No trip to China is complete without a ride on one of their world-famous trains and backpacking in China is a sure fire test of your senses. Not only do Chinese trains provide an extremely affordable and often scenic way to explore the country, but they also allow you to soak up Chinese culture from inside a train carriage.
While train journeys are an eye-opening experience, they can be rather slow. However, providing that you come prepared you will find your journey will be both comfortable and memorable. Follow these four simple tips for a great Chinese train journey.
1. Safety First
While Chinese trains are generally safe to travel on, you will need to make sure that you put safety first. One of the most common issues on trains is theft of belongings. Keep all personal items close to you at all times; if you are travelling on a sleeper train then it is worth placing your backpack next to you on the bed while you sleep. Padlocks may seem like a good idea but bags can still be slashed with them on. Purchasing travel insurance is also important, and it can cover you should something happen on your journey.
2. Food and Drink
At almost every stop you will find sellers jumping on the train trying to flog all manner of sweets, snacks and drinks. However, it is always a good idea to bring some of your own snacks and sealed bottled drinks for the journey. Don’t buy the dirty stuff that can give you diarrhoea!
A lovely idea is to purchase an authentic Chinese food box. You can then have the compartments filled with your favourite local treats for a tasty feast on your rail ride.
3. Stay Entertained
It’s no secret that Chinese trains can be packed, long and often delayed. Keep yourself occupied by bringing along some things to keep yourself entertained. Ideas include a great book, a pack of cards, games and music. iPod with your favourite tunes?
A journal is a lovely way to store thoughts and happenings. China is filled with a host of free festivals and events, such as Dragon Boat Festival, Chinese New Year etc., so you can use the spare time on the train to record your adventures.
4. Comfort and Cleanliness
Baby wipes and toilet roll should be a staple in every train travelers bag. They help you to freshen up after a long journey, and they keep fingers clean after a delicious rice and pork meal. Some people like to bring along antibacterial handwash.
Earplugs are a good idea for helping to catch some Zs during overnight trains, and a sleeping mask will help too. While many sleeper trains will come with pillows and blankets, you may wish to bring your own for extra comfort.
Follow the above tips and you will be sure to have a successful Chinese train journey. Safe travels!