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How to Read China Train Tickets

There are two kinds of train tickets in China: red paper and blue magnetic. Although different in color, they have not much difference in how they show information. Let’s read a China train ticket from top to bottom and left to right.
 

Ticket Number

This is in red and located on the top left corner, consisting of both letters and digits. Each ticket has its own number and it seldom duplicates others.
 

Boarding Gate

This is shown on the top right corner. Boarding gates in some of the earlier-built stations like Xi'an Railway Station are not numbered, hence this information will not be shown, like the below blue one.
China Railway Ticket
China Train Ticket
 

Departure and Arrival Stations

These are the largest characters on the whole ticket, with departure station on the left and arrival station on the right. The English letters below them are their Chinese pronunciations in pinyin.

In China, a railway station is usually named after the city, such as ‘西安(Xi'an)站(railway station)’. When the city has more than one station, any station built later is named as ‘city name+location of the station in that city’, like ‘北京(Beijing)南(south)站(railway station)’. The locations used in station names are usually ‘东(east)’, ‘西(west)’, ‘南(south)’, and ‘北(north)’, while a few are local well-known places like Shanghai Hongqiao and Luoyang Lonegmen.
 

Train Number

This is placed between the departure station and arrival station, made up of several digits or an English letter prefix, which refers to different train types.
 

Departure Date and Time

These are located in the fourth row on the left, in the order of year/month/date/hour/minute. Usually, passengers are allowed to enter the railway terminal at most 2 hours before departure; the boarding gates are opened 30 minutes before departure and closed 5 minutes before.
 

Carriage Number and Seat/Berth Number

These are to the right of departure date and time, with carriage number first. China railway carriages are numbered with digits, while a few have a prefix ‘加(addtion)’, meaning the carriage is added due to an excess of passengers. This usually happens during peak travel seasons like Spring Festival Travel Rush.

Inside normal trains, seats are numbered with digits while in high speed ones, seats are numbered with digits plus an English letter.

Berths inside the carriages are identified by ‘digits+location’, like 04号上铺, meaning no.04 upper berth. Usually, there are上铺(upper berth), 中铺(middle berth), and下铺(lower berth) inside sleeper carriages.

 Please note that tickets printed at many railway stations do not show Carriage Number and Seat/Berth Number. This does not mean it is a standing room ticket. If it is, the below seat class category will show “站票”. 
 

Class

This is below the carriage and seat/berth numbers.
高级软卧: Deluxe Soft Sleeper 软卧: Soft Sleeper 硬卧: Hard Sleeper
商务座: Business Class Seat 特等座: VIP Class Seat 一等座: First Class Seat
二等座: Second Class Seat 软座: Soft Seat 硬座: Hard Seat
无座: Standing (no berth or seat)
 

Price

This is on the left side of the fifth row, in units of the Chinese currency.

Below it, the Chinese sentence says: Permission only for the specific train of the printed date and time.
 

Passenger’s Certificate Number and Name

These are in the seventh row with the passenger’s real certificate number on the left and his name behind it.
 

Advertisement

In the lower left, there are two Chinese sentences in a dotted line box, advertising the passenger ticket booking (12306.cn) and freight transport service (95306.cn) of the China Railway Corporation.
 

Printing City

This is in the last row in Chinese characters, telling in which city the ticket was printed.

To its left, is a code made up of digits and English letters. It is used to verify the authenticity of the ticket, as does the two-dimensional code in the right bottom corner.
 

How to identify the authenticity of a ticket?

1. Watermark: The watermark must be printed clearly.
2. Feel: An authentic one will be smooth to the touch. Some fake ones may feel rough, and their printing may rub off or not be printed neatly.
3. Flexibility: Roll the ticket up and twist it. An authentic one will resume its original shape.
4. Comparison: Compare the ticket with an authentic one you already have.
5. Code: Every ticket has a set of codes at the top left (e.g. B023489 in the blue sample). You could find a corresponding set of codes at the bottom left (e.g. 36010311510706B023489).
6. Anti-fake Code: On the lower right, there is an anti-fake two-dimensional code which records train no. and passenger’s information.
 
Further Reading:
  China Train Travel - A Beginner’s Guide
 Useful Chinese Phrases for Train Travel
- Last modified on Dec. 13, 2019 -
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    Boulton
    Sweden
    Posted on Dec. 27, 2019
    We have wonderful trip in CHINA. We took all kinds of trains. Our favorite train type is the soft sleeper on the high speed train. We four shared one compartment. It was very nice, as we do not want to stay with strangers. Next trip in China, we still choose the soft sleeper on the high speed train.
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    Posted on Dec. 12, 2019
    I especially like the last page in your confirmation where you put in English and Chinese the sentence that helped us a lot. Wonderful job and I will book again with your website!
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    Posted on Nov. 25, 2019
    I thought no one will answer my phone call at midnight, but my consultant, Monica still picked up my call and guided me how to change my tickets at Xian station. Best wishes to her.
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    Posted on Nov. 10, 2019
    I booked 6 train trips with TravelChinaGuide and they were all sent to my first hotel in Beijing. I also want to go to Fanjing Mountain from Tongren, a small town in Guilin province, but I was not sure where to find the local transportation. The hotel doesn’t speak English and they only have a phone number. Very hard to communicate, TCG staff helped us to call the hotel and get more useful information for us. This was not their job but they were glad to help. Excellent!!
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    We got may help from local people in China, without them, the trips will be a disaster. We left our wallet on the train, with our passports, the staff in the station helped us a lot and found them. It is so kind of them!
    DIPPEL
    Germany
    Posted on Oct. 03, 2019
    Great service from Larissa Cheng. I was on a business trip in Shanghai and I thought it would be great to visit the Huangshan Mountains. Taking high speed-train is the best option. I have ordered the tickets with the delivery to my hotel. One day I came back to the hotel room and I found the tickets on the table. No need to pick them up, no need to overcome communication issues, simply take the tickets from the table, go to the station and wait at the gate. While, most of the passengers have the blue tickets, which let them automatically pass through the turnstile. This is not possible with my pink tickets, I had to show my ticket to the guard and he let me in then....More
    Elizabeth
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    It is my 1st time to visit China. Not clear about the railway station location. Thanks for your email about the address both in English and Chinese. That is very helpful.
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    I travelled during the holiday, there are many people and long queue in the station, you need to get there 1 hour before. Train trip was good.
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    Our booking was done with exceptionally efficiency and speed. We received asll pick-up number mails 29 days before travel date. TravelChinaGuide is great. And the girl who handled all my bookings was Jessica Zhang who was superb in her quick response & service. Love her!
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    Everything went well. We had a good time in China. Fast bullet trains, delicious food and kind people. We love our journey there. Thanks for your good service. We will book train tickets and tours with you again.
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