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How to Board and Get Off a Chinese Train

It may be very convenient for you to board/get off a train in your country, but there are some extra things to do to get on/off a train in China.

Things You Will Definitely Need

Unlike boarding a train directly abroad, you must buy a ticket and have it checked (a number of times) before you board a train in China.

  • A train ticket (see more on buying train tickets)
  • The passport you used to buy the ticket(or ID card for Mainland Chinese, or Mainland Travel Permit for passengers from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan)

1. Get to the right station.

Check your ticket information for the right train station. To avoid missing your train, you are recommended to arrive at the train station 2 hours earlier than the departure time. You can take a taxi if you don't know the city very well. You can show your ticket to the driver and give him this Chinese phrase printed on a piece of card.

  • Chinese: 请送我到这个火车站. Qǐng sòng wǒ dào zhège huǒchēzhàn.
  • English: Please drive me to this railway station.

2. Go through the security check to enter the station.

security checkSecurity check

(If you haven't collected your ticket(s), do this first at the ticket sales area. See How to Collect Train Tickets in China.)

After you arrive at the right train station and have your ticket, line up for the security check in the same way as you would at an airport. Put your luggage, including handbags, hip pouches, and carry-on bags, on the security scanner conveyor belt. Then walk through a metal detector gate, and stand still for staff to use a scanner on you and check your person for forbidden articles.

Unlike the security restrictions at an airport, you can take water on a train. If you want to know what size baggage you can take on a train in China, please see baggage allowance details

Check-in time: Please allow sufficient time to perform the departure procedures and check your baggage. Wait at the waiting room, and you are allowed to enter the platform approximately 25 minutes before departure. Be alert. To foreigners unused to traveling by Chinese trains, the procedure for getting on might seem confusing, pushy and rushed.

And please leave enough time for queuing and waiting, as there can be a lot people standing in line.

Safety Tips for the Security Check

Put some distinguishing marks on your suitcases and bags (in case of similar luggage), and remember to take all your possessions with you after the security check.

Safety: Keep your luggage and bags closed and close to you. Pickpocketing may be a problem. Another problem is that in a rush to get on, people might push you or push past you to get a seat.

You should carry your valuables on you, such as a wallet, cell phone, etc. There may be thieves in the station, so take care of your baggage during the security check. If you are missing anything, tell the staff members immediately.

3. Find your waiting room.

waiting roomWaiting room

There isn't as much English signage or as many English-speaking staff readily available to help foreigners find the departure waiting rooms. You can ask the railway station's staff, or volunteers who always wear a red or yellow hat or coat, or other passengers for help in finding your waiting room. Show them your ticket. Below is a Chinese phrase that you can show them:

  • Chinese: 请问我应该去哪个候车室? Qǐngwèn, wǒ yīnggāi qù nǎge hòuchēshì?
  • English: Excuse me. Could you tell me which waiting room I should go to?

Arrive Early

It is recommended that you arrive at the station about an hour before departure time if you have tickets and about two hours before if you intend to get a ticket there since waiting in line might take an hour on busy days.

After the security check, you will see some LED screens, which show current train information for the day, including each train number (车次), destination station (终到站), departure time (发车时间), and waiting room number (候车室). Check your train number on your ticket with the LED screens, and find the right waiting room.

There is usually Chinese only on the screen, please see the table below for translation help:

Chinese 车次 终到站 发车时间 候车室 状态
English Train To Departs at Waiting room State
e.g. D5195 成都东 17:57 5 正在候车 (waiting)

Bear in mind that the check-in process stops 5 minutes before the train's departure time. So you are recommended to arrive at the waiting room at least 30 minutes before the departure time.

4. Line up for the ticket check at the right platform gate.

When your train is arriving, a broadcast will tell passengers to go to the ticket check gate. You need to go to the ticket gate in the waiting room and have your ticket before you can get access to the platform.

There may be the Chinese characters 检票口 followed by some numbers at the bottom of your ticket. In this case, the number is the platform access gate allocated to your ticket, and you can only have your ticket checked at the ticket entrance with the number that corresponds to the one on your ticket. You may refer to the picture below.

train ticket

If there is no such character and number, you should refer to the LED screen in your waiting room and find the right ticket entrance for your train.

Chinese 车次 终到站 开点 检票口 状态
English Train No. To Departs at Check In Gate State
e.g. C7639 珠海 14:00 21A 正在检票(checking in)

Usually, the LED screen shows train information on a cycle, so your train's information may not be immediately visible. You can check it until it completes a cycle, or ask someone beside you for help using the following Chinese sentence and showing them your ticket:

  • Chinese: 请问我应该在哪个检票口检票?
  • English: Excuse me. Could you tell me which ticket gate should go to for this ticket?

