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How to Buy Train Tickets in China — 6 Ways

There are five ways to buy train tickets in China:

1. Online booking at China Highlights

2. Buy tickets at a train station

3. Buy tickets at a ticket office

4. Book with China rail’s official website

5. Book ticket by telephone

Certificate required for booking

  • Foreign passenger: passport or travel permit
  • Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan passengers: Mainland Travel Permit

Book Tickets up to 30 Days Before the Departure Day

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.

The train tickets look likeThe red-color & blue-color tickets

Book Tickets Early if Your Travel Date Coincides with a Chinese Holiday

You are recommended to book tickets early, especially when your departure date coincides with a Chinese festival/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 5 ways to buy train tickets in China:

1. Book online with China Highlights - Recommended

China Highlights makes train ticket booking easy and hassle-free. All inquiries will be handled by China Highlights' experienced 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.

  • Only 3 steps to make the booking
  • 24/7 one-to-one service
  • You can select seats for free
  • Bilingual instructions provided
  • 1800+ five-star reviews on Trip Advisor
  • Domestic & international tickets can be booked
china highlights train ticket servciceChina Highlights' train ticket service

Search for train prices and schedules and book a ticket now!

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 travel advisors to ensure you get the best service. Search for train prices and schedules and book a ticket now!

We do the extra to save your time. After booking online at China Highlights, you can get your tickets easily by the 2 ways below:

  • Collect by yourself at a train station: collect your tickets at any railway station with your passports/Mainland Travel Permits and a pick-up number which you will have received via email.. (Often there are queues at the pick-up counters, so make sure you calculate some extra time for picking up the tickets.) 
  • Ticket delivery service by China Highlights: use our hassle-free delivery service and select seats for free. Tickets will be sent to your hotel before you arrive.

Also read How to collect Train Tickets after Booking Online with China Highlights.

2. Buy tickets at a train station

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 arealways 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:

  • Bring all the passengers’ original passports.
  • Expect long queues in front of the counters, especially during holidays.
  • Your preferable train can be fully booked, especially for popular routes or during peak season (including Spring Festival, National Holiday, Mid-autumn Festival, Dragon Boat Festival, etc) . It is recommended to prepare alternatives.
  • Staff at the train station cannot speak English. So it would be advisable to search train information in advance and write it down to show the person at the counter. Our travel advisors are glad to help with the translation or you can ask hotel staff to translate the information into Chinese.
  • Check the ticket fare on China Highlights and prepare enough cash (RMB), as the train station does not accept foreign credit cards.
  • Skip the Self-service ticket machines as they can accept Chinese ID only.

Buy ticket in the station

3. Buy tickets at a local ticket office

ticket officeThe local ticket office

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.

4. Book online at www.12306.cn

book train tickets online

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

5. Book by telephone

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.

How to Read A Train Ticket

Note: Passengers who hold red-colored tickets shall go through the manual ticket check and blue-colored ones to the automatic ticket check.

china train ticket

Our Recommended Train Travel Routes in China

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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.

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Author: Kelly

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