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Let the train, take the strain (2)

(China Daily)

09:05, October 03, 2012

"These special sleeper trains connect some of the country's most beautiful tourist attractions; there is no problem with traffic; you can save time and money - what's not to love about it?"

Ticket prices vary depending on which service you chose and how many days you chose to stay on board your moving hotel.

But as a rule of thumb, there are generally four types of train travel in China, to suit all sizes of budget.

The most luxurious is the 'soft' sleeper, normally spacious, four-berth compartments with two upper and two lower berths by night, which convert into two sofas for daytime use. Your bedding is normally provided, there are tables with tablecloths; and usually flasks of hot water for making drinks. Compartment doors lock securely, and there are smartly-dressed attendants looking after each car. In some trains, there are can be TV screens and power sockets for laptops and mobiles.

One step down, are the 'hard' sleepers, which aren't in fact, that hard at all, just more open-plan carriages with a broad aisle on one side housing six bunks (upper, middle, and lower). Despite the name, hard sleeper bunks are reasonably well padded, and bedding is again supplied.

Then, there are soft seat and hard seat options. These are the equivalent to first and second class seats on an overnight European train, but again the 'hard' seats are usually padded and reasonably comfortable, in spite of the name.

Taking a six-day trip, for example, in a lower soft sleeper can cost you about 4,000 yuan ($633) per person, with the most luxurious berths costing up to 10,000 yuan.

Hou's China Youth Travel Service has designed and developed a range of packages and routes for sleeper travelers, including the Changbai Mountain Trip to the north east provinces, and re-traveling the Silk Road, in the south east of the country.

He plans to launch others at the beginning of November, he says, which will cover four or five other scenery spots in Hunan and Guizhou provinces, such as Phoenix Ancient City and Huangguoshu Waterfall, which will last eight days.

"Travelers will be able to visit various spots during the day, and their nights will be spent traveling on the sleeper in comfort."

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