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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;
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:

1  

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. 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

2  

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
 

3  

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 unable to print e-tickets.
 

4  

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.

  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.

The only thing different is that the blue one can be checked automatically by machines at boarding exit gates, while the pink one must be checked manually by railway staff.
 

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 Aug. 19, 2019 -
  • Customer Reviews
  • Questions & Answers
  •  
    4.857 Reviews
    Jani
    Indonesia
    Posted on Sep. 09, 2019
    All our tickets have arrived safely. Thank you to both of you and the company for your attention to our bookings. The service you have provided has been excellent and made our trip in China run smoothly. I really appreciate the work you put into this.
    WAIYA
    Russia
    Posted on Sep. 02, 2019
    The online booking process is clear, and it is very easy to collect the paper ticket at the station. But the train is old and the charging equipment is not working on the train. Hope you can forward this to the train staff and fix this problem.
    MARION
    South Africa
    Posted on Aug. 27, 2019
    When we go to the train station to collect the paper tickets, we are confused where we should go. Xi’an train station is too big to find the correct ticket window. It is convenient for us to book and receive the ticket pick up number, but it is difficult for us to board train. We really thank for your service, but the English instructions should be more at the train station.
    Piotr
    Poland
    Posted on Aug. 20, 2019
    Thank you for sending the train tickets to our hotel in Hangzhou and we confirm that we have received them from the front desk. Your information regarding our Li River cruise and guide’s contact also came by email in time. Thank you. We appreciate all your help with our travel planning and for making our trip so wonderful!
    Lange
    Switzerland
    Posted on Aug. 15, 2019
    My experience with travelchinaguide is very good, especially when there are problems (change of bookings), everything happened fast and friendly. So I'm really satisfied. Would be nice to make bookings for train in asia too like Japan. Also to see ferry boat connections.
    MIRJAM
    Netherlands
    Posted on Aug. 12, 2019
    We just came home yesterday and had a fantastic time in China. the booking of the train tickets i found was very convenient and i would love to use your service again. other information on the website was also very helpfull, like the step by step photos and text what to expect in the train stations.
    Tilda
    India
    Posted on Aug. 05, 2019
    Our booking experience through TCG booking center is very smooth.
    Nathalie
    Nederland
    Posted on Aug. 03, 2019
    Very friendly and helpful staff! Tickets were easy to collect at the train station, great service!
    Francois
    France
    Posted on Aug. 01, 2019
    Good informations, reliable, nice customer service. Beyond train reservations, travelchinaguide is a necessary webpage for foreigners in China! Thank you!
    Eden
    Canada
    Posted on Jul. 28, 2019
    My trip to China was great. It was a mix of business & a little site seeing. I used my train booked with your company to go to Xi'an to see the Terracotta Warriors - an amazing experience, something i had dreamed of seeing since childhood. The train arrived right at appointed time without any delay! It is really amazing! Your services were easy to use too & very prompt with confirmations & follow ups. I think I would prefer to use train instead of flight in my other trips. I would use your service again if I return to China. ...More
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