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There are five ways to buy train tickets in China:
1. Book online with a travel agency like China Highlights
2. Buy tickets at a train station
3. Buy tickets at a ticket office
4. Book at China Railway’s official website
5. Book ticket by telephone
Certificate required for booking
Most train tickets can be purchased up to 30 days before the departure day when you book online or by telephone, and 28 days in advance when you buy them at train stations or local train ticket offices. However, tickets on trains like D overnight trains and Y trains (e.g. Lanzhou - Jiayuguan or Duanhuang) can be purchased 20 days before the departure day. Some other train tickets can be purchased only 4 days ahead.
You are recommended to book tickets early, especially when your departure date coincides with a Chinese festival or holiday, such as the National Holiday (October 1st to 7th) and Chinese New Year (usually during the end of January and the beginning of February). See more dates when you should book train tickets early.
Read on to see the five ways to buy train tickets in China:
Many travelers would like to use China's vast and cheap rail network; however, obtaining train tickets is not an easy process (they are sold out quickly, there are long queues, and there are language problems, etc.). China Highlights makes train ticket online booking available to you to save you time, hassle, and money. All inquiries will be handled by China Highlights' experienced and professional travel advisors to ensure you get the best service.
China Highlights accept booking requests months ahead and will purchase your tickets as soon as reservations open. We do the extra to save your time.
China Highlights provide seat selection service for free. After making the booking, you can get your tickets easily by the 2 ways below:
Buying tickets at train stations can be difficult for foreigners who cannot speak Chinese. Train stations sell tickets 28 days before departure. You need to queue in front of a ticket window to buy tickets. There are always long queues in front of each ticket window at train stations in large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Xi’an and Chengdu, especially during holidays. An electronic board over the windows will update the information regarding the availability of tickets in Chinese only.
Here are some tips for buying tickets at train stations:
Like train stations, ticket offices sell tickets 28 days in advance. But ticket offices are less crowded and located all over a city. RMB 5 will be charged per ticket as service fee.
The working hours at ticket offices are usually from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Also bring your passports to buy the tickets. Only cash (RMB) is accepted. Tickets can not be collected here if you have made a booking online.
Do not expect English to be spoken at a ticket office. It would be better to prepare a note in Chinese with the train number, travel date, and seat class.
The China Rail official website sells tickets 30 days before departure. But it is also difficult for foreigners to use since the website is only in Chinese and only accepts Chinese bank cards.
See the instructions on how to Buy Train Tickets at www.12306.cn
The official telephone number for ticket booking is area code + 95105105, e.g. Beijing: 010-95105105, Shanghai: 021-95105105, Guangzhou: 020-95105105, etc. Working hours are from 06:00 to 23:00. Only Chinese is spoken.
Tickets can be booked by telephone 4 to 30 days in advance. After a successful reservation, you need to collect the tickets at a train station within 24 hours and make a payment by cash (RMB), otherwise your booking will be cancelled.
Please note: Passengers who hold red-colored tickets shall go through the manual ticket check and blue-colored ones to the automatic ticket check.
If you are planning a tour in China and want to experience a high-speed train, please see the following itineraries for inspiration:
Not interested in the above tours? Our tours can be customized or tailor-made from scratch. Just tell us your interests and requirements and we will help you design your China tour.