The quickest way to travel between Beijing and Harbin is to fly. At just under 2 hours it’s a short flight.

However, after you take into consideration the busy airports, checking in etc, a trip on China’s high speed “bullet” train may be a better option and certainly less stressful!

If like me you are all about slow travel, then why not consider taking one of China’s sleeper trains (and if you are on a budget this is a great option).

Distance: 1,250km (777 miles)

Flight Time: 2 Hours

Bullet Train: 7 to 9 Hours

Slow Train: 11 to 19 Hours

Beijing to Harbin Flight

There are around 25 daily flights to Harbin and prices can be found for as low as ¥410 ($59) by booking with Trip.com.

 

Getting to Beijing Airport

Beijing’s Capital International Airport is 32 kilometres northeast of the city and is easily reachable by the Airport Express line or shuttle bus.

The Airport Express leaves from Dongzhimen Metro Station on Line 2 (dark blue) and serves Terminal 2 and 3.

There are 16 shuttle bus lines serving Beijing’s major stations and central and suburban areas. 

Beijing to Harbin Train

Trains to Harbin depart both Beijing and Beijing South railway stations. The fast (bullet) train takes from 6 hours 37 minutes and the regular (sleeper) train takes from 10 hours 26 minutes. 

Fast (bullet) Train

There are 7 fast trains per day starting at 06:34 with the last one departing Beijing at 15:15. Prices and times vary depending on the train. See the timetable and price list below for current (2020) information.

The bullet trains travel at up to 300km/h and are a great way to travel between cities in China.

2nd Class seats are comfortable and more spacious than airline seating. There are charging spots for each row of seats, a coat hook and tray table and offer the best value.

1st class carriages consist of a row of 2 seats on either side of the aisle .

Business class contains 2 seats on one side and a single seat on the other.

Fast Train Timetable
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Train Depart Arrival
D29 06:34 14:57
G381 07:54* 14:31**
D25 10:28 18:46**
G393 10:50* 18:29
D101 13:52 21:40**
G371 15:05 22:16**
D27 15:15 22:50**
Fast Train Prices
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Train 2nd  1st  Premiere
D29 ¥313.50 ¥501.50 ¥1019.00
G381 ¥541.50 ¥882.00 N/A
D25 ¥306.50 ¥490.50 N/A
G393 ¥544.00 ¥886.50 ¥1024.50
D101 ¥306.50 ¥490.50 N/A
G371 ¥541.50 ¥882.00 ¥1019.00
D27 ¥306.50 ¥490.50 N/A

Trains depart Beijing Railway Station, unless marked with *, in which case they depart from Beijing South Railway Station.

Trains arrive at Harbin Railway Station, unless marked with **, in which case they arrive at BHarbin West Railway Station.

2nd Class Seat

Second class Seat Beijing to Harbin Train

Seat Description:

1. Most rows have 5 seats (3 on one side, 2 on the other).

2. Less space between seats when compared to First and Business Class.

3. Some seats are equipped with power outlets.

Seating arrangements may vary by train.

1st Class Seat

First class Seat Beijing to Harbin Train

Seat Description

1. Most rows have 4 seats (two on either side of the aisle).

2. First class seats are slightly wider than second class.

3. Some seats are equipped with power outlets.

Seating arrangements may vary by train. 

Business Class Seat

Business Class Seat

Seat Description

1. Most rows have 3 seats (2 on one side, 1 on the other).

2. Some stations provide designated waiting areas for Business Class passengers. 

3. Seats are equiped with power outlets and can be fully reclined.

4. Business Class seats are the most comfortable seat type available on China’s high speed network. 

Seating arrangements may vary by train. 

Sleeper Train

Sleeper trains may be much slower than their fast counterparts, but are more than comfortable and make a great option for budget travellers as they save on a night’s accomodation. There are 4 classes of seat available. See below for current prices.

Hard seats are not recommended for anything other than the shortest of journeys. The seats don’t recline and the carriages are always very busy with people and goods. I once took a train from Urumqi to Luoyang with a hard seat (33 hours) and it is not an experience I would reccomend to anyone!

