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China Train Travel - A Beginner’s Guide

In China, train has been the top choice for more and more passengers traveling from one city to another, benefiting from the dense railway network, high running speed, reasonable ticket price, and modern facilities. For a first-time traveler to China, a train ride should also be on their travel list. But for a beginner, the Chinese train system may not be too friendly. Below are guides for beginners to have a smooth and memorable train trip in China. 
 

What are China trains like?

Generally, there are two kinds of trains running in China: 

1. High speed trains, also called bullet trains at a highest speed of 350 km/h (217 mph). They are white or grey with bullet locomotives, titled G/D/C. They are mostly running in daytime with business class seats, first class seats and second class seats. A few also run overnight with sleepers. They are the first choice for most travelers. 

2. Traditional style trains are numbered as Z/T/K/Y/L or just digits. The fastest Z trains only have a top speed of 160 km/h (99 mph), so they are not as popular as the high speed ones. But those running overnight are popular among budget travelers. Most are equipped with sleepers.

 Guides on How to Choose China Train Ticket Types 

                  More China Train Pictures
 

What China trains are available for my trip?

You can easily check the train schedule by entering the departure city, destination and date even if you are a beginner. The search results are in English; carefully pick one meeting your China train travel demands.  

  • Select seats for free
  • Reschedule for Free
  • Delivery service to your hotel
  • One-to-one service in English
  • 24/7 customer support
  • 2,500+ 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor

There are several ways to buy a China train ticket: book on the official website of China Railway Corporation, buy from the railway stations or ticket outlets, or call the hotline… However, considering the language barrier, the most convenient way for a beginner is to purchase it from a reliable agency like TravelChinaGuide. 
 

4 Tips on Buying China Train Tickets as A Beginner

1. If booking China train tickets online, one will get an e-ticket and need to collect the paper ticket before getting onboard at the railway station.

2. If purchasing at railway stations or ticket outlets on your own, learn some Chinese phrases for train travel. Not all railway staff speak English. 

3. Read the paper ticket to see if it is what you wanted. 

4. To guarantee a smooth a trip, you are strongly advised to book the ticket in advance, especially when traveling by China train during holidays. The tickets are available 30 days prior online and 28 days prior offline. 
 

Preparation Work before Boarding

1. Pack the Luggage

a. Do not forget your passport and paper ticket if it is already in hand. 

b. Take some food and drinks; or buy them onboard at a higher price.  See Food on China Trains

c. Take some toilet paper; it's available only on high speed trains but runs out quickly.  Check facilities on China trains to see if you need to pack more.

d. If traveling with kids, bring their favorite toys. 
 
Travel light and do not take too much luggage. There are restrictions on luggage weight in China. Each adult is allowed to take a maximum of 20 kg (44 pounds) of luggage.  See more China Train Baggage Allowance 
 

2. Learn the Hotel – Railway Station Transportation 

Including that from your hotel to the departure station and from arrival station to the next hotel. Calculate the time needed on the way, especially that from your hotel to the departure station. 

 Book China Train Station Transfer Service for an easy trip
 

3. Get Some Basic Guides on China Train Stations

This will help you find the entrance, waiting hall, platform and exit more easily.

 

1. Passport and ticket check, and security check at the entrance;

2. Go to the right waiting room and wait for boarding;

3. Boarding check;

4. Follow fellow passengers to your platform;

5. Find your carriage and get onboard;

6. Find your seat/ sleeper and store your luggage;   See Luggage Space

7. Enjoy the trip; 

8. Upon arrival, follow the signs to the exit. 

8 Steps to Take China Trains
8 Steps to Take China Trains8 Steps to Take China Trains
 

What if I cannot make the trip after buying the ticket?

You can refund the ticket or change the ticket to another departure day. A service fee may be charged. Usually, the earlier you submit the refund/ change, the less you lose. 
 

You can reclaim it from the railway staff and only the service fee of CNY 2 will be charged. 

- Last modified on Aug. 27, 2019 -
Questions & Answers on China Train Travel - A Beginner’s Guide
Asked by Pat from UNITED KINGDOM | Aug. 27, 2019 11:01Reply
Bullet Train luggage
I will be travelling from Beijing to Xi’an by bullet train with an organised group, so transfers have been arranged. Will I be able to have a smallish rucksack and handbag in addition to my 20kg case?
Also as I have not booked the ticket myself, can I still use the Red Cap luggage service? If so how do I book this without my ticket for reference - I do know which train and time it is.
Many thanks
Answers (1)
Answered by Naylor from USA | Aug. 27, 2019 18:06
00Reply


It should be no problem to take extra luggage with you, the station do not check the weight. As for Red Cap, it may not able to book it in advance. You may need to find one at station after your arrival there.
Asked by Sharon from USA | Jul. 25, 2019 08:11Reply
Trains from Beijing to Xi'an
I'm wondering if there are hotels near the Beijing airport that can arrange transportation to the train station?
Answers (5)
Answered by Buster from AUSTRIA | Jul. 25, 2019 18:45
00Reply


Maybe it is more direct to use airport's shuttle bus. There are shuttle bus to Beijing West Station from the airport.
Answered by Sharon from USA | Jul. 26, 2019 10:19
00Reply


Thank you Buster from AUSTRIA...I've flown from Beijing to Xi'an, but really want to take the high speed train.
Answered by Buster from AUSTRIA | Jul. 27, 2019 00:38
00Reply


I mean from Beijing airport to Beijing west station, you can take airport shuttle bus.
Answered by Sharon from USA | Jul. 27, 2019 05:46
00Reply


Which terminal in Beijing airport is the shuttle bus?
Answered by Buster from AUSTRIA | Jul. 31, 2019 19:39
00Reply


Shuttle bus should have stop at each terminal
Asked by Grant from USA | Jun. 26, 2019 11:39Reply
I am taking an early bullet train from Beijing to Xi'an (G89 at 6:53am).
My departure station is Beijing West Rail Station. Because it's an early departure and I plan to take the subway there and arrive around 6:00AM... Can I get my paper ticket a day or two earlier at Beijing Station (Dongcheng) which is closer to my hotel so that I can avoid the ticket line at Beijing West Rail Station the day of my trip. Will this be enough time??
Answers (1)
Answered by Kyler from AUSTRALIA | Jun. 28, 2019 04:02
00Reply


This is very good option. You can collect paper ticket in advance from another station. If you will have paper ticket, 40min at station would surely work. Your plan by subway is workable.
Asked by Geraldine from SINGAPORE | May. 25, 2019 05:59Reply
Earlier departure
If I arrive at the station earlier than my scheduled departure time and there is an earlier train departure, am I able to request to get onto that earlier train if there is seat availability?
Answers (1)
Answered by Theobald | May. 27, 2019 02:58
00Reply


You can ask for a ticket change at the station ticket counter. The ticket can only be changed one time. If the new ticket price is the same as the original you hold, it should be free of charge. If not, there maybe a fee occur, depends on the way you pay for the ticket.
Asked by Jim Sia from MALAYSIA | May. 18, 2019 17:00Reply
Where is carriage number indicated on train
Answers (1)
Answered by Mr. Martin | May. 19, 2019 00:57
00Reply


As I remember, the train No will be marked just beside the ech carriage gate.
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