A more comfortable & affordable way to travel is the soft sleeper. Most western travelers like to choose this class of traveling.
- 4-berth compartments with two upper and two lower berths
- The compartment door could be locked
- All necessary bedding is provided, including a sheet, aquilt or blanket and a pillow
- A small table
- Some trains even have individual TV screens and power sockets for laptops & mobiles.
If you're on a tight budget, you could travel in a hard sleeper, as many western backpackers do. The so-called hard sleeper is generally less comfortable than the soft sleeper. The space tends to be cramped and inclined to be noisy at times.
- 6-berth compartments with 2 upper, 2 middle & 2 lower berths.
- Open-plan carriages, no door for compartment
- All necessary bedding is provided, including a sheet, a quilt or blanket and a pillow
- A small table
- Newer trains even have power sockets for laptops & mobiles.
There is a slight difference between soft seats and hard seats. ‘Hard’ seats are usually padded and reasonable comfortable, in spite of the name. The carriages are noisy and crowded with people at times, especially during peak season.
Short distance daytime trains often only have hard class seats, though some inter-city trains have both soft & hard seats. Usually, people holding standing-room tickets are arranged to stand along the aisles of hard-seat carriages.
Nowadays, you'll see '1st class' & '2nd class' seats on the new high-speed trains, in the categories C, D & G. There are no hard seats on these trains; the Chinese officially classify these seats as '1st class soft seat' and '2nd class soft seat'. There are 5-6 seats in a row for '2nd class seat', and 4-5 seats for '1st class'. The 1st class is more comfortable and provides more spaces for the legs than the '2nd class'.
1st Class Seat
2nd Class Seat
In addition to the normal classes, a few trains may have deluxe soft sleepers, such as Beijing-Hong Kong, Beijing-Shanghai & Beijing-Xian. These are 2-berth compartments with private toilet. There are only limited numbers of these 2-berth compartments available.