Hard sleepers are perfectly comfortable and the option I always use when travelling around China. The carriages contain rows of 3 bunks with seats and tables in the aisle. 

Soft sleepers offer a little more luxury and privacy as they contain 4 beds in a sealed cabin. 

Some trains offer a deluxe sleeper option which is two beds per cabin. 

Sleeper Train Timetable
Click Here
Train Depart Arrival
Z157 05:58 16:55**
K339 11:03 03:31*
T297 12:23 02:01
T17 16:40 06:02
T47 18:59 06:18
Z17 21:15 07:12**
Z15 21:21 07:25
Z83 21:55 08:54
K1303 22:13 17:43
K265 13:58 08:06**
K349 14:08 08:27**
Z203 20:21 06:47
K39 23:00 15:12
Sleeper Train Prices
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Train Hard Seat Hard Sleeper Soft Sleeper
Z157 ¥152.50 ¥279.50 ¥427.50
K339 ¥156.50 ¥288.50 ¥440.50
T297 ¥156.50 ¥288.50 ¥440.50
T17 ¥152.50 ¥279.50 ¥427.50
T47 ¥152.50 ¥279.50 ¥427.50
Z17 ¥152.50 ¥279.50 ¥427.50
Z15 N/A N/A ¥427.50
Z83 ¥152.50 ¥279.50 ¥427.50
K1303 ¥168.50 ¥307.50 ¥470.50
K265 ¥152.50 ¥279.50 ¥427.50
K349 ¥168.50 ¥307.50 ¥470.50
Z203 N/A N/A ¥427.50
K39 ¥173.50 ¥317.50 ¥484.50

All sleeper trains depart from Beijing Railway Station.

Sleeper trains arrive at Harbin Railway Station unless marked as follows: * = Harbin East Railway Station, ** = Harbin West Railway Station.

How to Buy Tickets for the Beijing to Harbin Train

You can purchase tickets up to 30 days in advance. Sometimes additional services are added nearrer the time of departure. Tickets do sell out frequently so it’s best to book as soon as you can.

You can purchase tickets for all domestic routes as follows:

1. You can purchase tickets for your journey up to a month in advance from any train station in China. The ticket office is usually next to the main entrance and signposted in Mandarin and English.

The ticket offices can be very busy and it’s not uncommon to wait up to an hour to be served. Ensure you arrive at the station in plenty of time if you wish to buy or pick up a ticket on the day of departure.

2. You can also purchase/collect tickets at any China Railway ticketing office. These can be found throughout China’s towns and cities.

3. You can book tickets online using Trip.com, China’s premiere travel agency. Their website is in English and easy to use. You can book your tickets up to a month in advance. Trip charge a fee of 30 ($4.30) per ticket issued. You can have the option of your tickets delivered to your hotel in China or you pick them up at any station or ticket office described above using the code that will be emailed with your reservation.

4. Most travel agencies in your home country or online can procure tickets but this is the most expensive option and somewhat pointless as you can do this yourself using Trip.com.

Return Tickets

There is no such thing as a return ticket in China. If you would like to come back using the same route then you just have to book a seperate ticket the same way you booked the outward journey.

Facilities on Board Chinese Trains

Hot Water

All Chinese trains have a samovar/boiler in each carraige that provides hot drinking water for hot drinks and instant noodles.

Food and Drink

All trains have a trolley service selling drinks and snacks, but it’s cheaper to buy these in advance. If you forgot or didn’t have time then you won’t starve or go thirsty on board. 

Most trains have a restaurant car. The fast train restaurant serves only rpre-prepared meals that are reheated on board, however the slow/sleeper trains have a kitchen and chefs on board.

Service can vary from train to train, but generally speaking the meals cooked on board are of very high quality and you can enjoy some incredible Chinese food on board. It is pricey (100 for soup, meat dish and vegetable dish) but on long journeys a trip to the restaurant car can help break up the journey.

Toilets and Washing

Most trains have 2 toilets per carriage, usually a squat toilet at one end and a western style one at the other. The toilets are cleaned periodically through the journey. Bring your own toilet paper as none is provided.  There are also washrooms usually with a row of 3 sinks.

