Whether you opt for a plane, train or automobile, travelers can conveniently travel between the business hub of Shanghai and the Chinese capital, Beijing.
The debut of China’s high-speed trains between Beijing and Shanghai in 2008 has made it much easier and efficient to travel between the two cities. More than RMB220 billion was spent to build China's high-speed rail system (gāotiě)—the largest in the world—that crisscrosses four provinces. Dozens of trains whisk travelers daily along the 819-mile (1,318-kilometer) Beijing-Shanghai Railway portion at speeds up to 236 mph (380 kph).
Our guide to China will help you plan your trip. This 12-day highlights tour from Shanghai to Beijing offers an overview of China's rich history and exciting nightlife, from a stroll on Shanghai's iconic The Bund to Beijing's 9,999-room Forbidden City to an 8-day China Golden Triangle tour that includes a short trek along the Great Wall and a tour of the Summer Palace in Beijing and strolls along The Bund and through the French Concession.
Duration: 2 hours and 30 minutes
Flying affords the quickest travel time between Shanghai and Beijing, but by the time you factor in security screening and travel time to and from each airport (the airports in both cities are outside the city center) and potential flight delays, it's easier and more reliable to take the train.
Each city offers two airport options: In Shanghai, Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport is closest, just 8 miles (13 km) west of the city center, and there is the busier Shanghai Pudong International Airport, which is 18 miles (30 km) to the east.
In Beijing, there is Beijing Capital International Airport, the world's second busiest airport, which is 18 miles (30 km) northeast of Tian'anmen Square. The new starfish-shaped Beijing Daxing International Airport—set to be the world's largest airport when it officially opens at the end of September—is 30 miles (50 km) south of Tian'anmen Square. There are approximately 20 flights daily between the two cities.
Duration: 4 hours and 18 minutes to 15 hours and 28 minutes
The high-speed train is the most efficient option between Shanghai and Beijing even though the travel time can be twice as long. Both high-speed and regular trains make the journey daily from Shanghai to Beijing. Second-class and first-class seats are options on all routes, and some also offer Business Class. Long-haul local trains also offer soft and hard seats along with hard and soft bed options.
Shanghai has four train stations, but only three of them offer travel between Shanghai and Beijing. More than 40 trains run daily from Shanghai Hongqiao Station, 11 miles (18 km) west of Shanghai's city center, to Beijing South Railway Station; three trains that make many local stops operate between Shanghai Railway Station and Beijing Railway Station, and the longest local train journey goes from Shanghai South Railway Station to Beijing Railway Station. There is no Shanghai to Beijing train departing from Shanghai West Railway Station. If you're looking to travel on the fastest high-speed trains, book the "G" category trains.
Most trains have a food counter with simple fare like xīhóngshì chǎo jīdàn (scrambled eggs with tomatoes) and there are hot water dispensers to use for making instant noodles, coffee, and tea. Most of the local trains have snack carts that are pushed through each train car. The carts have similar items that can be found at convenience stores in and around the train stations: instant noodles, potato chips, crackers, cookies, bottled soft drinks, beer, and water.
If you decide to take the night train and book a hard bed option, don't be surprised if you wander off to the restroom or dining car and return to your door-less cabin to find other passengers sitting on the foot of your bed or even curled up in your lower berth bed Booking a soft sleeper (there are four beds in each cabin) is more comfortable and secure as there is a door that locks. In the morning, music is played to wake travelers up and welcome them to Beijing.