Five New High-Speed Train Routes in China to Know About (2023)

WildChina > WildChina > Five New High-Speed Train Routes in China to Know About (2023)

These five new high-speed train routes introduced in 2023 are changing China travel for the better, making for easier, faster and more scenic connections between some of the nation’s top destinations.

Lijiang – Shangri-La

Average time: ~1.5 hours

Previous connection time: ~3 hours driving

1st class ticket price: Starting from around $10 USD

New high-speed rail line through Tiger Leaping Gorge, November 2023. Credit CGTN/CFP
New high-speed rail line through Tiger Leaping Gorge, November 2023. Credit CGTN/CFP

One of the most classic travel routes in Yunnan is Dali to Lijiang to Shangri-La. Just a few years ago, a road trip connecting these three places, a lengthy three or more hours of driving, road conditions allowing, was the best and most direct option available. In 2019, however, the opening of a high-speed train between Dali and Lijiang, followed now by the line between Lijiang and Shangri-La, offers faster, more reliable and cheaper options.

The new train between Lijiang and Shangri-La yields both breathtaking views of Tiger Leaping Gorge from unprecedented heights and vantage points, and takes less than half the time of driving (plus, for those prone to car sickness, it’s much smoother too)!


Chengdu – Jiuzhaigou

Average time: ~3 hours*

Previous connection time: A 1-hour flight (though not daily) or a 7.5-hour drive

1st class ticket price: Starting from around $50 USD

Jiuzhaigou 2023, photo by WildChina Sichuan guide, Arthur
Jiuzhaigou 2023, photo by WildChina Sichuan guide, Arthur

Despite being one of China’s most iconic natural wonders, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot, Jiuzhaigou is notoriously hard to access. This year, however, things began to change. In June, Ritz Carlton opened their first Reserve in China, Rissai Valley in Jiuzhaigou. (The reviews so far have been rave – take it from a traveler of ours who stayed there in October: “Rissai Valley is one of the most beautiful hotels I have stayed in, and the service was truly top notch.”)

In addition to new luxury accommodation, there is a high-speed train line opening which will link Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou in around three hours. This is a huge step in providing access to the area, given that the current options are a non-daily direct flight or a whopping seven-and-half-hour drive. It is also worth noting that the new train route includes a stop at Sanxingdui, one of China’s most significant archaeological sites, now only 18-minutes by train from the Sichuanese capital!

Upon completion, the new line will run all the way from Chengdu to Xining (the capital of Qinghai province) and Lanzhou (the capital of Gansu province), providing spectacular views along the way across the remote reaches of Amdo Tibet and the greater Tibetan plateau.

*Currently the train line is only open to Zhenjiangguan (~1.5-hour train ride from Chengdu followed by a 2.5-hour drive to Jiuzhaiguo).


Guiyang – Nanning

Average time: ~3 hours

Previous connection time: 7 hours driving

1st class ticket price: Starting from around $60 USD

Rice paddies in Guizhou
Rice paddies in Guizhou

Another new high-speed train now connects the capitals of Guizhou and Guangxi, 482-kilometers apart, in just three hours. Along the way, travelers can expect sweeping karst vistas, verdant farmland, gaping caverns and contorted hills.

The train is more than a mere scenic marvel though. The route passes through 41 environmentally-sensitive areas and 30 minority villages, so safeguarding against disturbances to these remote areas is crucial. To achieve this, local authorities worked with engineers to evaluate potential issues and produce solutions such as light and sound barriers to minimize the impact of the new train on local nature and communities.

Not only is this new train a great option for those linking trips between Guiyang and Nanning, but passengers are also treated to rare views of far-flung villages and wild places along the way, all while knowing their fleeting presence will have minimal impact on the communities through which they travel.


Hong Kong – Guilin

Average time: ~3 hours

Previous connection time: 2-hour flight (current connection is now a minimum 7-hour connecting flight)

1st class ticket price: Starting from around $90 USD

Guilin, Guangxi
Guilin, Guangxi

Hopping on a train in the densely populated urban center of Hong Kong and stepping off three hours later in one of China’s most iconic natural landscapes, the rolling hills surrounding Guilin, is truly an experience like none other. And, as with any great journey, it’s not just where you start and end, but the getting there, that makes it all the better.

From Hong Kong to Guangzhou, the scenery is pure megacities – buildings upon buildings as far as the eye can see. As the journey progresses, rural scenery begins to punctuate the architectural display, giving way to a patchwork of rice paddies and horizon-reaching karst humps. Even if there was a direct flight (which there currently isn’t) we’d still recommend this train journey as a must-do!


Kunming (China) – Vientiane (Laos)

Average time: ~10 hours

Alternate connection: A 2-hour flight

1st class ticket price: Starting from around $120 USD

Xishuangbanna, Yunnan
Xishuangbanna, Yunnan

The majority of international travelers to China enter by air. A few enter by sea, usually for a day or two as part of a cruise ship shore excursion. But the least common border entry is, undisputedly, by train.

There are only a few ways to enter mainland China by train. In the north, there’s the century-old Trans-Siberian railway, crossing the rugged Steppe of Mongolia before terminating in Beijing. In the south, there’s a high-speed line linking the metropolises of Hong Kong and Shenzhen in around 15 minutes. Now there’s another option, a new line linking Laos with China’s southwestern Yunnan province. (It’s worth noting that there is also a train from North Korea to the northern city of Dandong, but to describe this entry as uncommon would be an understatement).

The new high-speed train line links the capital of Yunnan, Kunming, with the capital of Laos, Vientiane, stopping at Pu’er, Xishuangbanna and Mohan in China before crossing the border into Boten, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane in Laos. The total journey takes 10.5 hours from Kunming to Vientiane, and, like the majority of China’s high-speed trains, is not an overnight journey. As such, it’s worthwhile to take advantage of this stellar route by stopping off at Pu’er and Xishuangbanna in China, and Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Vientiane in Laos, all of which are notable destinations worth a day or two of exploring each!