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Take the Kids: Travel across China



Travelling across China with kids might seem daunting to some. But the good news is that train, plane and even automobile routes are well developed and fairly easy to negotiate. During May Day, we took our three boys, twin 7 year olds and a 3 year old from Beijing to Chongqing, then from Chongqing to Fuzhou and back to Beijing. The 12-day journey involved using all forms of transportation – even motorbikes.

All tickets were booked online, which is easier during busy periods, but they can also be bought from any ticket office. There are several websites for booking which cater to English speakers. Ticketing is now real-name only, including children. However, children under 1.2 metres are free and do not require a ticket. Children under 1.5 metres are half price. For a large family it’s worth booking soft sleepers, which sleep 4 to a compartment, and which have a door that closes and locks. Smaller children can share a bed or share with parents. One ticket, if a shared bed, can be a seat that is upgraded on site.

Trains can be fun for children. There is space to sit and play on the beds, and usually plenty of kids to play with. But be sure to bring plenty of your children’s favourite entertainment and snacks. Meals can be eaten in the car or bought in a box. My kids love eating instant noodles on the train. We often bring boiled eggs to throw in. And one advantage of the soft sleeper section is a sitting toilet, though cleanliness varies. 

Most train stations are connected to long-distance coach stations, if your journey takes you to more remote areas. Most coaches are comfortable enough and the same rules for ticketing apply, though no ID is needed. A possible downside however is frequent delays depending on weather and traffic. 

Flying is also convenient, and if you plan ahead and are flexible, it’s not too expensive. Airports are of course further to get to and have the same security as in any country so plan your bags accordingly. Sometimes flying is the only way to go if you don’t want to spend two days on the train. The route from Chongqing to Fuzhou, for example, goes around some difficult terrain and is about two days long, so we fly that route. The trains from Beijing to Chongqing and Fuzhou are less than 24 hours and with kid prices and sharing beds, much more economical. 

China is such a vast and diverse country, and it’s important for the whole family to get a feel for the different terrain, climates, food; and even people and dialects. So don’t let the fear of travelling with kids stop you!

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