Traveling by train in China

After two separate overnight trips on Chinese trains, I wouldn't travel overnight in China by train any way except the soft-sleeper cabin, the equivalent of second-class on a Russian train and which also happens to be the equivalent of first-class on a Chinese train. The hard-sleeper cabins in China are nine to a berth, with little room to secure your luggage safely.

You could also just pay for a seat, as many Chinese people do, even on overnight trains, but you will have to sleep sitting upright, with a constant death-grip on all of your belongings. I'd be fine with getting only a seat on the train if the train weren't overnight, but if the train isn't overnight you're probably better off taking an express bus, which it seems are usually cheaper and faster.

Soft-sleeper train cabin in China; luckily from Shiyan to Beijing (20 hours), I was the only person in the entire cabin, except for one hour between 12:30am and 1:30am, when the attended unlocked the door for another passenger who entered the cabin, slept for an hour, and left.

When traveling by train in China, all passengers are registered (don't forget your passport) upon entering. The above photo is from my trip between Shenzhen and Guilin, on the train seen below.

Chinese train.