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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.

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 May. 22, 2019 -
  • Customer Reviews
  • Questions & Answers
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    4.846 Reviews
    Ms.B. G.
    Austria
    Posted on Jul. 14, 2019
    I can say that your service was very good. You do a very good job in explaining the procedures and how to ride a train in China. Your explanations are very helpful.
    However, train stations are mostly not equiped to deal with foreigners. At China South railway station it took me 30mminutes to find the ticket office for, since it was not properly indicated and local staff did not speak English or were not used to my Chinese and pointed me in the wrong direction. I live in China and speak some Chinese. So you could offer directions on how to find the ticket office at the main train stations!...More
    Ron Kollman
    USA
    Posted on Jul. 11, 2019
    Maybe just say that there is no priority line for pickup. Same lines if you already paid online.
    Otherwise it went smoothly.
    Ms.Susan
    USA
    Posted on Jul. 05, 2019
    Ordering train tickets through your internet site was very easy. Traveling by train was pleasant and relaxing. The beds were comfortable and the blankets warm. The waiting room at Beijing train station was comfortable but we had trouble finding the right platform. We did not know we had to go through the back of the waiting room to get to the train. We did better in Harbin but it was still difficult to find the correct train with so many leaving. We did find the correct trains and we highly recommend train travel....More
    Mr.Rietschel
    Germany
    Posted on Jun. 30, 2019
    Your service couldn't be better. The train itself was very comfortable, in fact much better than our expectation. The space is larger than flight. I guess this is also one of the reason why train is more popular than flight in China. I can only recommend your service for tourists visiting China - no waiting queues, no language problems. Recommended for all tourists, the Agency saves a lot of time and searching. This is the low charge worth what we pay for the services.

    Thanks for your friendly service....More
    Mordechai Shabtai
    Israel
    Posted on Jun. 24, 2019
    Overall i like your service very much.

    The only dissatisfaction is with the casual change fee the you charge. I think the first change or a change that is done once a month or so should be free of charge. Your initial fee is high enough.


    thanks.


    Moti

    Mark Martire
    Australia
    Posted on Jun. 22, 2019
    The airline ticket booking and paying process was quick, simple and intuitive. Everything about the airport and the flight was easy and smooth. Highly recommended. The west has so much to learn from China.

    I also used Travel China Guide for numerous bookings on the high speed railway and a Yangtze River cruise. Faultless in every regard.
    Adam
    USA
    Posted on Jun. 20, 2019
    I received prompt and efficient replies on WeChat, and email, to purchase 2nd class high-speed train tickets, from Beijing to Zhengzhou and back. I appreciated the extra effort made to ensure a desired window seat, but because the days I selected were a holiday weekend, there were limited booking options available. The tickets were at the counter in the train station as promised, and the train rides went well. They were the longest train rides I have taken so far in China, at 3.5 hours each way. It is funny how speeding along at 300 km/h doesn't feel too fast. I am grateful to Travel China Guide for facilitating this weekend away, and I will keep them in mind for booking future travel around China and elsewhere. My co-worker gave me a quality recommendation to book through them! ...More
    benly
    Thailand
    Posted on Jun. 19, 2019
    A little bit hard to collect ticket from office because it is very big area. It would be perfect if staffs can speak English.
    Coralie
    New Zealand
    Posted on Jun. 17, 2019
    A last minute change in travel plans meant we had two weeks to organise a three week trip of China. I found Travel China Guide towards the end of my preparation and was impressed with the quality of the information they provided so used them first to book a train trip, and then a flight. Once on the road they contacted us because the airline cancelled one of our flights. Their service felt personal, while being efficient and professional. In hindsight I wish I knew about them from the start as I would have used them for everything....More
    Mr. Ching
    USA
    Posted on Jun. 09, 2019
    I am very happy with your booking services, the seats arrangement on the high speed train allowed my wife and me a lot room legroom as well, your services are highly recommanded. I wish your team the best of luck, thank you.
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