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How to Take the Train in China

A quick guide on how to take China trains:

Step 1: Arrive at the railway station at least an hour in advance;

Step 2: Pass security check and ticket check at the station entrance;

Step 3: Find the right waiting room and wait for boarding;

Step 4: Check in at the right boarding gate;

Step 5: Go to the platform for boarding;

Step 6: Settle the luggage and sit down to enjoy the trip;

Step 7: Upon arrival, get off and find the way out. 

Now let’s look into the steps in very detail.
 

Pay special attention to the departure station. Many cities in China have more than one station, so you need to make sure which one you should go to. Also note the departure date and time and set off early enough to be there on time. 
Blue Train Ticket Sample
Blue Magnetic Ticket
 See sample of Pink Paper Ticket  
 

Get to Station 1+ Hour Earlier


Always make sure that you have  some extra time before the departure. Generally, it is recommended to arrive at the station one hour before the scheduled departure time. However, should you travel during the Spring Festival Travel Rush or holidays, you are advised to be at least 1.5 hours early.

Stations in many large cities have been connected with subways and almost all stations can be reached by city bus and taxi.

 Railway Stations in China
 Useful Chinese Phrases for Train Travel
 

Pass Ticket & Security Check

When reaching a station, you arrive at the square outside, in the basement or on the elevated motor way outside the hall. There are signs showing the entrances. If not, you can easily tell the station from other buildings by the continuous passenger flow.
 
Upon arriving at the station, follow the passenger flow or direction boards to find the entrance and wait in line to get inside.
Enter into Railway Station
You need go through security check before going inside (see baggage allowance). Your ticket and certificate used for ticket booking will also be checked here.
Railway Security Check

Find the Right Waiting Room

In the entrance hall behind the security check there is a large LED screen showing train numbers and corresponding waiting rooms.
Train Station Entrance Hall
After finding the waiting room, wait in the specific area closest to the boarding gate of your train. Some stations may have special rooms/areas for soft seat, soft sleeper and high speed railway tickets holders. In addition, most stations have special waiting rooms/areas for pregnant women and passengers with small children, so that they can sit comfortably, and in most cases, get onboard before others.
Railway Station Waiting Room
In some newly-built stations there is only one large waiting hall, with several boarding gates. In this case, the boarding gate information will be printed on the ticket.
Wait for Train Depature
The waiting rooms/halls are usually equipped with hot drinking water, toilets, restaurants, stores, book/news stands and information desk.
Railway Station Facilities

Check In

In most cases, check-in starts 30 minutes before departure and ends five minutes before in an originating station. If it is an intermediate station, there is only three to five minutes for check-in.
 
There are LED screens by the boarding gates showing thecheck-in status.
Check In for Trains
Blue tickets can be checked automatically at the ticket check machines, while pink tickets need to be checked manually by staff. Keep your ticket after checking in and look after it well, as it will be checked during your trip and at the exit of the arrival station.
Check-in

Go to Platform & Get Onboard

After having the ticket checked, walk with the flow of people or follow the LED boards to your platform. You may need to use stairs, for not all stations are equipped with escalators. In some large stations you can pay for the Red Cap Luggage Service. The porter will then carry your luggage to the platform, and you can follow him to board earlier.
Go to Platform
There may be two trains on the platform. Confirm with your ticket and LED screens to know which one to board.
Railway Station Platform
After locating the train, find your carriage. The carriage number is shown by the door of the carriage. Sometimes staff is there to check your ticket and tell you the right carriage. At some stations, the carriage number is also marked on the platform, which helps to locate your carriage, too.
Board the Train

Settle Luggage & Enjoy Trip

After boarding, find your seat/sleeper. Put your luggage safely on the luggage rack, under your seat/berth, or inside the closet between two carriages. Sit down for the departure. Keep your ticket well, it will be checked onboard and at the arrival station, too. If you hold a sleeper ticket, the staff will exchange it to a card after departure and give it back to you before you reach your destination. Look after it well, or you will pay for the loss or damage.

