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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:


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.

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 unable to print e-tickets.


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 Apr. 10, 2019 -
  • Customer Reviews
  • Questions & Answers
    4.829 Reviews
    Posted on May. 20, 2019
    (+) Two of three train journey went well; (-) no soft sleeper on third travel part (Xining - Lasa) available although confirmation has been sent out
    Posted on May. 12, 2019
    I was very happy with my train tickets. I had no problems at all with my tickets. Everything was perfect.
    The only advice I would give other travellers is: First, preferably collect the tickets before the day of travel. Second, when travelling, arrive at the station in lots of time to find your way and to get on the train.
    Thank you very much - I was very glad I used Travel China Guide!
    Posted on May. 10, 2019
    We booked all of our train tickets through Travel China Guide (9 train journeys in total over 2 weeks). The booking process was very straightforward, and we got tickets for all of the trains we wanted, as well as securing the 2 seats together in 2nd class. The tickets were delivered to our hotel in Nanjing promptly and efficiently. I will definitely use the train booking service again when we return to China.
    The Netherlands
    Posted on May. 09, 2019
    Everything went well. The booking, getting answers on our questions, the payment, the reservation of the tickets, the pick up of the tickets and all of our traintrips. Thank you very much! I would recommend Travel China Guide to everyone.
    Posted on May. 07, 2019
    Your train booking service was excellent. Communication with your end was simple and straightforward and there was no confusion at the train ticket office for collection of ticket. I will definitely use your service again.
    United Kingdom
    Posted on May. 06, 2019
    I'm frequent expat traveller who has always booked my service with Travel China for Flights and Trains.

    My overall experience has been great! Very positive, efficient booking service, friendly and helpful customer service.

    I would highly recommend Travel China to all expatriate living in China:-)
    Posted on Apr. 29, 2019
    I found this service incredibly helpful. Our train tickets were delivered straight to our hostel and were exactly as we had ordered.
    Posted on Apr. 26, 2019
    I definitely enjoyed our trip! I am very happy with the train booking service.? It has made my travel seamless. Thank you!
    Posted on Apr. 17, 2019
    The booking service, including delivery of tickets to the hotel, was very smooth and well-coordinated. I did not know what to expect, as this was my first time booking train tickets in China and I was pleasantly surprised by how easy everything was. The train trip itself was also smooth and uneventful. Thanks very much.
    Posted on Apr. 15, 2019
    The process for booking, and having the train tickets waiting for us at our hotel was simple, straightforward, and helpful at every step of the process, and eliminated any worries we had. They answered every question we had very quickly. Couldn't have had a better experience. Also, their website is THE BEST resource for every part of our visit, from site seeing to getting through the train stations. Everything you need is on their site. The one resource you need when traveling in China, no question!...More
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