We purchased our ticket from Hung Hom train station in Hong Kong a few days before we wanted to depart. There were only a few tickets left at this point, so I would suggest trying to book your tickets at least 1 week before, especially if there is a big group of you wanting to be sat together.
There were three different ticket types: Hard Sleeper, Soft Sleeper and Deluxe Soft. The hard sleeper, sleeps 6 people with a three tier bunk bed on each side of the room. This is the ticket we went for. Our tickets cost us 574 HKD each (£50 each). If you are on a budget you must book at the train station and book a upper hard sleeper bed, this is the cheapest option.
Hard sleeper consists of open bays of 6 bunks (upper, middle & lower) on one side of an aisle. In spite of its name, berths are padded, bedding is supplied, and many budget western travellers prefer it. There are fold-out seats in the aisle either side of small tables.
Soft sleeper consists of spacious carpeted & lockable 4-berth compartments, with toilets & washrooms at the end of the corridor. Note the lacy decor & flower in a vase on the tablecloth! Some trains even have personal TV screens for each berth.
Deluxe Soft Sleeper 2-berth deluxe soft sleepers have upper & lower berths on one side of the compartment, a wardrobe and armchair on the other side. This room also has a private toilet and washroom.
Train T98 runs from Hong Kong to Beijing on odd dates in Jan, April, May, Aug, Nov, Dec 2010 & even dates in Feb, March, Jun, July, Sep, Oct 2010. It runs at 3.15pm and arrives at Beijing West station at 14.50pm the next day.
Check www.mtr.com.hk for up to date train times and fares.
We got to the Hung Hom station 1 hour before we had to depart. We were told to give ourselves plenty time as you have to go through security and go through passport control. You will need to show your passport with your China Visa and also your departure card for Hong Kong.
Once we went through security we had to find the room with our train number on. It’s lay out was similar to an airports departure hall. All the announcements for the trains were called out in Chinese, so make sure you ask or look out for your train number, on a board that they hold up. One guy missed his train, even though he’d been sat there the whole time, he just didn’t realise his train had been called. You have to wait in the waiting room like you do in an airport, for your train to arrive and then you board about 30 minutes before. The gates close 10 minutes before departure and you will not be allowed on if you are late.
We got onto the train and found our beds. We were in a room with 4 other Chinese locals. There is luggage space under the bottom beds and also near the upper beds. There were two seats outside everyone room, for you to sit on whilst you weren’t sleeping. The problem is there are 6 people in each room, so it’s not also easy to get a seat. Further more only some seats had plug sockets beside them, which caused quite a fight between people wanting to charge phones and lap tops.
The journey was comfortable although it was very long! It is good because there is plenty space on a train for walking around to stretch your legs. I also sat and enjoyed the many things we passed on the way and used the time to catch up writing in my journal and plan our time in Beijing.
We arrived in Beijing at 14.50pm on Friday 11th June. When we got off the train we had to go through passport control again and we got a stamp in our passports, showing us we had 30 days in China. We had our reservation at the hotel booked and planned on getting a taxi to the hotel. This was not as easy as we had hoped! We had the address written down in English, but none of the taxi drivers could read it. This was very frustrating as we were tired, but it was our own fault for assuming they would be able to read it. We managed to get onto the lap top and find the hotel phone number and we finally gave that to a taxi driver. This was 1 hour after we had arrived at the train station.
Nothing is written in English at the train station so it is difficult to understand what to do and where to go. When we came out of the train station Taxi drivers were coming up to us trying to get us to get in a taxi-they tried charging us 150 HKD (£15) for the journey. Paul finally noticed a sign for a taxi rank and we realised that we were in the wrongplace to get taxis. That’s when we decided to go down to the taxi rank. All the taxi’s here have meters and charge you 2Yuan (20p) per km with a minimum of 10Yuan. Just remember if you don’t see a queue then it’s probably not a taxi rank also make sure they use the meter.
Well we finally got to our hotel. We are staying in the 1 Hai Inn (also known as the Candy Inn), located near the Lama Temple in Beijing. The hotel is really nice. There is a bar and lounge area and the staff all speak English and are very helpful. We are central and close to a subway station, so it is great for getting around the city.
We will write about our time here in our next blog.
Ruth and Paul