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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 Apr. 26, 2019 -
Questions & Answers on China Train Travel - A Beginner’s Guide
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.
Asked by Meme from THAILAND | May. 13, 2019 22:25Reply
I have 29" suitcase, would it be possible to carry on the bullet train? If not please advise.
Also, Can I pick up the paper ticket 1-2 days in advance prior by departure date?

Answers (1)
Answered by Buddie | May. 14, 2019 02:19
00Reply


Although they have a policy that the weight should be less than 20kg and size should be witin 130cm, they are not really strict with this policy. You can take the luggage with you directly. As long as the size is not extremely large, the luggage will not be measured at all. 29'' suitcase should not be a problem.

And yes! You can collect the ticket days in advance and this will save your trouble on the departure date.
Asked by Ileana from USA | Apr. 25, 2019 21:19Reply
How long before departure time should I arrive at the train station if I already have my ticket?
Answers (1)
Answered by Louis from PANAMA | Apr. 26, 2019 04:24
00Reply


You mean paper ticket in hands? In this way, 40min would do. If you need e ticket, you still need to exchange for paper ticket, so it takes longer time especially taking the chance of a long queue into consideration. It would be safer if you leave 1.5 hours for this process. If for early morning, maybe less time, like 1 hour.
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