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How To Get China Train Ticket

Travelling China by train? Here are some of my suggestions on how to get China train ticket.

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

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

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). But so far (2015) it has only Chinese version.

How do Chinese get the train ticket?

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

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

For 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 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 ctrip, I use it for all my China inland booking. It now also has openned booking for train, but limited to certain types of trains.  Here is an example to book China train ticket online.

3. 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 you selected. 
  • Be aware of the people getting too close to you and keep your wallet and mobile in a safe place. 
  • Be careful the strangers who are keen to chat with you, particularly those suggest you a nice place to go. Do not follow them.  

Good luck with the China train ticket! :-)

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