Bus Travel in China

Buses in China are most useful for relatively short inter-city journeys or for reaching a smaller town near a city. However, with many cities now linked by modern highways, long-distance bus travel in China is often actually faster than train travel. But long-distance bus tickets are often more expensive than train tickets as well.

The quality of buses varies dramatically. Buses to small towns and through rural areas will generally be quite low-quality and the leg room can be painfully inadequate. However, buses that run short trips between bigger cities are often very comfortable.

Long-distance sleeper buses are another viable option. They are generally set-up in three rows of two-level bunk beds. But the rule of thumb with any bus journey in China is to have a decent look at the bus before you board it. You don’t want to spend an overnight journey in a seat you can’t even fit into.

Buying Bus Tickets in China

Unlike train tickets, there is no real need to buy tickets for buses in advance. Just turn up at the station, say the name of your destination to the cashier and you’ll be given a ticket for the next bus. Note that for journeys on minibuses between small towns or villages you will buy the ticket on the bus, not at the ticket window. If in doubt, try at the ticket window first. If tickets aren’t available there, the cashier will point in the vague direction of the bus you need.

Chinese bus stations can be very crowded and somewhat chaotic places and usually there is no indication on your ticket of which gate your bus departs from. So once you have your ticket in hand it’s a game of matching up Chinese characters or showing your ticket to attendants who will point you in the right direction.