Exterior of the Shangri-La Express train on a bridge
Interior of the restaurant on the Shangri-La Express train
Interior of the Bar Lounge car
Train attendant providing service to a cabin on the Shangri-La Express train
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Shangri-La Express

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The Shangri-La Express underwent a tremendous upgrade when, in 2017, it received new rolling stock. The private Shangri-La Express (formerly China Orient Express) is not a luxury train, but it is the best way to see this fascinating country. It is the most modern hotel train in China and far surpasses regular train service in every aspect.

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The Shangri-La Express is modern and air-conditioned. It has two levels of service:

Diamond Class has en-suite cabins with double bed. Heritage Class cabins have two lower twin beds and shared toilets and wash facilities in each carriage and separate shower cubicles.


Cereal, fruit, eggs and toast are served for breakfast in the dining car, while the Chinese chefs offer local dishes at lunch and dinner.

Wine and beer are included with lunch and dinner, along with soft drinks, tea and coffee.


The train’s lounge/bar car serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is chargeable outside of meals.

IRT Insights

The Society of IRT recommends upgrading to Diamond Class on the Shangri-La Express. (That’s true even if you’ve booked the less spacious Silver Class on the Golden Eagle train for the Silk Road trip. The Golden Eagle is used for the non-China portion of the Silk Road trip.)

Who should take Shangri-La Express? Those who are more focused on the destination, adventure and the incredible sights outside the window and the sightseeing at the frequent stops.

If you remember to compare your experience with that of regular Chinese trains––you will have a memorable journey.

Do not take this train if you assume the Shangri-La Express to be a Chinese version of the Royal Scotsman. You will be sorely disappointed.

On Shangri-La Express tours that include Tibet, the day-long, 14-hour trip between Lhasa and Golmud is by a regular-service, purpose-built train equipped with special reinforced windows and additional oxygen pumped into the cars.

This line reaches a height of 16,640 feet at the Tangula Pass. The tour operator reserves an entire car on this train, which has 2 and 3 seating. Be prepared for an Eastern-style toilet in one car; a Western-style toilet is in another.

Also, dining is a few notches below that of the Shangri-La Express for lunch and dinner. Again, choose this for the adventure. “The ride is spectacular,” said a past traveler, W. Osborne.

View a blog post and photos of the Silk Road tour, which uses the Shangri-La Express as one of its two trains.

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