 Baggage Allowance and Transportation
 Luggage Space

Interior of a Train Carriage

Get off and Find the Way out

In most stations, arriving passengers will be led to the exit by an underground passage. Red Cap Luggage Service is also available for arriving passengers in some large stations.
Exit the Railway Station
Follow the bilingual direction boards to find exit/subway/bus/taxi/coach to leave the station. In some stations, blue ticket holders and pink ticket holders should use different exits. If you are picked up by a friend or your tour guide, make sure you know where they will wait for you, as some stations have more than one exit.
Exit the Railway Station

How to transfer to another train

China train transfer passengers are advised to have paper tickets of the connecting journeys in hand before getting onboard at the starting station. When arriving at the transfer station, there is no need to get out of the station and then reenter. Holding the connecting tickets, one can follow the direction boards to waiting hall/room directly, and then find the boarding gate for the connecting train.

Through passengers should not get off leisurely between the starting station and the destination, as the train only stops a few minutes at most intermediate stations. If you unfortunately miss your train, the ticket won't be valid for the balance of the trip.
Direction Sign for Train Transfer

 1. The announcements in the railway stations are broadcast in Chinese, but in some big cities like Xi'an, Beijing and Shanghai, they are also broadcasted in English, and bilingual signs in both Chinese and English will be helpful.
2. Trains stop at stations just long enough for people to get on and off. For that reason it is wise not to get off during your journey for any reason as it may well leave before you can get back on board.
3. Most overnight trains have a dining car where you can purchase a meal. There are also trolleys service selling items of food, drink, snacks, magazines and other small items, regularly goes back and forth through the aisles during a journey.
4. Be prepared to cope with the crowds and some inconvenience, rail travel in China is a cultural experience to be enjoyed; it is bound to be memorable!
5. Be careful to guard against theft. Keep your luggage safe and take the valuable items in your carry-on bags rather than in the suitcases.
6. Never give personal information to strangers
7. Avoid using public phones near the station, as some of the owner will play tricks on the phone in order to ask for more money.
8. Never accept food or drinks given by a stranger.  


 
Further Reading:
 China Train Travel - A Beginner’s Guide
 Facts on China Train Travel
 Train Travel in China during Holidays
 Train Travel in China with Kids or during Pregnancy
- Last modified on May. 20, 2019 -
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    Ms.PETAL
    Netherlands
    Posted on Jul. 18, 2019
    I was very happy with all the arrangements. Everything went smoothly. Thank you so much for all your help.
    YAMAGAMI
    Japan
    Posted on Jul. 17, 2019
    There was no problem. Your system is very convenient for non-native-chinese speakers like me.
    Mr.Bryce
    USA
    Posted on Jun. 29, 2019
    The overall booking experience with TCG was excellent. I had no complaints with the services, and will recommend them to anyone traveling to China. I researched prices for trains and flights and found TCG to also be competitive for everything I booked. TCG was very quick to respond by email, and even allowed some flexibility while we waited for some of our travel documents to process. I am very pleased I chose TCG because it made things easier for me!

    I do have a few notes for travelers:

    First, Make sure to have all documents required for travel in hand before booking tickets, as this will speed up the booking process.

    Second,Taking the train in China is unique compared to most other countries including other countries in Asia and Europe. The biggest difference by far is the Chinese people. Chinese culture doesn't necessarily require the same courtesies to strangers that come with Western cultures. Though many people are very kind and helpful in person, heavy crowding can turn peaceful Chinese into loud and pushy people.

    It is necessary to arrive early, at least 60 minutes for larger stations, and find a seat in one of the waiting rooms, preferably at the correct platform where your train will depart. Note the train will begin boarding about 30 minutes prior to you departure time, and it is nice to board early to get settled before departing. Most stations have small stores or vendors where you can buy food and water for your trip, also highly recommended before boarding the train. Our train had hot water on board so our ramen bowls worked out nicely.
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    Ms.Chom
    Singapore
    Posted on Jun. 23, 2019
    We had a great time on the train. Though it's an older train, the soft sleeper is still alright. The only thing is the toilet. Its horrible experience. Very dirty!!

