What is the fastest way to travel from Beijing to Shanghai? How about the cheapest? Here we cover all the different ways to get from Beijing to Shanghai to help plan your trip.
As you plan your travel from Beijing to Shanghai, you thankfully have a number of options to choose from. The transportation method you choose really depends on your budget and time frame.
The most common way to make the journey is by high-speed train. Of course, you can also make the trip by airplane, bus, and a select few even make a road trip out of it. Having made this trip many times, I’d like to share with you all the ways you can travel from Beijing to Shanghai and how you can do it.
Below I’m going to walk through the pros and cons of each option. If you’re looking for even more detail for your China planning, check out my book Travel to China | Everything You Need to Know Before You Go. It’s a best-seller for a reason!
**Note: All the travel methods below are applicable whether you travel from Beijing to Shanghai or you travel from Shanghai to Beijing.
1. Travel from Beijing to Shanghai by Train (Recommended)
Traveling from Beijing to Shanghai by high-speed train is the fastest and arguably the best method out there. If I had to make a recommendation to you, this is the way I would go.
Because the high-speed train travels up to 350 km/hr, they can finish the 819 miles within 4.5 hours. While the travel time is longer than going by plane, it’s so much easier to get through train station security than airport security. Trust me!
It’s also worth mentioning that most train stations in China are located in very convenient parts of the city, while airports are often an hour outside of town, adding additional travel time.
- Departure Stations: Beijing South Station (北京南站 Běijīng nánzhàn) to Shanghai Hongqiao (上海虹桥 Shànghǎi hóngqiáo). These stations are both served by subway lines and taxis will be happy to take you.
- High-speed Train Schedule: Trains between Beijing and Shanghai run as early as 7am and depart multiple times every hour through 7pm. There is also now an overnight high speed sleeper train available.
- Ticket Prices: Approximately US$79 to US$250. Check ticket prices here.
Ticket prices vary on the class you purchase. Most trains are broken up into 2nd class, 1st class and business class sections, but generally speaking, they’re all pretty comfortable.
You can use the train ticket booking widget to the right or try to purchase China train tickets directly online. The primary thing to remember is to choose a “G” train, which specifically refers to high-speed trains.
Another reason for choosing this option is to experience the fastest passenger trains in the world. Taking the high-speed train is a fun experience and a speedy ride!
2. Travel From Beijing to Shanghai by Airplane (Easiest)
The second fastest way to travel from Beijing to Shanghai is by plane. In most cases, this will also be the most expensive option (there are exceptions), but for most travelers it might also be the easiest.
The flight is only around 2 hours, but you need to factor time for traveling to the airport, checking-in, getting through security and hoping your flight is not delayed. When all added together, I’d venture to guess there’s a high probability that you will travel from Beijing to Shanghai faster by high-speed train.
- Departure Airports: Beijing Capital Airport (PEK) to either Shanghai Hongqiao Airport (SHA) or Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG). Check flight prices. As with the train stations, airports are easily accessible by metro and taxis.
- Flight Schedule: Numerous flights all throughout the day.
- Flight Ticket Costs: Round trip tickets can be as low as US$150 all the way up to US$400 depending on the flight and when you schedule. You can also check out some tips on how to save money on China flights.
The only circumstance where I recommend taking a plane is if you need to be at your destination on the same day and tickets for the bullet train are all sold out.
Should flying sound like the best option for you, I recommend booking travel from Beijing to Shanghai via Ctrip/Trip.com, which has some of the best prices in my experience.
3. Travel Beijing to Shanghai by Overnight Train (i.e. “Slow Train”)
If speed is not overly important and you are traveling on a tight budget, taking a 12-hour overnight sleeper train is a great means of travel. Sleeper trains run through the evening and you have your own private bunk to sleep away the journey.
The biggest perk from traveling by sleeper train is that it is incredibly budget friendly. Although the costs are similar to the bullet train – especially if you opt for a soft sleeper ticket – you save a night’s worth of hotel expenses with the overnight train. You can also save more money by opting for a hard sleeper ticket, which lacks the luxury of a private compartment and has six beds in a single space rather than four.
READ MORE: Learn about different classes of China trains, including how comfortable they may be and what to expect.
Whatever you do, please don’t take the hard seat for the sake of saving money. Picture yourself sharing seats with hundreds of people in a single carriage without being able to get a single wink of sleep during the entire journey. You are likely to be in plenty of pain from sitting in the hard seat all night long too. This is not at all worth the savings.
While there are many pros to taking an overnight sleeper train, there are a number of cons to be aware of including:
- Tickets should be purchased well in advance. Often times, both soft sleeper and hard sleeper tickets sell out a week or more before the train leaves. This gives you no choice but to brave the hard seats. Don’t let this happen to you and get your tickets bought early!
- Don’t plan on having a perfect night’s sleep. While the bunks are comfortable enough, I always managed to be stuck with someone who snored obnoxiously throughout the night. (pro tip: bring earplugs!)
The last thing to remember here is when buying train tickets is that most of the standard (i.e. slow) China trains are labeled with a “T”, a “K” or just numbers.
4. Travel Beijing to Shanghai by Long-Distance Bus (You’re Crazy!)
More adventurous travelers may see the appeal in taking a long distance commuter bus from Beijing to Shanghai as a means of exploring the countryside and conversing with locals along the way. However, this is arguably the worst way to travel from Beijing to Shanghai.
The journey takes around 18 hours and since there are a number of different kinds of buses (some with beds, some with seats), there are varying levels of comfort to consider.
- Departure Stations: Beijing’s Long Distance Bus Station (祥龙赵公口客运站 Xiánglóng Zhàogōngkǒu Kèyùnzhàn) to the Shanghai Long Distance Bus Station (长途汽车客运总站 Chángtú Kèyùnzǒng zhàn).
- Departure Schedule: Usually there is only one bus that departs in the afternoon, between 3pm-5pm.
- Bus Ticket Prices: Tickets run as low as US$49.
Just a quick FYI: testimonials from foreigners that have made the journey claimed the trip was horrible.
The most recent comments I can find on TripAdvisor dated back to 2007, making me think that no one makes this trip by bus anymore. So do yourself a favor and avoid the long distance bus from Beijing to Shanghai.
5. Travel from Beijing to Shanghai by Car
Traveling from Beijing to Shanghai by private car, while possible, can be complicated. It’s also not cheap and can be more expensive than taking a plane.
In many cases, you’ll be required to pay for the round trip between the two cities, even if you only need one way. The driver needs to get back home!
This isn’t a cost-effective way to travel from Beijing to Shanghai. Although refundable, you can expect to fork over a hefty deposit to rent a car. You can also expect to pay many tollway fees throughout your trip.
Final Thoughts: Travel from Beijing to Shanghai
Honestly, you cannot beat traveling from Beijing to Shanghai via high speed train. Similar to travel between Beijing and Xian, it is the fastest and easiest way to make the journey.
For budget travelers, I recommend taking a sleeper train overnight. This way you save money and can reduce your hotel expenses by a full day.
Have you traveled between Beijing and Shanghai before? What was your experience and what would you recommend?