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How to Buy China Train Tickets

How to buy train tickets in China - 4 Ways

1. Book tickets from online agencies - hassel free if on TravelChinaGuide

2. Buy tickets at railway stations or ticket outlets in Mainland China - language barrier

3. Book from 12306.cn, the official website of China Railway Corporation - language & payment problems

4. Reserve tickets via 95105105, the official hotline - language barrier & restriction on pickup time

 Valid ID is required for booking the train tickets in China, which include:
Foreign Passengers: Passport; China Permanent Residence Permit
Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan Passengers: Mainland Travel Permit

Here are details of the four ways showing you how to book train tickets in China:


Book with An Online Agency - Hassel Free if with TravelChinaGuide

  • Select seats for free
  • Reschedule for Free
  • Delivery service to your hotel
  • One-to-one service in English
  • 24/7 customer support
  • 3,000+ 5-star reviews on TripAdvisor
This is the most practical and convenient way for those who speak little Chinese, as the official China Railway website (12306.cn) only has a Chinese version and accepts only Chinese bank card, Alipay, and WeChat payment. There are many such agencies and their service level and fee may vary from one to another.

TravelChinaGuide (TCG) offers excellent train ticket booking service in English:

Unbeatable service fee per ticket as low as USD5.49, and no hidden charge;

No limitation on pre-sale time and you can put an order anytime when your travel plan is set;

Easy and convenient booking web pages and app;

Well-trained operators are standing by 24/7;

Secure online booking and payment environment (TCG accepts Paypal, Western Union, Alipay and WeChat pay);

Last but not least, we do our best to book adjacent seats for groups traveling together!

Seat selection has become possible on China high speed trains and we will book the adjacent tickets for passengers traveling in a group. However, this is not always possible if adjacent seats have been sold out. Also, seat selection on normal speed trains are not allowed by China railway ticketing system, either.

More and more railway stations allow passengers to get in and get onboard holding the passport used for booking the e-ticket only if they have done the identity verification earlier. The e-tickets booked with TCG also meet the situation. Of course, if you still want paper ticket, you can collect it at the railway station or ask us to deliver it to you. 

Do not hesitate anymore! Search and book a train, make a payment, and then we will deliver the tickets to your Chinese address like your hotel in China. If you prefer to pick up at a railway station in person, we will provide step by step instructions on how to collect and related documents to aid you.

 See details of How to Buy Tickets Online


Buy at Railway Stations and Ticket Outlets - Language Problems

Tickets Selling Office
You can also go in person to purchase tickets at any railway station or ticket outlet in Mainland China. Both of their pre-sale periods are 28 days before departure. There is an additional charge of CNY 5 per ticket at ticket outlets as service fee. There are several preparations you need to make before going:

Search on our website or via our app to know the real-time schedule and choose the relevant train. There are LED boards at stations showing the schedule, but they are in Chinese.

Have  second, third or more choices of train, class, or even departure date, as the pre-sale time is 28 days ahead of departure, two days later than the official website and hotline, by which time the tickets may have run out, especially during peak travel season and for popular routes.

Print out or write down the train number, class, departure station, departure date, arrival station, and all other necessary information and show them to the staff, as only selected staff in metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai may speak English.

Bring your valid ID, such as a passport. If you are going to buy for others, bring theirs, too.

Expect a long queue at the station.

Do not queue for automatic ticket vending machines at the station, as they only recognize Chinese issued ID cards.

 Railway Stations in China
 Useful Chinese Phrases for Train Travel


Book on 12306.cn - Barriers on Language and Payment

This is the official website of the China Railway Corporation and its pre-sale time is 30 days before departure. Here below are several points you need to take note of:

You need to know Chinese very well, as it is only in Chinese.

You need to register using a phone number based in China.

 Your name on the booking system must match exactly the one on your ID. Spaces and symbols (hyphens) from foreign languages are not allowed. Often names on IDs do not correspond to personalized names. Example: James Green’s name shows in his passport as Green (on the top line) and James (on the lower line). The difference between the booking system and the ID may result in a  failed booking or boarding.
 Cases that Chinese Railway Tickets Can Not be Successfully Collected after Booking Online

Online payment must be done within 30 minutes on a Chinese bank card, Alipay or Wechat, or risking the transaction being null and void.

Delivery service is provided only in Beijing for overseas passengers.

Due to all the inconveniences, it is not recommended to book on the official website unless you have a Chinese friend to assist you.

After booking successfully, you can follow the instructions for collection. Please note that overseas passengers currently can only pick up tickets from online or phone bookings at railway stations; ticket outlets are not feasible.


Call 95105105 for Reservation - Restricted Pickup Time

This is the official reservation hotline with a pre-sale time of 30 days ahead of departure. To book via it you need to:

Have very good Chinese listening skills, as only Chinese is spoken.

