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Refund, Change & Lost a China Train Ticket

How to refund/ cancel a ticket

Passengers may cancel China train tickets before departure. Cancellation fee is charged.

 Paper tickets: They can be cancelled at any railway stations in Mainland China. If paid by cash, passengers will get the cash back; if paid by bank account, the money will go back to that account.
 E-tickets booked on 12306.cn: In general, they can only be refunded on that official website of China Railway Corporation. The refund will be returned to the bank account used to pay.

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.

Ticket Change and Refund Window

 Most agencies buy tickets for their customers on the official website, so the refund may go back to the bank account 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.

 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

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.

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.

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 Before Departure After Departure
>48 hours ≤48 hours
Seat Class
Departure city
Departure station
Arrival city
Arrival station
Earlier date
Earlier time
Later date
Later time
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.

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.

The detailed steps are:
1. Buy a replacement;
2. Get onboard with the replacement;
3. Inform the railway attendant about the lost and they will provide you a voucher;
4. Upon arrival within 24 hours, get the full refund of the replacement with the voucher and the ID certificate at the railway station.

Onboard or before check-out

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

 Note: The above refund, change and lost ticket handling policies are only applied to domestic routes within Mainland China. They are not applied to international trains and those to/from Hong Kong.

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