Food is available on Chinese trains. When you are traveling by train, you can buy food from the dining carriage or from trolleys. Besides, passengers of bullet trains (D/G category trains) travelling from specific railway stations can order meals online through China Rail’s official website 12306.cn and app from July 17, 2017.
Not all trains are equipped with a dining carriage, for example some short-distance normal trains. The location of dining cars on trains vary on different types and arrangements of trains. If possible, ask the staff on the train for the specific carriage number and direction.
Location of a dining car
Generally, the dining carriage is located in the middle carriage of a train. For long-distance normal trains, a dining car separates sleeper cars and seat cars. On normal trains with 18-20 carriages, the dining car is usually the 9th carriage (and 10th carriage for those with 20 carriages). For high-speed trains, the dining carriage is often the 5th or 8th carriage.
What is available on the dining car?
- Boxed Meals: meals (Chinese cuisine only) are supplied around mealtimes (lunch & dinner)
- Instant Noodles: one of the most popular foods on trains, mainly because it is fast, easy and filling.
- Snacks: Chinese packaged snacks only, including chips & cookies, breads, nuts, dried fruit and so on
- Fruit and Vegetables in Season: packaged in boxes
- Soft Drinks and Local Beers: milk & yogurt, fresh filter coffee, tea and ice-cream are available; Beer is only sometimes available
In the dining car
Staff will serve you from food counters and provide a Chinese menu. There are tables and 30-40 seats in the dining car. But some seats may be occupied by passengers who have been issued with standing tickets.
You will see staff in uniform wheeling a food trolley through the aisle of the train. Food on the trolley comes from what is supplied in the dining car. When it comes to mealtimes (lunch/dinner), the staff will bring a trolley of packaged staple meals; at other times it is a trolley loaded with instant noodles, snacks, drinks, as mentioned above.
How to Buy?
Usually signal to the staff to stop, pick what you want and pay with cash. They will be able to give change for small sums of money; for larger sums, they will ask you to wait a few minutes until they finish selling and get the change from somewhere else in order to return it to you.
1. Halal food(清真餐) is also available on the dining car. Ask the staff for it if needed.
2. Almost all meals are Chinese style and only simple types of snacks are available. Besides, there is no English speaking staff on the trains; one can only have what the eye can see.
So you are advised to buy food in advance if you are unaccustomed to Chinese food. There are some restaurants like KFC, MacDonald and so on, right inside some high-speed rail stations.
3. Free light snacks are provided to passengers on the 1st and higher classes, including superior and business class; free boxed meals around lunch and dinner time are provided to passengers on business class.
4. Prepare enough cash (RMB or HKD) to buy food on trains.
Order Meals Online
From July 17, 2017, passengers of high-speed trains are able to order meals online at 27 railway stations through 12306.com and app.
The 27 high-speed train railway stations are: Shanghai Hongqiao, Xi’an North, Hangzhou East, Jinan West, Wuhan and Hankou, Nanjing South, Changchun and Changchun West, Shenyang North, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin West, Zhengzhou East, Hefei South, Nanchang West, Fuzhou and Fuzhou South, Xiamen North, Changsha South, Guangzhou South, Nanning East, Chengdu East, Chongqing North, Guiyang North, Lanzhou West and Xining railway station.
What is supplied?
Two different suppliers provide various meals: Train service operators provide boxed meals on trains; restaurants at the railway stations mentioned above, deliver your food to you.
The Restaurants include KFC, MacDonald, Burger King, DICOS for fast food; or Chinese style cafes for set menus of different types of food and flavors.
How does it work?
- Click into "订餐服务 (Booking Meals Online)" on 12306, fill in the information required, including specific date, departure & arrival railway station and high-speed train number.
- Choose the food you like to be supplied at whatever station on the list, then confirm the passenger’s name, mobile, carriage and seat number and finish payment via Alipay or Wechat.
- Upon train arrival at the station where your food supplier is, the delivery man will wait on the platform and give the food to the train staff.
- After picking up the food, staff will directly deliver the food to the appointed seats.
Though the new delivery service allows more plentiful options of food and more convenience to passengers, there are some things that need further discussion:
1. You will be able to be connected to the network to place an order on 12306.cn and app and pay through Alipay or Wechat online. But there is no English in the whole process, so it is difficult for foreign passengers.
2. Not all the railway stations are available for the delivery service; passengers may miss to book food during mealtime when travelling by train.
E.g: Passengers who take train G424 from Nanning East to Wuhan will find the delivery service meaningless, because there is no food supplier after departure until 3pm when the train comes to Changsha South. Rail stations in Guilin do not provide the service.
3. Prices for most of the supplied foods are way too high. The delivery fee for an order is about 8 yuan; besides, there is a minimum amount for some restaurants. It seems not a good deal for passengers who are traveling alone.
4. Orders needs to be placed 2 hours before the departure time of the train. Orders placed online after 8pm will not be accepted.
5. In special cases, like if the train is leaving behind schedule, if changing the planned route or if the service is out of operation, the order will be cancelled and refunded. According to China Rail, meals reserved for more than 2 hours will be discarded.
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