Have a pen and paper handy to write down the booking number and keep it safe for collection.

Pick up the ticket within 24 hours at a railway station; otherwise the booking will be cancelled.

5 Tips on How to Get Train Tickets in China

  The pre-sale time of China railway tickets is now 30 days before departure on the official website and via hotline, and 28 days in advance at railway stations and ticket outlets. But TravelChinaGuide accepts customers' bookings without time limitation, so you can book with us whenever you finalize your travel plan. 

 China train tickets do sell out, especially for distant locations and popular routes. During peak travel seasons, such as Chinese New Year and the National Day holiday from Oct. 1 to 7, they can sell out within minutes. You are advised to book as early as possible.

 Most Chinese railway stations have applied E-tickets, where passengers can get in and get onboard the train holding only passport. So you need to bear the ticket information in mind or wrtie it down pr print it out on a piece of paper.

  The ticket price does not include insurance and you need to buy travel insurance separately.

  Children who stand between 3.9 feet (1.2 m) and 4.9 feet (1.5 m) tall need to buy children's tickets while those under 3.9 feet (1.2 m) ride for free. Please note that children as a rule are accompanied by adults. See detailed Train Travel in China with Kids

  If you lost a ticket, you can reclaim the booked seat/sleeper with your valid ID certificate at the departure railway station. If you are unable to leave on schedule, you can refund or change the ticket. 

Are there any differences between blue and pink tickets?

Generally, blue magnetic tickets are printed at large and newly-built railway stations while pink paper ones are found at small and old stations or in ticket outlets. There is  no differences in price, no matter which travel route and length, and no big influence on your trip.

All necessary information like train number, departure and arrival stations, departure date and time, and class will be showed on the ticket. After getting it, confirm whether it is the wanted one to enable a smooth trip.
 See details of Blue Magnetic SamplePink Paper Sample 

 See also:
How to Buy High Speed Train Tickets in Hong Kong
China Train Travel - A Beginner’s Guide

- Last modified on Sep. 23, 2020 -
  • Customer Reviews
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    4.977 Reviews
    Posted on Jul. 30, 2020
    I booked the tickets from Beijing to Guangzhou for my colleague and myself. It was a long journey. The online train booking service was convenient for foreigners, who cannot speak Chinese. I just submitted the online booking and collected the paper tickets at train station. The train ride was comfortable and the staff on the train were friendly to the passengers. It was a pleasant trip.
    Posted on Jul. 03, 2020
    I was new in China, and I would work in China in next 3 years. Thanks for booking train tickets for me this time, that was pretty easy and convenient, and I will use your service in my future holidays in China. Looking forward to it!
    Posted on Jun. 10, 2020
    Yes we are satisfied with your booking service, you website was easy to use. But Something unexplained happened: first the train car where I was booked was packed but rest of train mostly empty. Then the town has a tracking app with no way for foreigners to register. They should change. Thanks for your help.
    Posted on May. 20, 2020
    I am so sorry for all of the health issues that have happened in China, but you are a strong company. I always trust you and wish you can get well. A good review to you for dealing with our bookings and the refund. Thank you so much.
    Posted on May. 17, 2020
    It is a wonderful experience for all of us in China. Many thanks for your help and we can travel in china smoothly. When we would like to change our trip schedule or cancel the tickets, your guys are very helpful and make a change for us. We would like to delivery service and you can help us to amend that, even we have submitted our booking. We booked the mutianyu Great wall tickets, but we do not want the round trip-cable car. You can help me to change the activity. We will recommend you to our more friends. Thanks for your help....More
    Posted on Apr. 09, 2020
    We are happy for your service. You made our trip easy and smooth. Because of my fear of high level, we travelled many cities in China about one month with trains. Compared with the normal trains, we like the high speed trains much more. However, to spend the night on the train, the overnight train with the bunk would be comfortable. Thanks.
    United Kingdom
    Posted on Mar. 29, 2020
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    Posted on Mar. 24, 2020
    My friends and I decided to start our trip to China and set up the itinerary one month in advance. We would like to travel by train and make the tour by ourselves. We booked the tickets online on the website of TravelChinaGuide.com. We changed the itinerary many times, but the travel consultant always made the changes for us. Sometimes she also give us some suggestions, if the change was not very proper. TravelChinaGuide.com is really a professional team.
    Posted on Mar. 09, 2020
    It was a pity that I cannot visit China due to health problem. I received refund on time. Thank you so much that you made that possible and worked on so quick in relation to the recent circumstances. I am part of some travel groups and posted how great your support was and that I strongly suggest your services! We will postpone our trip to year 2021 and will for sure use your services again.
    Posted on Jan. 24, 2020
    Everything was taken of before we even reached China. Excellent service.
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