I need to travel next week to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu to renew a passport. Have never done this before. Has anyone taken a soft sleeper train to Chengdu arriving in the morning, then gone to the consulate appt., and then taken the train back later in the afternoon? Any tips or suggestions? I've heard that the train ride is relaxing with lots of nice scenery. Just wondering if 2 people traveling together would have to share a sleeper compartment with 2 strangers.
unless you're a plane-hater look into the price of flights, as the Kunming-Chengdu route can be surprisingly cheap. e.g. 300-500 kuai one way is not unheard of. soft sleeper train is likely not much cheaper than that. it's something like 19 hours on the train and 1hr10 on the plane, so factor that in too.
the Traffic Hotel www.gokunming.com/en/listings/item/tra_27025/traffic_hotel has (smallish) good value rooms, should you need to stop over - 150 kuai a night if i remember rightly.
other people will likely occupy the other two berths in the sleeper compartment. and yes, they'll snore.
Thanks hedgepig! Yes, I'm weary of pane travel and could only find 700 kuai one way tickets(maybe because its too close to the upcoming May 1st holiday). So opted for the soft sleeper to ourselves at 1540 kuai. I'll follow up with a rating of our experience. We'll try the Traffic Hotel too! Many thanks!
Er... "plane travel". (Freudian slip)
Soft sleepers are great. The soft sleeper usually comes with a DOOR to keep out the riff raff (and other noxious odors). Security is higher. And SOMETIMES (rarely) the electrical outlets even work (you'll have to ask the conductors though). Soft sleepers come 4 racks (beds) to a cabin - upper and lower bunks. The upper bunk can sometimes be stowed.
The trains come with restaurant sections (tables and chairs/benches). Food is so-so - usually too salty (cooks smoke so they have no sense of taste) - but beats buying a large bag full of snacks outside the station - of course everything inside the train has slightly higher prices. One can stroll around, stretch your legs. If you smoke - you can hammer nails in the areas between cabooses (is that what they're called?).
Train stations abound with thieves and pickpockets - both on the train, inside the station, and at the exits. Beware the "black" or illegal taxis.
They usually pop out to KM a few times per year. If you're not in a rush (you probably are) - they can do mail order (express mail for a fee - about ¥20), plus the exhorbitant obscene criminally excessive yada yada yada embassy fees - each item usually starts around ¥500-700+, and are reasonably quick on the turn-around. Aside from notary services, most things can be handled via express mail for US Citizen Services, including most US Passport renewals. Even if you go to Chengdu - a renewal (or extension) will take time.
DO NOT forget to retrieve your old cancelled passport if it has visa stamps, entry stamps, or anything else that was stamped in China. You'll need those stamps for visa extensions/renewals/exit/entry in China, otherwise you're looking at some serious administrative pain from the public security side.
Enjoy the trip! Be safe. Be alert. And be especially aware of the abundant thieves and pickpockets. Black Market US passports can allegedly fetch USD 10k or more. And...also be reasonably alert both inside and outside the Chengdu consulate.
Thanks for suggestions. We took the sleeper. It was super comfortable with no hassles or stress. However, the train tracks do go through A LOT of tunnels which is a little annoying. All in all I'd do it again. As far as the consulate goes - very easy to find from Traffic hotel and no hassles - just adding passport pages. I even squeezed in a trip to Ikea, so that was fun as well. However, BEWARE of the security Xray process at the train stations. The station was very crowded at Chengdu, many people pushing ahead to put their bags on the conveyor belt, then running through the metal detector, grabbing their bag and running off. Get the picture? We thought someone had stolen one of our bags for a few minutes. The xray security basically told us "I guess someone took it". But we later found it wedged under the conveyor belt and the floor. PHEW!!
A new high speed rail line from Dali to Chengdu will begin next month. I believe July 1, but need verification.