It is quite difficult for foreigners to book train tickets at China Rail's official website www.12306.cn, because it only has a Chinese language version, and a Chinese SIM card and a China bank card are necessary. It would be helpful if you have a Chinese friend and assist you with all the steps.
China Highlights provides a handy guide to book train tickets on this website. Download an online translator to help you with the translation if you don't know Chinese.
Or take only 3 steps to book China train tickets on China Highlights
There are 7 steps to booking a ticket:
Step 1: Sign up for a new account
If you have used the service before, log in. If not, this is the process to follow in order to register:
- Click the link for 12306, and click the '购票' (buy tickets) button on the left list.
- Find '注册' (register) at the top of the page and click. Then fill in a form as per the following instructions to sign up for a new account.
|用户名 (User's name):||Letters, numbers, hyphens, and a few other special characters are permitted. The entry must be in the range of six to thirty characters. The 'real-name system' is not referred to (using your real name to sign-up), thus you may use anything as your user name. You may also use your email address.|
|登陆密码 (Password):||Input password. The colored bar shows the safety degree of your password. The higher it is, the prettier the color is.|
|密码确认 (Password confirmation):||Input the same password again.|
|姓名 (Name):||Six numbers that may be used for voice-checking in telephone bookings.|
|证件类型 (Document Type)||Choose "护照" ("Passport")
Please note: the content below will be changed if you choose another document type.
|证件号码 (Document Number)||Input your passport number|
|性别 (Gender)||Click to choose "男" (male) or "女" (female)|
|国际/地区 (Nationality)||Choose your nationality in the drop-down list|
|出生日期 (Date of birth)||Choose your date of birth|
|邮箱 (Email Address)||Not a compulsory column|
|手机号码 (Mobile Phone Number)||Input your Chinese mobile phone number|
|旅客类型 (Passenger)||Choose "成人" ("Adult")|
When all of this is complete, you will be taken to another page where you need to verify your Chinese mobile phone number.
The website will send a text of verification code to your Chinese mobile phone, fill the code in the box next to the Chinese character "验证码" (in English: verification code). Please see the screen shot below.
After filling in the code, you are successfully registered.
Step 2: Log in to your account
|登录名 (User's name/email address)||You can input theemail address or user's name that you just used to sign up with.|
|密码 (Password)||Input your password.|
|验证码 (Identifying code)||This part is quite hard, not only for foreigners, but also for Chinese people. You need to recognize all of the pictures shown, according to the Chinese instruction for example, '请点击下图中所有的气球' (it says, "please click all of balloons from pictures shown below").|
Step 3: Check your account.
You are now on your account page. From here, you can manage your bookings and personal information as follows:
Click the orange Chinese characters '车票预订' (book train tickets) to book your train tickets.
Step 4: Book your tickets.
Click '车票预订' (book tickets) on the top bar of the page, which takes you to the booking process. Enter your travel date, and then click '查询' (search), the orange-colored button on the right.
Decide which train you want to take, and click the blue-colored button '预订' (book) on the right to carry on to the next page where the passenger information is to be entered. The fields will contain the details associated with your account. In addition to this, you may add more passengers by clicking on the blue Chinese characters '更多' (more).
Step 5: Check the confirmation page.
China Rail will assign you a seat or a berth at random. The red-colored number on the panel tells you how many bookings are available in accordance with the choices you have made.
If you are not content with what has been assigned to you – preferring, for example, a bottom berth over a top berth in a sleeper compartment – you may click on the gray '返回修改' (return and change) button in order to repeat the booking procedure you have just completed. However, the assignment will be random again.
You are only permitted to change your selection in this fashion three times in any 24-hour period and, should you exceed that, your account will be blocked for 24 hours. Once you are satisfied, (or dissatisfied, but left with no choice in the matter except for abandoning your booking altogether), click the orange-colored '确认' (confirm) button to proceed to the payment page.
Step 6: Make the payment
On the next page, click the orange-colored payment button '网上支付' (pay online). This page is linked to the payment systems that China Rail supports, including some Chinese banks, UnionPay (银联) and Alipay (支付宝). Payment needs to be made within 30 minutes, otherwise the booking will be cancelled.
Step 7: Get the details you need from the tickets booked successfully page.
You are almost done now. The lime-colored banner shows your booking number, 'E175946596' in this example, which you will need for ticket collection. Please write it down or print this page out. You will also be required to take your actual passport with you. A copy is not sufficient.
Double-check your details as follows: passenger names, passenger passport or ID numbers, seats assigned, and the train number. The red-colored Chinese characters denote the station where you will board, (in our example '深圳北', Shenzhen Bei, Shenzhen North Railway Station), while '检票口A16' ('Ticket Check Entrance A16') is the ticket checking point. (Don't go to the wrong boarding station, or you will not be able to check-in with your ticket! )
Collecting Train Tickets after Booking at 12306
You can collect your paper ticket(s) at any ticket window of any railway station with your passport(s)/Mainland Travel Permit and the e-ticket number.
Read more about How to Collect Train Tickets by Myself?
Skip all the above steps and book tickets at China Highlights to save time.