    Your staff managed to overcome my problem of getting back my refund. Thank you very much for the effort.
    Mr.David N.
    United Kingdom
    Posted on Jun. 15, 2019
    I was delighted with the service offered by yourselves. I will confess to being a little nervous because until the tickets were in my hands, there was that small uncertainty that things good go wrong but I can say now that the whole procedure has been perfect. My main positive points are:1.You have excellent train timetables etc on your website, so i could see train times, train numbers, available seats, cost etc, stations train stops at etc.2. You offered realistic advice about whether the schedule was practical, i.e. when I needed to train stations for connections in short space of time.3. The status tracker was always updated, which allowed me to see that the order was processing. 4. Your emails are always polite, replies are quick and you are very concise with information. 5. When you needed to contact me urgently, you made real effort to contact by telephone, and left messages etc. This is a nice personal touch which was appreciated. 6. You did not add some crazy admin fee or inflate price of tickets. 7. The information page on website is excellent. You give really clear information about how to catch a train in China, entering through security, finding waiting rooms, seats, soft sleeper etc.
    I have a few recommendations to improve your service, but these are small points. First,when i was searching train routes, for example between Xi'an and Zhangjiajie, it would be nice if there was no direct route, the results could show best route, and where to change. I suspect that your search service is linked to an external provider so maybe you cannot change this yourself, but it would be nice.
    Second,my partner is 5 months pregnant and so needed to sit down and be comfortable during our waits for train. The stations and waiting rooms were often very busy and there were no seats available. It only became known to us right at the end of trip that most stations have special waiting rooms for pregnant women or mothers with small children, so that they can sit comfortably, and in most cases, board the train before others. This is also the case for people with soft sleeper tickets. Knowing this at start would have been nice, so maybe you could add this advice to website.
    Thats it really; i was surprised at how simple and efficient the train network was, especially the high speed trains. I'm very glad to have used your company and made recommendations to many travelers that i met to use you in future. I would really like to thank you because without your help, our holiday would not have been as enjoyable as it was. Many thanks.
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    Mr.James
    Ireland
    Posted on Jun. 09, 2019
    I have now completed all 4 journeys that I booked with you. I would like to offer my feedback as below:

    1) Regarding the booking process, after there was difficulty with Pay Pal, I contacted you by e-mail and by phone. Your operator Amy and Ivy were very prompt in replying and very helpful with their answers. Any queries and concerns that I had were dealt with very well by them.

    2) I am very impressed with the whole rail service in China. The trains are fast, reliable, clean, well equipped with comfortable seats and generous legroom. Toilets are also plentiful and kept very clean. I travel by rail a lot in Europe and I must say that Chinese ones are superior to their European counterparts.

    All in all, I am happy to use your service and train service.
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    Stoop
    Belgium
    Posted on Jun. 05, 2019
    So easy to use.
    Narayanan
    India
    Posted on Jun. 03, 2019
    It’s very pleasure to travel
    Mr.Taylor
    USA
    Posted on May. 27, 2019
    I would be happy to characterize my experience with TCG as very easy and exceptionally user friendly. We received our tickets at the hotel. The 1st class ticket we purchased from Beijing to Xian was quite comfortable, with plenty of space and very little hassle. Even picking up the tickets from the ticket counter, as we are foreign travelers, was easy. There were quite a number of people waiting in the waiting room, but that is nothing more than an indication of good business. The carriage in the train was clean, comfortable, and quite easy to sit in for 5 hours....More
    RONALD B.
    Netherland
    Posted on May. 22, 2019
    It was a great experience and everything was well organized. We certainly will consider to take again the train with our next business trip.

    Especilly the explanation on your website is very complete.



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