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How To Get China Train Ticket

Traveling China by train? how to get China train ticket? Here are some of my suggestions for this.

Traveling China by train has some advantages. It is cheaper than flight, the condition of high-class sleeper train is good, and overnight express can save your day time. (Here you can see my post of taking sleeper train in China).

In the European countries and the USA, booking train ticket online is not a problem. But in China getting train ticket is not that straightforward as in those countries.

China Train Ticket

How do Chinese get the train ticket?

In China only till 2011, the official China train ticket online booking system was launched by China Railway Customer Service Centre. (http://www.12306. cn). People can buy train ticket online but each ticket is linked with your personal ID. So before buying ticket online, online users need to have their IDs validated at the train station. So far (2016) this online service website has only Chinese version.

If it is for business, there will be someone in the company do this task through the contact between the company and local railway stations.

For personal case, if you join a tour, it can be done by the agent. Or, if you have contact with the railway station, then things are easy too. Otherwise, you may buy ticket online or go to station buy ticket yourself.

If you are a foreigner who does not understand Chinese, here are my suggestions.

1. Your Hotel

This is always my first option whenever I visited back China for a business trip. It is easy and convenient. In China most hotels above three stars provide this service. Some small hotels do this too. Just ask them.

The handling fee is about 30~50 RMB. But it is better to check with hotel as early as possible because it may take few days to get the ticket.     

2. Chinese Travel Agent

Normally they are Chinese travel companies who can get China train ticket for you. Some of them have websites in English, not only provide lots useful information but also online train ticket booking system. You can book online first then they deliver ticket to your hotel.

One good travel China booking system is www.ctrip.com, I use it for all my China inland booking. It now also has opened booking for train, but limited to certain types of trains.

3. Local China Train Ticket Office

There are many train ticket offices being set up in each city, in different areas, which makes buying train tickets more convenient for locals. These office is linked with the online ticket network, so it is the same as buying the ticket at the station.  

My parents do not know how to use online ticket service, so they normally just go to their local train ticket office to buy one. This is quick and no need to queue up at train station. 

But if you are not familiar with the city, it might be hard to find such ticket office. So, other options might be better than this.

4. Local Railway Stations

As a Chinese myself, I haven’t been to railways station to buy ticket for years, just try to avoid the long queues and crowds. But with the development of Chinese economic, the condition of train station has been much improved now.

If you need to buy ticket at station, some suggestions here.

  • It is better to write down your destination in Chinese and the date you plan to travel, because English speaking service is unlikely available at the ticket window.
  • It is also better to prepare several train options you have checked, in case they may not have the ticket available on the date or the train type that you selected. 
  • Be aware of the people getting too close to you and keep your wallet and mobile in a safe place. Keep you backpack in front, if possible.
  • Be careful the strangers who are keen to chat with you, particularly those who suggests a nice place or nice service to go. Do not follow the strarnger!    

Good luck with the China train ticket! :-)

(Update: 22/11/2016)

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