China Rail now provides e-ticket services for most high-speed trains (G/D/C trains), passengers who take a high-speed train can use their ID cards or passports to check in at the manual ticket check-in gate, with no need to collect a paper ticket.
While for normal-speed trains (Z, T, K trains), paper train tickets are still needed. You will still need to collect paper tickets in advance to board the train.
E-Ticket Service for High-Speed Trains in China
E-tickets are coming for almost all high-speed trains (with a few exceptions) from now on. Paper tickets will no longer be used if you take a high-speed train. After your e-tickets are issued, you will be able to swipe your passports at the manual ticket check-in gate to board the train. Chinese passengers can swipe their ID cards at the automatic check-in gate for boarding.
1. Before boarding a train with the e-ticket service, please note or print your seat and coach number in advance, as you will not have a paper ticket to tell you where it is.
2. Not all high-speed trains use e-ticket service. A few overnight D trains still need paper tickets for check-in and boarding. Please consult your travel advisor to confirm whether your train has the e-ticket service or not.
Paper Tickets are Still Needed for Normal-Speed Trains
If you take a normal-speed train (Z, T, K or digit-only trains), paper tickets are still needed. If you book your train tickets with China Highlights, you will find that there are two options for you to get your paper tickets:
- Collect them at the railway station yourself
- We deliver your paper tickets to your hotel or address in China
If you pick a delivery service at least 4 days ahead of departure, we can deliver your tickets directly to your hotel. Or you can collect your paper tickets at the ticket window by yourself. Here are some things you need to know in order to collect train tickets in China.
What You Need to Collect China Train Tickets
To collect your paper tickets, you need the right passport(s) and collection number(s). You can't use your booking information to board a train. Boarding China's trains requires tickets - there's no e-ticketing / on-train ticketing.
1. The Right Collection Number(s)
After you book China train tickets online, you will be issued with collection numbers and information regarding your train number, departure/arrival time and stations, and seat class.
If you book with China Highlights, we will send you a confirmation letter including all the information mentioned below, and useful instructions in both English and Chinese to help you collect your ticket(s) and board your train(s) along with travel tips and the timetable of your train(s).
Copy the collection numbers onto a piece of paper or take a screenshot of them with your device, and make sure they're readable. A collection number is composed of the letter "E" and nine numbers, e.g. E123456789; EA12345678.
2. The Right and Valid Passport(s)
Make sure that you have the passport(s) you used to book your ticket(s) when you collect it/them.
Original passport(s) are needed to collect the ticket(s), which are issued at the ticket window in the railway station. Copies of passports are not accepted.
Q: What if I want to collect my companions’ tickets?
A: Original passports for all passengers are needed to collect tickets at the ticket window if you have booked them online.
Q: What if my passport has been updated since I booked the ticket with my former passport? Will I be able to get my paper ticket?
A: It depends on the circumstances:
1) If you simply updated the expired passport, you can still collect the ticket but need to provide both the old and new passports as verification.
2) If the essential information on your passport used to book the ticket is damaged or is unreadable, there is a serious risk that the staff will turn down your request. You may have to cancel and book a new ticket.
But the results vary between different city stations and staff members. Please keep your trip advisor informed of any changes at the first opportunity to prevent further loss.
When You Should Collect Tickets
China's railway stations are often very busy and full of passengers. China Highlights suggests you collect the tickets well in advance.
Generally, a railway station operates 24/7, but there are only a few ticket windows available after 11pm. The operational period of each station depends on the train schedules on a specific day and the size of the station.
- Some small county stations may be closed late at night.
- Even huge stations, such as Beijing South Railway Station and Hongqiao Railway Station, are only open from 5:30am–10pm as there are no more scheduled trains after that time.
If You Collect Your Ticket(s) on the Day of Departure
We suggest you get to the railway station 2 hours before departure, as there may be long queues for collecting tickets, security checks, and check-in procedures. There are always long queues in train stations.
If you wait until right before your departure time, you run the risk of missing your train.
- You are also recommended to leave your hotel early when staying in big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. There could be heavy traffic jams on the way during peak times, such as 7:30am to 9:30am and 5pm to 6:30pm, and the stations are quite large, being hard to navigate.
- Most of the railway stations will stop the ticket checks 5 minutes prior to the departure time. Don’t wait until it is too late as you will still have to pass through the crowds, line up to have your tickets checked, and walk to the right platform.
