Foods & Drinks on HSR
On a high-speed rail journey of more than 5 hours, you may consider having a meal or grab something to eat on board. There are dinning cars and trolley carts offering meals and snacks to passengers, while the choices are a bit limited. Now more and more new train stations are facilitated with western style fast food restaurants, and an increasing number of rail routes provide a rich variety of food through an online booking and delivery service, to cater for different dinning needs of travelers. Alternatively, you could do about your eating onboard by preparing some snacks and drinks in advance as most Chinese do.
Most China high-speed trains have dinning cars with tables and seats in the middle of a train around the 5th or 9th carriage. At lunch and dinner time, there will be pre-packed box meals on offer, but only Chinese style cuisines like noodles, rice, vegetables, fried chickens and beefs are available. The meals are kind of simple and limited, similar to the boxed meals supplied on flights, but they taste much better than that on ordinary trains. The prices range from CNY 20 - 65 per person, which is a bit high considering its quality. Dining is not included in the tickets of second class seats and first class seats, so you need to pay extra to buy the food. Actually, during a train trip within 6 hours, only a handful of people would go to the dining car to have meals due to its lack of choice, lack of flavor and high prices. Besides, snacks and drinks are sold all the time in the dining bar, including cola, sprite, beer, soda water, juice, milk, yogurt, coffee, tea, potato chips, biscuits, dried fruit, cake, melon seeds, peanut, fruits in seasons. The prices are a bit higher, but reasonable and affordable at most of the time.
For convenience of passengers in different carriages, you will see attendants wheeling a food trolley cart back and forth through the aisle of all the carriages. A full trolley of packed meals are offered at meal time, which are the same price as those in the dining car. At other times, a trolley cart loaded with popular Chinese snacks, drinks, packed fruits and magazines will be served at times, too. When they come to your seat, you could stop them by a gesture or greetings, and then you could select the snacks and drinks you want. Please note that only Chinese Yuan is accepted for payment.
Having meals for passengers of business class is easier and more convenient as there is an exclusive attendant served for business class travelers. A certain range of free packed meals, snacks and drinks are offered for free. At the meal time, the attendants will come to your seat to let you order their free meal packages, and then bring them to your place. They will also ask for your needs at times, or you could just call them in to serve you something to eat or drink.
So far, 27 high-speed train stations in China offer online food ordering and delivery service through the ticket booking website 12306.cn and its APP (both in Chinese only). You can not only order food provided by the trains but also by other restaurants near the railway stations, such as KFC, MacDonald, Burger King, DICOS for fast food, or local specialties for set menus. The train attendants would pick up the meal and deliver it to your seat. The orders should be made two hours prior to departure, and paid via WeChat or Alipay. Prices of foods ordered online are way too expensive, as there will be a minimum consumption and surcharge for delivery service.
27 high-speed train railway stations includes 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.
If you are an experienced rail travelers, you will find that most Chinese people bring their own food on board, with a big plastic bag fully loaded with various snacks and drinks, such as instant noodles, fruits, bottled water, eat sunflower seeds, peanuts and some spicy strips. Generally, these food purchased from outside stores are cheaper than unpalatable meals supplied on the trains. In case Chinese snacks cannot suit westerner's palates, you could grab some take-away such as hamburgers, chips, chicken dices and drinks from fast food chain restaurants like KFC, McDonald and Dico's in most high-speed railway stations before boarding.
- Please exchange some Chinese RMB before boarding the train as cash, Alipay and Wechat are mostly accepted when buying foods on board.
- Some high-speed trains do not get available tables and seats in dinning car, so you may partake the meals at your own seat.
- Each carriage is equipped with a free water dispenser. You could get water with your own cups, and the boiled water could also be used to heat your instant cup noodles.
- Cleaning bags could be found in the mesh bags of backrests in front of you, which are used to collect the litters. The attendants would take them away at times.
- You could head for the railway station in advance and enjoy a meal in the restaurants inside before boarding if it is close to the meal time.
- If taking a morning high-speed train, you could pack some food as lunch when having breakfast at hotels.