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trying to fathom Chinese train travel

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I would really appreciate help with planning an early July trip with my teenager, and my questions are over whether I can book trains once I have arrived and if I can hire a local 'minder' to make sure I don't mess up when getting on the right train! I don't want to be rushed from pillar to post on a tour, but nor am I feeling especially adventurous. I would like to be in control of how long I stay in each city and would like to travel Beijing - Xian - Guilin - Hong Kong (or the other way round!), to give my teenager an initial taste of China. I would prefer trains over planes as I understand they are more reliable, but have no experience of travelling around China. I am unsure whether it is safe to wait till I am in the country to book trains, and would prefer to pay a bit extra if this means peace of mind (e.g. to get a soft sleeper or a first class seat). I am especially nervous about catching trains outside Beijing (queues, knowing where to go, danger of missing the train) and wonder if you know if I can pay a local person to get us safely on the train in each city?! Sorry that I am not as intrepid a traveller as many posting on this forum!!

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