Transport To and From Beijing

Traveling To and From Beijing By Train

Beijing has three important train stations. The main Beijing Railway Station can be reached by the subway of the same name on Line 2 (Circle Line). Beijing West Railway Station is more difficult to reach, with taxi the best option. Beijing South Railway Station can be accessed by the subway station of the same name on Line 4. Always double check your ticket to see which station you leave from. If the ticket says simply “北京”, then you are leaving from the main station. If it says “北京西”, then you are leaving from the west station. “北京南” is for Beijing South Station.

Beijing Railway Station (北京站) is actually smaller than Beijing West. It handles most trains traveling to the near south (such as Shanghai, Nanjing, Suzhou and Hangzhou) and to northern destinations such as Harbin. International trains to Moscow and Ulan-Bataar also leave from here.

Beijing West Railway Station (北京西站) is the city’s biggest train station. It’s a chaotic place. If you arrive here in the morning there will be an enormous queue at the taxi rank and the only other option for getting out of there is by crowded public bus. There’s no option but to wait at the taxi rank – you won’t outwit the locals at hailing a cab on the street. A subway link is (thankfully) under construction. Most trains to the west and distant south leave from this station including trains to Xian and Guangzhou. The train to Vietnam also leaves from here.

Beijing South Railway Station (北京南站) was opened towards the end of 2008 in the lead-up to the Olympics. Extremely modern and well-equipped, Beijing South is the largest railway station in China. Currently it serves as the station for bullet trains traveling between Beijing and Tianjin, and most of the bullet (D) trains to Shanghai and Qingdao. Beijing South Railway Station will also be the arrival/departure point for trains operating on the Beijing-Shanghai High-Speed Railway line once it opens in June 2011. These trains will travel the 1300km journey between these cities in just under four hours.

Beijing is linked to just about everywhere in China by train. There are several overnight trains to Shanghai (11.5-13 hours) and one daytime bullet train to Shanghai (10 hours), several overnight trains to Xian (11 hours), several trains to Guangzhou (22 hours) and a few overnight trains to Harbin (11 hours) as well as two daytime bullet trains (8 hours). Other destinations that can be reached via fast trains from the main railway station include Nanjing (9 hours), Suzhou (11 hours) and Hangzhou (13 hours). Fast trains from Beijing West include Chongqing (24 hours), Chengdu (25 hours), Guilin (22 hours), Nanning (28 hours), Kunming (38 hours) and Urumqi (40 hours).

Queues for buying tickets at either train station can be horrendously long (see picture, left). It is much better to purchase tickets through an agent or your hotel. They will usually charge a fee of ¥35-¥100 or more for this service.

Traveling To and From Beijing By Bus

With such an extensive train network from Beijing there is little reason to travel anywhere by bus, especially as buses are generally the same price or even more expensive than the train. If you’re determined to take a bus, the first obstacle is to work out which of Beijing’s 20 or so long-distance bus stations you need. As a general rule, buses depart from the station that is positioned in the direction from the city center in which you wish to travel (west station for buses that travel west, etc). Following is a list of some of Beijing’s most useful bus stations:

Dongzhimen Long Distance Bus Station (东直门长途汽车站): This one is of use as it has services to Miyun and Huairou, which are transit points for sections of the Great Wall of China, as well as the pretty town of Chengde. It is located at #45 Dongzhimenwai Xi Jie, a little north-east of Dongzhimen subway station.

Xizhimen Long Distance Bus Station (西直门长途汽车站): Has services to the north and west and is one of the city’s biggest. The foolhardy can take buses to Harbin, Hohhot and many other destinations from here. The station is located by Xizhimen subway station.

Zhaogongkou Long Distance Bus Station (赵公口长途汽车站): This station is concerned with buses that travel to the south or southeast. Destinations include Tianjin, Zhengzhou and Hangzhou.