There are three types of coaches on the Tibet train seats, the first class soft-berth sleeper, the second class soft-berth sleeper and soft seat coaches. Since the journey is really long, most travelers prefer the soft sleepers.
The second class soft-berth sleeper is also known as a hard sleeper. Actually, both of the soft sleeper and hard sleeper are soft and comfortable. Generally speaking, the main difference between a soft sleeper and hard sleeper is that in a hard sleeper you are in a compartment having 6 beds with 3 levels rather than 4 beds with 2 levels and there’s no door on the compartment. It just provides basic beds and quilts.
It is about 600 hard sleeper berths in one train, so the tickets are relatively easier to be reserved.
A handy comparison of three accommodations
Apparently, soft sleeper enjoys many advantages over other 2 kinds of a cabin. Though the price of a soft sleeper is the highest, it is definitely the best option a tourist can expect to have given the long ride on the roof of the world. One thing to mention is that if one fails to book the seat in a soft sleeper, the lowest bunk of a hard sleeper should be another alternative as the sleeping space of the hard sleeper varies with the lowest bunk being the most spacious comparatively. In addition, compared with hard sleeper cabin, the soft sleeper has a door to close, which shields tourists from annoying passersby and makes the cabin safer at night.
As to hard seat carriage, it is not recommended to tourists because sitting still for too long is not something all people can stand during the long ride on the plateau and there is little privacy as well.
There are 8 hard-sleeper cars on each Qinghai-Tibet train. Each car can hold 60 people which make the total capacity to 480 people. Compared to the soft-sleeper, the hard sleeper is less expensive and less privacy. But you will have more chance to make new friends and share stories, foods and many things with other like-minded passengers.
Don’t let the name fool you, the hard sleeper beds are not that hard. But there is an important difference between a hard sleeper and soft sleeper facilities. There are no doors between hard sleeper “cabins” and the corridor. Each hard sleeper berth has 6 beds (compared to 4 beds in soft sleeper) and since there is no door, each hard sleeper car is like a dormitory. Hard sleeper classes are also usually crowded. A hard sleeper berth is 60 cm wide and 180 cm long.
Hard Sleeper Train Tickets is approximately 35% cheaper than soft sleeper train tickets (but still more expensive than the hard seat class).
There are 2 soft-sleeper cars on each Qinghai-Tibet train. Each soft-sleeper car has 8 small cabins with 4 beds which make it can contain totally 64 passengers. And each cabin has a door to shut which offer more privacy to passengers.
Soft sleeper facilities offer the most comfortable journey on the Tibet train. Although the tickets for this class are expensive (sometimes they can cost as high as a plane ticket to Lhasa), this is the best and most comfortable class and is the only option for privacy.
The soft sleeper berth cabin doors can be closed and provides a more private environment. Although this is the best class on the train, soft sleeper facilities are still basic. The space in the berth is minimum but comfortable and still larger than the hard sleeper. Each soft sleeper berth is 75 cm wide and 190 cm long and there is a 50-cm wide space between the left and right berth.
There are personal reading lights and oxygen outlets for each passenger in all the beds. Then you can read your books during the long journey and have no worries about the high altitude sickness.