Whether you opt for a plane or train, travelers can conveniently travel the 844 miles (1,359 km) between Xi'an, the capital of China for 13 dynasties and the starting point for the Silk Road, to Shanghai, China's financial hub.
This 13-Day Best of China Tour offers an overview of China's rich history and exciting nightlife, from a visit to the Terracotta Warriors near Xi'an to a visit to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Yu Garden in Shanghai. Other inspiring trips that include a stop to Shanghai include the 8-Day China Golden Triangle Tour, 11-Day China's Highlights Tour, 12-Day Highlights from Shanghai to Beijing Tour, and 14-Day Beijing to Shanghai Winter Tour.
Duration: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Flying affords the quickest travel time between Xi'an and Shanghai, but by the time you factor in security screening and travel time to and from each airport and potential flight delays, it's easier and more reliable to take the train.
Travelers can take a two-hour and 15-minute nonstop flight from Xi'an to Shanghai. There are dozens of nonstop flights from Xi'an Xianyang International Airport to Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, just 8 miles (13 km) west of the Shanghai city center, and the busier Shanghai Pudong International Airport, which is 18 miles (30 km) to the east.
Duration: 5 hours and 56 minutes to 7 hours and 33 minutes (high-speed train) to 15 hours and seven minutes to 20 hours and 34 minutes (regular train)
The high-speed train is the most efficient option between Xi'an and Shanghai even though the travel time is more than twice as long. More than RMB220 billion was spent to build China's high-speed rail system (gāotiě)—the largest in the world—that crisscrosses four provinces.
Approximately nine high-speed and half a dozen regular trains whisk travelers daily at speeds up to 236 mph (380 kph) between Xi'an and Shanghai (more trains run on weekends and holidays). Second-class, first-class, and Business Class seats are options on all bullet trains. High-speed (non-bullet train) overnight trains offer standing tickets, soft and hard seats along with hard and soft bed options.
High-speed trains operate daily from Xi'an North Railway Station to Shanghai Hongqiao Station, 11 miles (18 km) west of Shanghai's city center. If you're looking to travel on the fastest high-speed trains, book the "G" category trains. There are one or two overnight "D" trains (non-bullet, express trains) that operate between Xi'an North Railway Station to Shanghai Railway Station.
There are local, slower overnight trains from Xi'an Railway Station and Xi'an South Railway Station to Shanghai Railway Station, but these can take up to nearly 21 hours, so we don't recommend them. While the high-speed overnight train trips are time-consuming, passengers can efficiently save one night's accommodation and a day of travel by opting to slumber in a sleeper train.
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 Shanghai.