By Train

Beijing's two most important railway stations are the Soviet-style Beijing Zhan, southeast of Tian'an Men Square, and the newer Xi Ke Zhan (West Station), between the western Second and Third ring roads. Tickets can be purchased at both stations for any train leaving Beijing up to 4 days in advance. It is now possible to buy round-trip tickets (fancheng piho) to major destinations like Shanghai or Xi'an up to 12 days in advance, subject to availability. Satellite ticket offices (tielu shoupiho chu) scattered throughout the city charge a negligible ¥5 (65i) service fee; convenient branches are just inside the main entrance of the Sanhe Baihuo (department store), south of the Xin (Sun) Dong An Plaza on Wangfujing Dajie (9am-9pm; & 010/9511-4669); and at the Shatan shoupiao chu (ticket sales office) further north at Ping'an Dadao 45, west of Jiaodaokou Nan Dajie (8am-6pm; & 010/6403-6803). Mandarin speakers can check schedules and book tickets by calling & 010/6321-7188, 010/51827188, or the station numbers below.

Beijing Zhan (Beijing Railway Station; & 010/5183-4122) is the easiest to reach of Beijing's two major stations, close to the city center and with its own metro station. The best place to pick up tickets is at the "ticket office for foreigners" inside the soft-berth waiting room on the ground floor of the main hall, in the far left corner (5:30am-11pm). This is the station for trains to Shanghai (4 per day; 14 hr.; ¥317/$39) and cities in the northeast. Purchase tickets for Tianjin (16 trains per day; 1/4 hr.; ¥22/$3) at windows 41 and 42 outside. Both versions of the Trans-Siberian, the original Russian T19 via Manchuria (Sat 10:50pm) and the T3 via Mongolia (Wed 7:40am) leave from here, but you have to purchase tickets at the CITS ticket counter inside the International Hotel (Mon-Fri 8:30am-noon and 1:30-5pm, weekends 9am-noon and 1:30-4pm; & 010/6512-0507), due north of the station on Jianguo Men Nei Dajie. Both trains travel to Moscow (¥2,360/$295 fare for a soft sleeper) but only the T3 stops in Ulaan Baatar (¥778/$97 soft sleeper); there's a separate Saturday train to Ulaan Baatar as well. The International Hotel is also the nearest spot for picking up the airport shuttle bus (see above).

West Station (Xi Ke Zhan; schedule information & 010/5182-6253), designed as a grotesquely exaggerated paean to the old city gates, is a 10-minute walk south of the Junsh! Bowuguan metro station at the end of Yangfangdian Lu. As with Beijing Zhan, the best regular ticket outlet here is not the main ticket hall but a second office inside the main building, on the second floor to the left of the elevators; this is also where you go to purchase tickets for the T97 express to Kowloon/Jiulong (departs 10:05am; 27 hr.; ¥1,028/$129 soft sleeper, ¥662/$83 hard). The West Station is also the starting point for trains to Hanoi, but you have to buy a ticket (¥1,023/$128 soft sleeper only) at a "travel service" booth, open from 9am to 4:30pm (& 010/6398-9485), inside the Construction Bank on the east side of the station complex. Trains leave from here for Guangzhou (4 per day; 23 hr.; ¥443/$55); trains also leave for Xi'an (twice daily; 14 hr.; ¥265/$33) and other points west. The nearest airport shuttle stops at the Aviation Building in Xl Dan (see above), reached by bus no. 52 from the station's east side. Catch taxis on the second floor.

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