In Peak Seasons - as Early as Possible
In peak seasons, there will be more people in the station and long queues for ticket collection. It's best to collect your ticket(s) as early as possible during peak seasons.
Peak season in China includes the following dates:
1. Public holidays: Labor Day Apr 29 – May 1; National Day Oct 1 – Oct 8; New Year's Eve Dec 30 – Jan 1; the Spring Festival Feb 15 – Feb 22
2. Students' winter vacation and summer vacation: mid-January to mid-February and mid-July to early September
3. Rush hour of a working day: 7am–9am and 5pm–7pm
4. There is also very likely to be a traffic jam during the rush hours at the weekend.
See Chinese Public Holiday Travel Rush for dates when you should definitely collect your train tickets early. Be aware that students will travel by train during the summer holidays (mid-July to late August) and winter holidays (mid-January to mid-February).
Where to Collect Tickets
Railway Station Ticket Windows
You can collect all your booked tickets at any railway station in mainland China. That is to say, if you have booked train tickets departing from different railway stations, you can collect all the tickets at the same time from one railway station. There is no service fee when collecting tickets from different stations.
In some big cities, there are many train stations. China Highlights recommends that you collect tickets at the nearest station, or from one that is centrally located with easy access.
Don’t Line Up at the Wrong Windows. In the ticketing hall, there are many ticket windows for different functions. Passengers can buy or collect train tickets for all routes, destinations, and train types at most of the ticket windows. There are, however, two or three exclusive ticket windows used for ticket refunds, cancellations, or endorsing.
You can collect the tickets booked online at any ticket windows except for the refund and cancellation windows (退票窗口).
Don’t expect the officials at these windows to provide an English service. They will cancel your ticket(s) if there is no conversation to show your intentions when you are at a cancellation window. The Chinese sentences below may be helpful:
- Chinese: 请问在网上定的票要去哪个窗口排队取票？
- English: I booked my ticket online; could you tell me which window I should queue at to collect my ticket?
Please note: High-speed train tickets to/from Hong Kong apply to different ticket collection policies. Some of the high-speed train tickets to/from Hong Kong need to be collected at railway stations in mainland China. While some of them need to be collected at Hong Kong West Kowloon Railway Station.
Find out more information at Instructions for purchasing Hong Kong high-speed train tickets.
Self-Service Ticketing Machines - Not for Foreigners
There are 24/7 self-service ticket machines in many train stations. Unfortunately, foreigners cannot use the self-service machines as the machines only recognize Chinese ID cards, not foreigners' passports.
Train Ticket Agencies
There may be only two or three railway stations in one city, but there can be more than 10 train ticket agencies. Find the nearest one to collect your tickets from. They are usually less crowded than railway stations.
Be aware that you need to pay a 5 yuan service fee for each ticket, no matter whether the tickets relate to trains departing from the same city or not.
Despite the service fee, it is worthwhile going to a ticket agency because it's more convenient than heading to a railway station and waiting in a long queue.
It's quite difficult for you to find a ticket agency if you don't know Chinese. Try asking some locals for help or taking a taxi by using a card with the following helpful Chinese phrase printed on it:
- Chinese: 您好， 请问最近的火车票代售点在哪里？
- Excuse me, could you please show me the way to the nearest train ticket agency?
Bear in mind that a ticket agency can sometimes be farther away than a railway station. Also, the opening hours are shorter than those of a railway station, usually opening for work between 8am and 5pm, while some open later and close earlier.
So you are recommended to collect your tickets at a train ticket agency between 9:30am and 2pm.
Procedures You Will Need to Undergo to Get in Your Train
Find the ticket collection window at a railway station -> Pass the security check -> Find the right waiting area to wait in -> Line up to have your ticket(s) checked -> Get onto the right platform -> Find the carriage that your seat(s)/sleeper(s) is in -> Get on board!
See more information about how to board a Chinese train.
Here are some useful sentences - you may save a photo/screenshot of them. When you don't know where to go, you can show the appropriate phrase (and your ticket), ideally to the railway station staff.
|请问去哪儿取票？||Could you tell me where to collect my ticket?|
|请问候车厅在哪里？||Could you tell me where my waiting room is?|
|请问在哪里上车？||Could you tell me where to get on board?|
|请问我的座位在哪里？||Could you tell me where my seat is?|