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How to Buy China Train Tickets

4 Ways to Buy China Train Tickets

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
  • 2,500+ 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:
China Train Travel - A Beginner’s Guide

- Last modified on Nov. 13, 2018 -
Questions & Answers on How to Buy Tickets
Asked by Wendy from USA | Nov. 11, 2018 21:41Reply
I am a us citizen traveling to Hong Kong.
From hk, I love want to take a train to Guangzhou.. do I need a visa?
Answers (3)
Answered by Denny from SINGAPORE | Nov. 12, 2018 01:26

If to enter a city in China mainland like Guangzhou, you would need to hold a visa in hand in advance.
Answered by Wendy from USA | Nov. 12, 2018 09:59

Can I get the China visa in Hong Kong if I’m a US citizen? Thank you
Answered by DENNY from SINGAPORE | Nov. 13, 2018 01:20

It should be possible in HK but not sure how long will it takes? If you will stay in HK for many days, this may work, if just a short stay, it may be a little risky. It would be better if you do it in US in advance.
Asked by Vanilla from JAPAN | Oct. 27, 2018 17:13Reply
ticket number restriction
I asked my Chinese friend to by tickets for me and she did so, but she said she could not buy the fifth one since I was not registered to the system. Could travel agents book for foreigners above the four ticket limit restriction?
Answers (1)
Answered by Queenie | Oct. 28, 2018 19:54

I booked 3 round trip with this website, so 6 trips in total. I did not heard about this problem and have my confirmation already. So I suppose they are fine with the 5th or 6th one.
Asked by Shawn from USA | Oct. 19, 2018 09:26Reply
What is the best way to get to West Kowloon Station from Hong Kong's international airport?
I have an executive flying 17 hours to get to Hong Kong but needs to take a train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou. I am assuming the Airport Express is the only option?
Answers (2)
Answered by jesus | Oct. 20, 2018 01:20

The Airport Express is not the only option, but is the easiest and most convenient option.
Answered by Alex from USA | Oct. 24, 2018 19:21

There is also a ferry from Hong Kong airport to Guangzhou. This would avoid having to go through immigration twice.
Asked by Daniel from ROMANIA | Oct. 17, 2018 10:39Reply
Travelling from HK to Shenzen on the 15.11, at 9 AM. How long before the departure should we arrive
.. at the railway station counter to pick up the tickets? are 30 min in advance enough ?
Thank you
Answers (3)
Answered by Leon from ITALY | Oct. 17, 2018 19:00

30min is definitely not enough. The ticket need to be collected out at least 45min in advance and since that time, you need to checkin for the immigration check. I am not sure how long the queue could be, it would be better if you prepare arond 1.5 hours for these process.
Answered by Daniel BALCA from ROMANIA | Oct. 18, 2018 00:16

Hello, thank you for the answer. Having the tickets delivered to our hotel in HK would make the process quicker?
Answered by Leon | Oct. 18, 2018 02:13

Yes, sure. It would be more convenient. But it seems this website cannot offer delivery service for this trip.
Asked by Colette LaMarche from USA | Oct. 16, 2018 13:26Reply
where to get train in Shanghai and where to get off train
I have 4 executives who want to travel via the high-speed ride from Shanghai to Beijing on Saturday, November 10, 2018. They would be departing from the PuLi hotel, 1 ChangDe Road, Shanghai. We want to purchase tickets ahead of time, what station should they leave from and is the Saturday schedule different from weekday?
Answers (1)
Answered by Mc | Oct. 16, 2018 22:52

Shanghai Railway Station is closer in distance, about 20min by taxi. However, there are only 2 days time high-speed rail service a day from this Shanghai Station to Beijing, one for 7am and one for 12:00 at noon time. Other day time high speed rides all use Shanghai Hongqiao Station. To Hongqiao Station, it would be about 45min by taxi.

For day time high speed rides, the schedule keeps unchanged.
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