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Refund, Change & Lost a China Train Ticket

How to refund/ cancel a ticket

Generally, China train tickets can be refunded at any railway station in Mainland China before departure. A cancellation fee of 0-20% of the ticket fare is charged by China Railway Corporation. The ticket or ticket pickup number, and the ID certificate used for buying it should be shown to the railway staff. If it is an e-ticket booked on 12306.cn, it can also be canceled on that official website of China Railway Corporation and no document is required.

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.

When can I refund my China train ticket? - Before Departure

You are advised to make it before the train leaves; and the earlier, the less you pay the cancellation fee.

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.

Where can I refund my China train ticket?

Train Ticket Change and Refund Window
Ticket Change and Refund Window

One can handle it at any railway station in Mainland China. At some big railway stations, there are special counters dealing with refund.
Chinese Phrases Used at Railway Stations

If it is an e-ticket, it can also be cancelled on the official website of China Railway Corporation, 12306.cn. However, there are two cases an e-ticket must be canceled at the railway station:
1. It is less than 30 minutes before departure;
2. Tickets of some popular trains, including those to/from Tibet, can only be refunded at railway stations by passengers themselves with their ID certificates used for booking. The specific train numbers are not published but are displayed during booking.

What documents are required to refund a China train ticket?

Documents are required when canceling a ticket at the railway station. No documents are required when canceling an e-ticket on 12306.cn. 

Ticket Type Refund on Your Own Someone on Your Behalf
Paper Ticket
Original of your ID certificate
Copy or original of your ID certificate, 
Original of that person’s ID certificate
Original of your ID certificate,
Ticket pickup number
Original of your ID certificate,
Ticket pickup number,
Original of that person’s ID certificate

How much do I need to pay for canceling a China train ticket?

The cancellation service fee varies based on when you submit it. Generally, the earlier you cancel it, the less you pay. 

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 departure time is changed from 15 days - 48 hours ahead to over 15 days ahead and then ask for a refund, still 5% of the original fare will be charged as cancellation fee.
2. If the ticket has once been changed and the changed departure date is within Spring Festival Travel Rush, 20% of the original fare will be charged whenever you submit it.

Where does the refund go?

If paid by cash, passengers will get the cash back; if paid by bank account, the money will go back to that account; if paid by online payment tool like Alipay or WeChat, the money will go back to that specific online payment tool. 

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.

A China train ticket can be changed once when there is a ticket available and qualified for the change. Generally, the earlier you make the change, the better, because you can have more choices 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 refund. In that case, you need to take the loss on your own.

Where to change

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 the train leaves; if it is less than 30 minutes, you need to change it at the railway stations. E-tickets of some popular trains also need to be changed at railway stations.

Documents Required

No document is required for change, unless you change an online booking at railway stations, when the passenger’s original ID certificate, 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. After the change, you will get a paper ticket. 

China train ticket change service fee

No change fee will be charged by China Railway Corporation 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. And the ticket change service fee varies between 5%-20% of the price difference. 

How to pay for/ return the price difference

The price difference will be returned or charged through the original payment channel, which means the price difference will be charged or returned by cash if you paid by cash previously, through bank account or other payment tool if paid by that bank account or payment tool previously. Due to this, if your ticket is booked via an agency, you’d better contact them to deal with the change for you as they usually pay by bank account or payment tool. 

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 rules are only applied to tickets of those trains running within Mainland China, but not applied to international trains and those to/from Hong Kong.

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