The new branch of Costa Coffee which has opened in the waiting area of Changzhou railway station (north square) not to be confused with Changzhou North station is excellent. It is vast by train station standards. The staff speak some English and stock all the usual (and much missed) delicacies of a western coffee shop.
People from Changzhou are not yet permitted to visit Taiwan without being part of an official in a tour group. This might be because a few years ago a person from Changzhou went on a trip to Taiwan and travelled around lots of interesting Taiwanese tourist attractions leaving graffiti saying he was from Changzhou. This caused a bit of an incident and direct flights from Changzhou to Taiwan were stopped.
This may also be a coincidence as generally only people from first tier cities can travel around Taiwan without being part of a tour group. This rule is a rule set by the Taiwanese rather than the Chinese government, to limit visitors from mainland China to Taiwan.
There are several airports which do have direct flights to Taiwan. The most common way to arrive in Taiwan is by plane into Taipei. there are two airports in Taipei. Songshan (TSA) and Taoyuan (TPE). Flights to Taoyuan are more frequent but it is much further out of town.
The most convenient airport for Taiwan from Changzhou is Wuxi airport with several flights a day. There are also several direct flights from Pudong airport everyday. Nanjing and Hongqiao also have flights but mostly via Hong Kong. The flights via Hong Kong can be cheaper but the total journey time can be much longer.
Inside Wuxi airport there is a separate section for international departures which only opens a few hours before any international flights depart.
Getting to Wuxi airport isn’t very easy without taking a taxi. A black taxi from Wujin to Wuxi airport generally costs between 200 and 300 RMB each way. It is important to agree the price before travelling. Wuxi airport is not near to Wuxi railway station.
There are lots of interesting things to do in Taiwan – especially in Taipei. The Taiwan High Speed Railway makes it very easy to get around the island. The beach area in Kenting (pronounced Kending) – south of Kaohsiung (pronounced Gaoshong) is very popular although a little remote.
While in Beijing this weekend I stayed in a hotel overlooking the back of Beijing railway station – the same station I came into on a train from Moscow in 2000 while in my second year at university. It was a great experience. I got a lot of reading done on that journey.
Beijing railway station is not the same as Beijing South railway station which is where the high speed trains from Changzhou arrive into.
I have always wanted to do the trip again in reverse – buying the tickets at the station to save money, possibly taking a different route.
Before traveling make sure you have a suitable visa for your destination, enough money and travel insurance.
Nanjing is less than an hour by train from Chagzhou. You can get to Nanjing from both Changzhou train stations.
Nanjing train station is quite old, dirty and grim inside but once you are in a taxi or on the underground Nanjing has almost as much to offer as Shanghi – often with a little less bustle and much more varied scenery with mountains and real hot springs.
Just like in Shanghai and Beijing it is possible to buy a smart card for the underground train network. The Nanjing version is much small than usual and doubles as a key ring. To ask for an underground smart card ticket in Chinese ask for a Jiao Tong Ka (交通卡) at the ticket kiosk.
While one side of Nanjing station has little to offer, in the warmer months the side facing the lake is an attraction worth visiting.
Changzhou has two main train stations. Changzhou and Changzhou North. Changzhou train station is split into the north and south terminals. This can cause a little confusion.
For trips to Shanghai and Nanjing people living in Wujin will find Changzhou train station north terminal to be the most convenient station to use. People living in the Xin Bei area will probably find Changzhou north more convenient. Fast trains to Beijing only go from Changzhou North station.
A word of warning about taxi drivers – taxi drivers frequently assume if you are going to Shanghai you will want to go to Changzhou North station rather than Changzhou. Sometimes the only solution is to show them your ticket.
In Chinese Changzhou North station is – Changzhou Bei Zhan 常州北站
Changzhou station north terminal (square) is – Changzhou Zhan Bei Guangchang 常州站北广场
Changzhou station south terminal is most commonly used for slow trains.
Tickets for trains can be bought around 10 days in advance from stations and travel agencies as well as online. It is possible to travel without a ticket, buying a ticket on the train but this is not advisable unless you are Chinese, especially if you want a seat reservation.
Foreigners are not able to use the ticket machines to buy train tickets because the machines are not able to read foreign passports or IDs to print the passport number on the ticket.
The train timetable for trains between Chnagzhou and Shanghai is available here.