We really wanted to be able to travel overland as much as possible without catching a plane, but that is not possible from Australia or New Zealand.
The only overland option is to catch a cruise boat from Sydney to Hong Kong. All cruise boats leave the Pacific by end of the season in March of every year, so that was not going to work for travel in October.
We had to fly into the starting point in SE Asia. Then we had to get to the kick off point of the Trans-Mongolian railway in Beijing, China.
According to the internet, there are twelve ways one can travel to Beijing from Hong Kong either by plane or train. We had travelled 390,000km since February 2015. We opted for the railway, as we both love train travel. The Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Siberian Railway were the last sections of train journeys we need to complete to have travelled by train across the world.
China has one of the biggest and busiest rail networks in the world, and trains link almost every town and city. Chinese trains are a safe, comfortable, punctual and cheap way to travel around China, and a Chinese train journey is an experience in itself.
The Kowloon-Beijing train is an intercity railway service between Hung Hom Station (formerly Kowloon Station until 1998) in Hong Kong and the Beijing West railway station, jointly operated by the MTR of Hong Kong and China Railway, China’s national rail service.
This blog will help you understand and plan train travel in China, plus how to arrange your train tickets as a non-resident.
The train runs to Beijing every other day. Services use the East Rail Line in Hong Kong, cross the boundary between Hong Kong HKSAR and mainland China at Lo Wu, Hong Kong and then continue along China’s railway network via the Guangshen railway and the Jingguang railway to Beijing. Total journey time is approximately 24 hours, and the train uses 25T class train carriages.
There are two trains from Hong Kong to Beijing:
- High speed trains, or
- Normal speed trains.
The whole journey, 2,475 km or 1,538 miles long, takes about 24 hours, much longer than the high-speed train whose travel time is 9 hours. The normal speed train as a far better experience, as you get to sit back and watch the Chinese countryside roll by.
Beijing-bound passengers from Hong Kong may order tickets from an online reservation system operated by the MTR Corporation. The system is limited to the one-way, Hong Kong to Beijing trips only. Ordering of tickets requires extensive registration, including a Chinese or Hong Kong credit card number, and tickets can only be delivered in the Hong Kong HKSAR, which makes it impossible for most non-HK resident customers to order.
Travellers for Beijing may purchase Northbound tickets at a dedicated counter at Hung Hom Station, whilst Southbound tickets from Beijing to Hong Kong can only be purchased in Beijing or from travel agencies.
We decided to order the tickets online via a Chinese registered travel agency and have the tickets delivered to the hotel in Hong Kong. It costs extra, but at least one knows their train tickets will be on time delivered to their hotel. Time is of essence on the Trans Siberian railway journey.
Contact details are below.
Train Z98 from Hong Kong to Beijing runs on alternate days:
|EVEN NUMBERED DATES||ODD NUMBERED DATES|
The following year, the even and uneven numbered months are the reverse.
TIMETABLE HONG KONG, HKSAR TO BEIJING, CHINA
|HONG KONG TO BEIJING||TRAIN NUMBER||TIME|
|Check in opens||Z98||14.30 pm||Day 1|
|Boarding time||Z98||15.05 pm||Day 1|
|Hong Kong, Hung Hom||Z98||15.15 pm||Day 1|
|Beijing West||Z98||15.30pm||Day 2|
Passengers are advised to get to Hung Hom Station 45 minutes in advance of the departure time for the exit formalities. The boarding gates close 10 minutes before departure from Hung Hom station.
Luggage allowance is 20kg per person. The bags get X-rayed in Hong Kong by railway staff. We travel very light. For 22 months in Asia, Russia and Europe we travelled with 14 kgs each. Keep your bags light, it helps with getting up and down the stairs in the railway stations.
There are three different classes on the train, being:
1.0 Hard Sleeper equivalent to 3rd class;
2.0 Soft Sleeper equivalent to 2nd class, and
3.0 Deluxe Soft Sleeper equivalent to 1st Class
Pricing one way per person – Hong Kong, HKSAR to Beijing, China are:
|HONG KONG |
|HKD$587 (USD$76)||HKD$934 (USD$120)||HKD$1,191 (USD$155)|
Our starting point was MTR station at North Point on Hong Kong Island to Hung Hom MTR station in Kowloon, HK.
We had major difficulties finding the International Railway station in the MTR station, maybe because we were so nervous about going into China unguided. We had been warned by family and our travel agency in NZ not to travel unguided, but we felt safe to do so. In a typical Kiwi fashion, we said we would be sweet plus the dutch stubbornness of having travelled extensively. One piece of advice is to take photos of all your train tickets, and visas in your passports, so if you lose your handbag one still has all their documentation on them. Under Dutch law, I am not required to take on my husband surname, so my passport is issued in my own/maiden name. I therefore always carry a copy of our marriage certificate with us. Make copies of important documentation and photos of them. Another way to keep safe is to put your embassy details in your mobile phone. I had all embassies for 50 countries preloaded into my phone.
A word of advice, when you travel unguided into China is to not talk about politics or religion. Even if a Chinese National comes up to you to talk about life in China, kindly decline the invite.
I was carrying six months of Thyroid and HRT medication with me. I had heard, that over three months will be taking off you. I had an international medical passport, all pharmacy receipts and GP letter with me. I carried all my medication with me in person, in its original boxes with my name on the box, so border officials could see it. I got it all into China and all the way to the Netherlands.
Once, one has cleared customs and exit the HK territory. The doors of the train are locked until one arrives at Beijing West station. You are in China within 20 minutes of leaving Hung Hom railway station. The train stops at the Chinese border at Shenzhen, but one is not allowed out of the train, after 20 mins the trains starts up again.
Next stop is Wuhan, China but again one is not allowed out of the train station as a foreigner, however one can get on to the platform, but you are kept under a watchful eye by the lovely Chinese railway staff.
Despite the staff not speaking English, we were really well looked after by the staff. As we were outside the tourist season, we were 2 of 8 foreigners on board. We were the only Europeans in second class.
We booked two beds in the soft sleeper, meaning 2nd class for USD$326 including booking fee, and courier charge to our IBIS hotel in Hong Kong. There are four beds in a cabin, we had the total cabin to ourselves. The toilet is down the hall, not in the cabin. The toilets on boards are just a hole in the floor directly onto the rails. It will help one to prepare for the standard of toilets one will encounter in Mongolia. Just part of travel.
The train ticket price includes your food on board; however, we were warned by other overlanders to bring our own food on board with us. I had bought coffee, breakfast cereals and toilet papers with us, plus baby wipes to clean ourselves. The food on the train was of good standard, whereas on the Beijing to Ulaanbaatar train was not.
One enters China at Beijing West Railway station. You are directed off the train by staff. Border Police are ready to help you enter into China. After eye scans and finger prints, you go thru the Passport control and you are in China. It is all very easy. Just be patience and kind to the border police as with every border crossing.
We used Travel Agency in Hong Kong of China Highlights for our train tickets from Hong Kong to Beijing.
Sharon Huang, Travel advisor
COST: USD $326 for 2 persons for a Soft Sleeper, or 2nd class.
See Our YouTube Travellers NEST Overland channel:
TRANS MONGOLIAN TRAIN: HONG KONG TO BEIJING, CHINA TRAIN Z98 S1E6 |TRAVELLERS NEST OVERLAND