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Peng

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Beijing native, been to Nanjing many times

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Asia > China > Nanjing > Useful Info
Submitted on Dec 18, 2019 Useful Info

Best way to travel between Nanjing and Shanghai

  • Nanjing is 270km west of Shanghai. 10 years ago this journey would've taken a good chunk of a day to travel, but now it's very easy to go back and forth between these two cities quickly
  • The best way to travel between Shanghai and Nanjing is by High Speed Rail
  • This is among the busiest rail corridors in China, with over 200 high speed trains going from Nanjing to Shanghai and vice versa every day
  • Nanjing to Shanghai: 237 trains everyday departing as early as 3:33am in the morning to as late as 12:55am past midnight
  • Shanghai to Nanjing: 249 trains everyday departing as early as 5:45am in the morning to as late as 10:50pm at night
  • Because of the frequency, you generally don't have to worry about being able to get a ticket on the train even if you buy your ticket on your day of travel (outside of busy travel seasons like the 3 weeks around Chinese New Year and 2 weeks around October 1st National Holiday week). Still, I recommend getting your ticket ahead of time for a peace of mind. More details on how to do this below
  • Fare:
  • 2nd class: 135-145 RMB ($20-$23USD) per passenger each way
  • 1st class: 219-229 RMB ($31-$33USD) per passenger each way
  • Business class: 419-451RMB ($60-$65USD) per passenger each way
  • Which class to buy: I recommend getting 1st class because it's much less crowded than 2nd class, and it's only slightly more expensive. There's not much difference in seats between first and second class though. Business class is quite nice but I don't think it's worth the extra cost for the relatively short travel time. Below are what each class of seats look like:
  • 2nd class:User submitted photo of Nanjing
  • 1st class:User submitted photo of Nanjing
  • Business class:User submitted photo of Nanjing
  • Travel time: most high speed trains take 1.5-2 hours between Shanghai and Nanjing. Travel time varies by train and the stops they make in between. Can be as short as 1h11min to as long as 3h25min. The benefit of high speed rail is that they're extremely punctual. I've taken these trains for more than 5 years in China and they've been delayed maybe once in my memory
  • How to buy tickets:
  • You can buy tickets for any train at any railway station in China, does not have to be at the origin or destination station. At the station just follow the signs for "Tickets" to get to the ticket hall and then get in any of the lines for a human-staffed counter (do not use the machines as they require you to have a local Chinese ID to purchase). You must bring your passport with you to purchase. Credit cards are NOT accepted for payment, only cash and mobile payment (AliPay and WeChat Pay)
  • A much better way to get your ticket is to book online ahead of time. The official web booking site is 12306.cn, but if don't have a local Chinese ID then you can only use Trip.com. Booking on Trip.com is pretty easy as it's a very internationalized travel booking site similar to Expedia, supports lots all major languages, and you can use international credit cards including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc. for payment. You can buy tickets on Trip.com up to 30 days before your trip date. Once you booked on Trip.com, you will get an email with the confirmation number. How to pick up your online-booked ticket: note down the confirmation number from the email and bring your passport with you to any train station. At the ticketing hall (follow the overhead signs at the station for "Tickets", this hall is usually located before the security line to get into the terminal building, but at some stations including Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station, this office is located inside the terminal building after you get through the security line), get into a line for any of the human-staffed counters. Give the staff your passport and show them your confirmation number, and they will give you your ticket
  • How to board your train:
  • Your ticket will specify the train departure time and train number (high speed trains will all start with either the letter "G" or the letter "D").
  • Go to the giant overhead display board at the entrance to every train station (past the security line, which will check your passport and give you a full body scan), and match the departure time and train number to the board to find your boarding gate. Be at the boarding gate 20 minutes before the specified departure time because that's when they start letting people in. The gate closes 5 minutes before departure time.
  • At the boarding gate, you need to use the human-checked lane because all other lanes are automatic with the Chinese national ID. The human-checked lane is for passports and is usually the left-most lane (but at some stations this might be the right-most lane, just use your judgment and see which lane has a uniformed staff manning it). Present your passport and your ticket to the staff who will let you through
  • Once you've gone through the boarding gate, go the correct platform and find your car number, which will be specified on your ticket. Then find your seat number in that car
  • This is the key pieces of information you need to get from your ticket:User submitted photo of Nanjing
  • Departure and arrival stations:
  • Nanjing: either Nanjing Railway Station (located here, on metro line 1) and Nanjing South Railway Station (located here, also on metro line 1) have high speed trains to and from Shanghai. Nanjing Railway Station is closer to the old city where most of the tourist attractions are, and the South Railway Station is closer to the new central business district and the Olympic village area
  • Shanghai: either Shanghai Railway Station (located here, on metro line 1, 3, and 4) and Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station (located here, on metro line 2, 10 and 17) have high speed trains to and from Nanjing. Shanghai Railway Station is located much closer to downtown Shanghai, and Hongqiao Railway Station is located adjacent to, and connected by a 2-minute walk way with the Hongqiao International Airport (airport code: SHA), one of the two main airports serving Shanghai
  • Where to store your luggage: small pieces of luggage can be stored overhead. If you have large pieces of luggage, you need to store them behind the last row of your car. The space is limited so if there's no more space there, you can try to store it behind the last row of a neighboring car. Some trains have dedicated luggage racks but not all of them do. There's no such as checked luggage on high speed trains in China, you keep your luggage with you at all times
  • Other things to keep in mind about taking high speed trains in China:
  • You must have your passport with you at all times. You need to supply your passport number when booking your ticket, show your passport to enter the station, show your passport again at the boarding gate, and even on the train they may check your passport
  • High speed trains are very crowded as it's become the most popular way for Chinese to get around. In tier 1 cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou) and some tier 2 cities around these tier 1 cities (including Suzhou, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Tianjin), queueing have become much better in recent years, and most people don't cut in line anymore. But the line itself is still not perfect as people don't stand in a straight line but rather in a line-ish crowd, especially at the boarding gate. Outside of the cities I mentioned above, line cutting is still very common. So just be patient. I usually call people out when they cut in front of me
  • Give yourself at least 25 minutes at the station before your departure time if you already have your ticket, and 40 minutes if you don't have your ticket already. This is to avoid any unexpected delays. The boarding gate closes 5 minutes before departure