enjoy the trip! And in case you need a spa treatment while you're in Mongolia...

    destroy.jpg
     
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