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Refund, Change & Lost a China Train Ticket

How to refund/ cancel a ticket

Generally, China train ticket refund can only be done before departure. The earlier the ticket cancellation is made, the less the cancellation fee is charged by China Railway Corporation.

 Before departure
A paper ticket can be refunded at any railway stations in Mainland China. An e-ticket booked online with China Railway Corporation can be refunded on the official website 30 minutes prior to the departure time.

Some e-tickets have to be refunded at railway stations:
1. It is less than 30 minutes before departure, and you need to collect the paper ticket before refunding it, just like you need to collect the paper ticket for boarding.
2. You have picked up the paper one after booking on the official website.
3. Tickets of some popular trains, including those to/from Tibet, can only be refunded at railway stations with the original ID certificates used for booking on your own. The specific train numbers are not published but are displayed during booking.

 Chinese Phrases Used at Railway Stations

Train Ticket Change and Refund Window
Ticket Change and Refund Window
  After departure
In general, there are no refunds after the train leaves. Minor exceptions can be allowed under the approval of the stationmaster within 2 hours after the scheduled departure time.

 Documents required
When seeking a refund at a railway station on your own, you should bring the ticket and the original of your ID certificate used in buying it.

If you ask someone else to get the refund on your behalf at the railway station, the ticket and the original of your ID certificate should be shown. If the person doesn’t have your original ID certificate, the copy of your ID certificate, the original of that person’s ID certificate and the ticket should be shown together.

No documents are required when refunding an e-ticket on the official website.

 China train ticket cancellation fee
Cancellation time before departure Cancellation fee by China Railway Corporation
More than 15 days None
15 days - 48 hours 5% of the original fare par value (at least CNY2)
48 hours - 24 hours 10% of the original fare par value
Within 24 hours 20% of the original fare par value

1. If the changed departure date is within Spring Festival Travel Rush, 20% of the original fare will be charged even if it is over 24 hours before departure.
2. If the departure time is changed from 15 days to 48 hours ahead to over 15 days ahead and then ask for a refund, 5% of the original fare will be charged as cancellation fee even if it is over 15 days before departure.
3. If a ticket has been changed after the train leaves, it cannot be refunded.
4. If you book through an agency, you'd better confirm the regulations of the specific agency before booking. Some agencies do not accept cancellation and some agencies may ask extra cancellation fee.

 Where does the refund go
If the ticket is bought at a railway station by cash, the refund will be given in the form of cash, to you or to the person who asks for the refund on behalf of you. If it is bought on the official website, the refund will go back to the bankcard used for payment, whether t is handled online or at railway stations, or it is an e-ticket or a paper one.

Most agencies buy tickets for their customers on the official website, so the refund may go back to the bankcard of the agency. If you hold an e-ticket, you’d better ask for a refund from the agency. If you have already had the paper one in hand, you need to refund it at the railway station. The railway staff will then give you a receipt; you can show the receipt to the agency to have your money back.

How to change a ticket
A China train ticket can be changed once when there is a ticket available and qualified for the change. The earlier you make the change, the more choices you will have on departure dates, time and even arrival cities. If you miss the train, the ticket can only be changed to another one with the same departure date and arrival city. If the tickets of that day qualified for changing have been sold out, the change cannot be made, neither ticket refunded. In that case, you need to take the loss on your own.

A paper ticket needs to be changed at the designated counters at railway stations. An e-ticket booked through 12306.cn, can be changed online at least 30 minutes prior to departure; if it is less than 30 minutes prior, it needs to be changed at the railway stations. Online bookings of some popular trains also need to be changed at railway stations.

No document is required for change, unless you change an online booking at railway stations. In that case, the passenger’s original ID certificate used for booking, or the copy of the passenger’s ID certificate plus your original ID certificate should be shown together. The staff will also ask for booking number.  A paper ticket will be given after the change.

 What items on a China train ticket can be changed
Allowed Change Items Over 48 hours before departure 48 hours or less before departure After departure
Seat Class Yes Yes Yes
Departure city No No No
Departure station Yes Yes Yes
Arrival city Yes No No
Arrival station Yes Yes Yes
An earlier departure date Yes Yes No
Earlier departure time Yes Yes No
A later departure date Yes No No
Later departure time Yes Yes Yes
1.  The seat or sleeper can also be changed onboard if there is one available. The extra service fee of CNY 5 will be charged by the railway staff.
2. The group and joint ticket cannot be changed to others with different arrival cities, even if it is over 48 hours prior.

 China train ticket change fee
No change fee will be charged in most cases. The price difference between the original and changed tickets will be returned or charged accordingly.

The change fee will be charged only when the changed ticket price is lower than the original one. The fee for this case is:
Changing time before departure Change fee by China Railway Corporation
15 days - 48 hours 5% of the price difference (at least CNY2)
48 hours - 24 hours 10% of the price difference
Within 24 hours 20% of the price difference
If you book through an agency, there is usually a changing service fee. We TravelChinaGuide do not charge change fees.

 How to pay for/ return the price difference
If the original ticket is paid by cash at a railway station, the price difference will be charged or returned by cash, too.

If the original one is bought from an agency, then you’d better ask the agency to handle the change for you, as the price difference will probably be returned to or charged through their bankcard, either it is an e-ticket or a paper one.
What to do if your ticket is lost
Lost China rail tickets do not mean lost seats. Passengers who lost their tickets can reclaim the seat/sleeper at the railway station or onboard. The service fee by China Railway Corporation is CNY 2.

 Before departure
Passengers should handle the procedure before the end of the ticket issuing, which varies from 5 to 15 minutes before departure at different stations. The following material and information are needed - the valid ID certificate used in buying the original ticket, the departure date, and the name of the booking office issuing the original ticket.

Passengers can hold the replacement to get onboard and tell the railway staff. The conductor will provide a voucher. After arriving at the destination within 24 hours, passengers should hold the voucher together with the replacement and the ID certificate to refund the cost of the replacement.

 Onboard or before check-out
Passengers can reclaim the seat/sleeper onboard or at the arrival station. Also, the valid ID certificate and information of the original ticket are needed.