Getting to the Station

Railway stations in China are similar to airports elsewhere in the world. Usually they are very large and involve a lot of queuing, although usually the queues move very quickly.

If you have not picked up your ticket then I would advise arriving at least 2 hours prior to departure. If you already have your ticket (see How to Buy Tickets section for more information on ticket pickup options) then 1 hour should suffice.

Once you have your ticket you will need to present your ticket and passport to enter the main station. Have these ready and your passport open to your identity page to avoid holding things up.

At some stations you will see many automtic barriers but unless you have a Chinese ID card you won’t be able to use these. At either end of the automatic barriers there is a manned (or womaned) barrier where you can present your passport and ticket.

Next, you will need to put all your belongings through the x-ray scanner. It’s not important to empty your pockets or take out laptops etc as with airports. 

You will then go through a metal detector and be patted down (front and back).

After the pat-down you are free to pick up your luggage frmo the conveyor.*

Next you will need to find the correct waiting room for your train. In some instances the waiting area will be marked on the top right corner of your ticket (e.g A11, B3). If not, look for the train number on your ticket and then find it on the board and this will show you the waiting area.

At larger stations such as Bejing and Beijing West there will be kiosks selling drinks and snacks, toilets and seating. Some stations have charging points for electronic devices. 

* You will not be allowed to travel with certain items such as aerosol cans (use stick deodorant), scissors or penknives. In some cases they may let you through with the latter if it’s obvious you are backpacking but your details will be recorded and the offending items may be wrapped in tape.

The above really does come down to the luck of the draw. I’ve had scissors from my first aid kit and aswiss army knife confiscated and on other occassions they let me keep them. Usually it’s only an issue in certain parts of China like Xinjiang or during important political meetings in Beijing.

How to get to Beijing Railway Station

Beijing Railway Station is located in Dongcheng District in central Beijing. It is the hub for northeast China which is where Harbin is situated. The station is on Line 2 of the metro (dark blue).

How to get to Beijing South Railway Station

Beijing South Railway Station is located in Fengtai District in central Beijing. It is a hub for China’s fast (bullet) trains. The station is on Line 4 of the metro (light blue).

What to see and do in Harbin

What to see and do largely depaends on the time of year you visit Harbin. Most travellers head there in winter for the world famous Ice and Snow Festival, but there is also plenty to see and do in the warner summer months.

Ice and Snow Festival

The Ice & Snow Festival is the reson most visitors brave the extreme cold of a winter in one of China’s northernmost cities. Each year ice is taken from the nearby Heilongjiang River (famed for it’s translucent qualities) and carved ionto world-famous buildings. The Festival usually starts on 1st January and lasts until early March. See the official website for more information.

Unti 731 Museum

A grim memorial to Japan’s occupation of China, the Unit 731 museum relates to the terrible experiments conducted on China’s population. Not for the feint of heart. 

St Sophia Church

Harbin is inextricably linked with nearby Russia, only 200km away and the city was originally built for workers constructing the Trans-Siberian railway. Much of the architecture including beautiful Saint Sophia Cathedral represents these ties. 

Sun Island

In winter you can walk across the frozen Heilongjiang River to Sun Island, but in summer you can take a boat trip or the cable car for a pleasant escape from the bustling city. 

Yabuli Ski Resort

Yabuli is where the Chinese Winter Olympic Team practice for events. Predominently a ski resort, but if you don’t fancy hitting the slopes, the small town is also pleasant for a wintery walk if you wrap up warm!

Useful Resources for China Travel

Cheap Flights to China: Trip.com

China Tours: Get Your Guide

Hotels & Accomodation: Booking.com

Travel Insurance: World Nomads

VPN: Astrill

Travel Books: Amazon

Steve Rohan

Steve Rohan has lived in China for six years and has travelled the country extensively. From Harbin in the far northeast to Hong Kong in the South, Urumqi in the far west and Shanghai on the East coast, there isn’t much of China he hasn’t discovered by train.