How to check-in red/blue tickets: Pay attention to the color of your ticket. If your ticket is blue, you can put it into the check-in machine to have it auto-checked, which is faster. If your ticket is red, staff must check it manually.

5. Find your car and seat.

platformA platform for high-speed railway train

Don't go to the wrong platform: After your ticket has been checked, you should look for the platform allocated to your train number and follow the signs to the platform. (Following everyone else entering through your ticket gate is usually all you need to do.) When you are boarding your train, show your ticket to a staff member and make sure you are boarding the right train.

Place your baggage opposite your seat: After you get on the train, you can find your seat according to your ticket. Put your baggage on the rack opposite your seat, so that you can easily keep an eye on it.

6. After you get on your train, keep your ticket safe.

Don't lose or throw away your ticket! During the journey, your ticket and passport might be checked by the train staff. When you exit the destination train station, your ticket will be checked one more time. Therefore, look after your ticket carefully until you leave the station.

(If you take a sleeper train your ticket will be exchanged for a plastic bunk card by staff shortly after boarding. Staff will come to return your ticket, in exchange for your bunk card, about 30 minutes before your destination.)

7. Make sure you get off at the right station.

If your destination is not the terminus of a train, you need to listen to the stop announcements carefully. It is strongly advised that you show your ticket to a member of the train staff and ask her/him to remind you to get off. Just show the staff member your ticket and this Chinese sentence:

  • Chinese: 麻烦你提前十分钟提醒我准备下车.
  • English: Please remind me to get off 10 minutes before arrival.

You might want to download our app to see train schedules to know when your train should arrive at your station and which stations come before it. Available on both iTunes and Google Play, to download the app click: China Train Booking.

8. Get off the train smoothly (you have 2 to 5 Minutes)

Station announcements usually come at least 10 minutes before each stop, to give passengers time to prepare to leave the train. Chinese passengers will tend to form lines in the aisles long before the stop in order to get off the train quickly.

This is unnecessary as there will be about 3 minutes for everyone to leave the train. Some bullet trains may only leave 2 minutes for passengers to disembark, where as normal speed trains may leave 5 minutes. If you don't want to stand for a long time in cramped conditions, don't join the lines. Just gather your personal possessions together and sit in your seat to wait.

9. Find the Station Exit


Follow the crowd and you will get to the correct exit (出站口). You may need to carry your luggage to be able to negotiate long staircases to reach to the exit. Stations vary but, if you are very lucky, there will be an escalator. So it is best to travel light on China's trains.

A ticket-check may be required at the exit: Remember to have your ticket readily accessible as the ticket will be inspected again at the exit gate,either by a member of staffor a machine. Sometimes, if you are unable topresent your ticket, a fine of up to 150% of your ticket price will be charged.

City Transportation from a Train Station

Generally speaking, train stations are transportation hubs of cities, and it is very convenient to travel to another location from a train station, especially in large cities. Usually, many public buses have stops at train stations.

In large cities with subways, you can always find two or three subway stations around a train station. Subways usually operate until about 11pm. For example, the last subway service from Beijing West Railway Station on Line 9 is at 11:29pm.

If you get off a train at midnight and there are no subway or public bus services until 5am or 6am, don't worry; there are always official taxi lanes in the street directly in front of the train stations. Some large train stations have underground taxi centers, such as Beijing West Railway Station.

As many taxi drivers in China can't speak English, you'd better take a note with the Chinese name of your hotel or destination printed on it (we, at China Highlights, would be glad to help you out).

Useful Chinese Sentences

Show the following sentences to members of staff at the station if you need help:

Chinese English
Qǐng sòng wǒ dào zhège huǒchēzhàn.
Please drive me to this train station.
Qǐngwèn, huǒchē shòupiàochù zài nǎlǐ?
Can I ask a question? Where is the ticket counter?
请问,这个火车站站在哪里? Qǐng wèn, zhège huǒchēzhàn zài nǎlǐ? Excuse me, where is this train station?
Qǐngwèn, wǎngluò dìngpiàode qǔpiàochuāngkǒu zài nǎlǐ?
Excuse me, where is the collection counter for tickets booked online?
Qǐngwèn, zài nǎge chuāngkǒu bànlǐ tuìpiào?
Excuse me, which window is for canceling/refunding tickets?
Qǐngwèn, zài nǎge chuāngkǒu bànlǐ gǎiqiān?
which window is for altering tickets?
Qǐngwèn, xǐshǒujiān zài nǎlǐ?
Where is the bathroom, please?
Qǐngwèn, zhè fùjìn yǒu cāntīng ma?
Excuse me, is there a restaurant nearby?
Qǐngxwèn, jìcúnchù zài nǎlǐ?
Excuse me, where is the left luggage room?
Qǐngwèn, wǒ yīnggāi qù nǎge hòuchēshì?
Would you please tell me where my waiting room is?

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Author: Kelly

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