Both domestic flights and high-speed trains operate frequently between Beijing and Shanghai, one of the most popular touristroutes in China. But which one is better?

Beijing to Shanghai by High-Speed Train Versus Airplane

Airplane Bullet Train
Ticket Price 600–1,490 CNY (88–219 USD) 553–1,748 CNY (81–257 USD)
Duration 2–2.5 hours 4.5–6 hours
Total Travel Time 6 hours 7–8 hours
Punctuality Sometimes there will be delays Punctual
Seat Space Cramped More leg room
Traveling with Children Not recommended Recommended

shanghai to beijing plane vs bullet train


High-Speed Train

The price of a second-class seat on the Beijing to Shanghai high-speed trains is 81 USD per ticket and first-class seat is 137 USD per ticket. Price for bullet trains is fixed.


Air fares fluctuate according to the season and command. A flight ticket from Beijing to Shanghai is usually from 90 USD to 219 USD.

In most cases, a high-speed train ticket fare is cheaper than the cost of a flight. When airlines offer major discounts, however, air fares can be cheaper than high-speed train tickets at about 80 USD per ticket.

Travel Time

A high-speed train takes about 5 hours to get from Beijing to Shanghai, and a flight takes about 2.5 hours. Obviouslytaking a flight is much faster than a bullet train.

The total travel time for both options, which includes the commute from the railway station/airport to the city center and the check-in time, however, doesn’t have much difference.

High-Speed Train

The total travel time from Beijing to Shanghai by high-speed train is about 7 hours. The train takes 5 hours to get from Beijing to Shanghai, plus about 30 minutes to an hour for both cities' local transportation.

The Beijing to Shanghai high-speed train terminus stations are Beijing South Railway Station and Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station. Both have convenient connections via the metro or buses.

Beijing South Railway Station is located within the 2nd Ring Road and is much closer to the downtown area than Beijing Capital International Airport. Subway Line 4 will transport you from Beijing South Railway Station directly to Tian'anmen Square in less than 30 minutes.

Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station connects to the center of the city by Shanghai Metro Line 2 in about 30 minutes. Taxies from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station are cheap and abundant.


The flight from Beijing to Shanghai will take 2.5 hours, plus an hour to 2 hours to get from the airport to the city center. It takes more time getting through security at the airport than it does at a high-speed train station.

If your flight lands at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, the time and cost for local transportation will be higher.


Because of China's well-established high-speed rail network and the fact that trains are not easily affected by weather, high-speed trains are nearly always on time. In comparison, flight delays are common due to the overcrowded airports and bad weather. It is reported that among the world's 100 busiest airports, several airports in China suffer the longest delays, including Beijing Capital International Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Flights are delayed by 43 minutes on average.

Travel Experience

Most people consider that taking a high-speed train is more comfortable than taking a flight. Second class on a high-speed train offers more leg room than economy class on a flight. First class has more space than second class.

You can also move around freely on a train, and use electronic devices and the Internet during the whole journey. You will enjoy seeing China's countryside scenery along the way.

The disadvantage for taking a high-speed train is that sometimes it can be noisy on board, especially if you travel second class during the summer holiday. Choose first class if the need for quiet and privacy is an issue for you.

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  • How to Read a Chinese Train Ticket
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