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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.

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. 17, 2019 -
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    4.929 Reviews
    Posted on May. 18, 2019
    The booking service is very efficient.
    Posted on May. 15, 2019
    Your App and your booking service were an enormous help for our journey through China. Booking Tickets would have been much more complicated without your support! We appreciated a lot that your booking assistance was very quick and you were able to buy tickets even if there were only a few left.
    We do not have any photos of trains that would be helpful for other travelers. But I think your step by step description of the "getting the ticket" and "boarding" process are fare enough comprehensible and it is very easy to get on the right trains using your directions.
    Maybe there is one information to share with other travelers: sometimes it is possible to get an upgrade in the train. Initially we bought hard seats for an overnight train (no sleepers were left in the official booking). On the train we could by an upgrade to hard sleeper. Maybe this was possible because our berches were used already the night before (the train from Kunming to Chengdu = 2 nights). Without the help of other passengers this would have been hard to achieve without any Chinese...
    Posted on May. 14, 2019
    I everything is great
    Posted on May. 08, 2019
    I have used the service many times and am always pleased with the speed and efficiency. I will continue to do so for future business trips!
    Posted on Apr. 26, 2019
    I am very happy with your services. Collecting the train tickets were easy and smooth. Thank you for your excellent service.
    Posted on Apr. 19, 2019
    It was very easy to book the ticket online. The links from travelchinaguode were very helpful in collecting my train ticket at the station.
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    Posted on Apr. 16, 2019
    I must say how very pleased I am with your service. The booking procedure was very easy. Your advice and updates were very very good. The tickets were waiting for me when I booked into the two hotels and the overall process was better than expected.
    I managed the transfer in Ningbo in the 50 minutes very easily so all my journeys went as planned. The rail journey and railway staff where very helpful.
    Two bits of advice that may help other customers. 1) an explanation of the information on the ticket would be helpful, in the case of the Ningbo to Shanghai journey I didn’t realise the actual platform/gate information was on the ticket. This was not a major problem. 2) allow a lot of time for taxi queues at Shanghai, I joined a 30 minute queue.
    I would strongly recommend your services to friends and colleagues and will you in the future.
    Queenie Fong
    Posted on Apr. 14, 2019
    the Website design is not friendly but the service was great. I accidentally double booked but immediately i’ve got a message to refund the over paid amount which is very efficient. Passengers were noisy inside the train but that’s outside of your control. Toilet wasn’t so clean and smelly. However I had a great experience so far for this trip and thank you for your concern
    Posted on Apr. 13, 2019
    Booking process for the train tickets is easy and convenient. Travel consultant, Sunny even give us detailed information on what to look out for when checking in to the railway station. Travelchinaguide even have a page of explanation on how to read the ticket etc. These information were extremely helpful and make my train ride more pleasant and less stressful. I would recommend tourists taking the train ride the first time to book tickets in advance. Do collect the tickets early too as there will usually be long queue at the ticket counters....More
    Posted on Apr. 11, 2019
    the trains i selected were most not aviable and had to change them ( allso because the chinese holiday) was not bad dou, got nighttrains and beds instead of seets. that was worth it.

    you could write a better „how to take a train in china“ a mor accurate one. but thats fine. i‘m going to write one too. can send it to you, as soon as finished.
    you could print the list of the trainstations, you ar going to pass too, with chinese signs and spelling signs. maby with the most important sentences. like „can you wake me up, when i have to go of the train“, „what time do we arrive“ ... ordering food and stuff, what ever.
    allso, to go the first time into a railwaystation ticket office, cause they check your passport. after that you can get your train tickets allso at offices, where you can buy them. for example in lidlle villages or in the city anywhere but trainstation.
    at least, great job, found my way and thanks for the allready verry good explenations, reservations and bookings. greating
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