True to its designation as the largest railway station in Asia by area, Nanjing South Railway station can be quite a daunting place from which to be trying to catch a train. The Nanjinger breaks down the station into manageable parts.
If you are visiting Nanjing South, chances are you are planning on taking a high-speed train to somewhere in China. Therefore you will be eager to get to the departure hall. As a rather smart move in layout planning the entrance to the place where your travels begin has strategically placed at the front of the station on the second floor right under the four bright red characters making up the name of the station. In front of the entrance you will find a golden lion with a dragon's head. This creature is the piqiu, a mythical creature thought to ward off evil and bring luck.
To get to the terminals walk through the glass doors and (since the increased security of the YOGs) present your ticket and passport at security check - if someone is sending you off this is the cut-off line, so say your good-byes with care.
In the hall up the escalator you might want to grab some food before you hop on your train. On the ground floor to your left find a number of Chinese fast food options, a Bread Talk bakery with egg-tuna sandwiches, curry Naans and other baked goods to make your trip a bit sweeter, as well as a Haagen Dasz if you are looking for pricy refreshment.
There is also a storage unit to the left, behind which find an escalator to the second floor, right wing. Upstairs find more dining options including Nanjing snack is and KFC as well a number of Nanjing delicacy stores if you have forgotten to stock up on presents for whomever you might be visiting. Back on the 1st floor, the Discover Nanjing shop in the centre of the concourse is also worth a visits for Nanjing-themed tshirts, chopsticks, yahoo stones, postcards etc.
The gates run across the hallway with the right hand side marking entrance A, usually the coaches at the front of the train and side B to your left designated for the rear part of the train; check your ticket to be sure which side you should be on for a shorter walk.
While the South entrance of the station opened in early 2015, and is a good option at busy periods when the North Plaza get every crowded with long queues. It also mean less of a walk if you are departing from one of the higher-numbered gates. In terms of orientation remember to switch the above description in your head if you are coming from the other side.
On the ground floor right under the departure hall sits the arrival hall, at the North entrance of which you will find Costa, Starbucks McDonalds and KFC, to make your wait for your friend/relative more enjoyable.
Inside the arrival hall escalators and stairs lead underground into the metro system for a quick getaway. Ticket Office
To the left of the arrival hall (North side) you can find the ticket office, where may purchase tickets to continue your travels directly. Don't get your hopes up when you see the electronic ticket machines, they only work for Chinese IDs, you are still going to have to queue up at the regular counters. Also make sure you are at the right counter that reads 非身份证购票 (ticket purchase without ID). Also beware that one of the non-ID counters meant for you has an added word in brackets (现金) - this is the cash only counter; avoid it if you plan on paying by card.
Mix Town Food Court
Mix Town is Nanjing South's very own little food court, a long labyrinth of restaurants featuring almost any cooking style under the sun from Malaysia via Macao to take-away sushi. Prices are a little higher on average as is to be expected of a train station, though my personal favourite, the Xi'An 肉夹馍 booth opposite the sushi sells a tasty stewed-pork bun for only ¥8 and is just enough to fill a little hole in your stomach.
Finding Mix Town can be a bit of a challenge depending on where you arrive at the station. If you have taken Metro Line 1 then congratulations it is right in front of your nose as you exit in the direction of the departure hall.
If you are at the grand entrance, on the ground floor, do not go down the steps directing you to the metro as this will directly take you into the underground. Instead walk the length of the hall to the South and go down the stairs there, do not go through the metro gates but walk around them to find the colourful entrance to Mix Town on the left hand side.
Long-distance Bus Terminal
This terminal is relevant for buses to surrounding towns and villages, which are currently not part of China's growing high-speed railway network, such as connections to Gaochun, China's slow city, or Yangzhou (although this is going to change later this year). The other connection is the airport bus, although the construction of the new metro line S1 has made it a little obsolete. The station has its own ticket office, so no need to stand in line at the ticket office at the North end. However, be aware that especially on public holidays this most inexpensive of transport modes is going to be packed to the brim with migrant workers traveling home to see their families; an hour wait for popular bus connections such as Gaochun is the norm at peak times. Follow the signs for the bus terminal, it is at the North end of the station to your right (on the opposite side of the regular ticket office).
Don't try and follow the signs for the taxi stands as they are misleading and you will find yourself walking in circles but will not notice until after about an hour due to the sheer size of the station. Once you finally manage to locate the taxi stands, you will see that you have to wait in line for about half an hour at peak times if you are in the "inner city lane" (Jiangning people are lucky, as their lane is almost always deserted). If you are daring go up to the entrance of the departure hall where Piqiu, the lion-dragon hybrid's bust is located, as this is where the taxis drop passengers off, and when the security guards are conveniently looking away try and grab one of the arriving taxis as the passenger leaves. They will thank you for it, since they don't have to waste time driving down into the labyrinth and queuing up for about half an hour for their next customer.
The Bus Terminal (Nanjing city buses only)
The station for city buses is located at the south end of the station on the ground floor. Follow the signs until you see some escalators with an entrance to separate halls on each side. The left entrance is your bus entrance. This bus stop is probably the most organised in the entire city as each bus has their own "landing lane" and the digital display announces not only the bus number but also the time you have to wait for the next departure. The whole bus terminal is split into three lanes at the entrance of which all the bus numbers which halt in the respective lane are displayed. A very instinctive and structured flow.
Airport Line S1
What the architects were thinking when they made the plans for Nanjing's brand new airport line is beyond me. Maybe they weren't thinking at all. The airport metro line, although providing a speedy connection to the air transit centre, is located at the farthest end of the station, and to make matters worse includes a number of steps; because it's not as if people going to the airport usually tend to carry luggage. If you are switching from Line 1 to S1 my thoughts are with you, as the walk takes about 10 minutes (although it feels more like half an hour and a serious workout). There is an entrance to the metro station right beside the airport gates, however it is rather a hidden side entrance, so it makes it difficult to direct the driver there. The walk from the metro entrance at the North side of the station seems a little more reasonable, hence having a taxi drop you off at the station might be the more relaxed alternative.
Asie from all of this, there are still nooks and crannies to be discovered at Nanjing South, but I will leave that up to the train spotters among us!