How to Book and Collect Train Tickets in China
Traveling by train is now one of the most popular way to tour around China, while booking train tickets becomes one of the biggest trouble for most foreign independent travelers. Technically, there are four major methods to get a train ticket in China, and you can opt for one according to your preference, language level and time allowance.
Need of Chinese phone number and bank account, language barrier
A train ticket could be booked about 30 days in advance online through 12306.cn, the official website of China Railway Corporation. Easy for most Chinese people, it could be a huge hassle for foreign travelers. Firstly, you need a Chinese phone number to register and a Chinese bank account for payment (or a mobile payment account of WeChat and Alipay). Needless to say, the website is only in Chinese version and utterly hard to navigate. The booking procedure is also kind of complicated as you might get into troubles of filling forms. Any spelling mistakes or incompatibility of browsers would result in a failed booking. Thus, if reading little Chinese, you need help from your Chinese friends. And the merit of this way is that you could avoid the service fee charged by booking through other ways.
Limited ticket collecting time and language barrier
Comparing to the official website, booking a train ticket becomes much easier by making phone calls via 95105105, the official hotline of China ticket affair. The booking is available 30 days before departure. Reservations could be made by providing your passport info and the onward train schedule that you choose through phone calls. This method as well only works for people with a good command of mandarin as no English-speaking service is offered. Furthermore, you shall collect your ticket from a railway station with your original passport within 24 hours after a successful booking, otherwise the booking would be cancelled automatically. In travel peak season, the phone calls might be unable to connect and you need to constantly try many times.
Queuing for long time, language problems and possibility of tickets sold out
You could purchase your train ticket at any railway station or the ticket outlets in the city while you are in China, both of which have a pre-sale period of 28 days. If you have enough time, just head for any nearby railway stations to get a ticket, but get ready for possible long-time queuing at the crowded ticket office. Or you could pick a ticket outlet near your place, and it will be a great help though there is an additional service fee of CNY 5 per ticket. Before you go, search the real-time train schedule and choose the train you want to take. If speaking little Chinese, you’d better write down the train number, date, class and destinations in Chinese with help of a Chinese friend, and show them to the conductor as most of them speak Chinese only. Meanwhile, you also need to get some alternatives as the ticket you want may be sold out especially for popular routes. Please note the only way to reschedule and refund your physical ticket is to go back to the ticket office of the railway station.
Totally hassle free and low service fee
The easiest and best way for foreign travelers to book a train ticket is to turn to a travel agency. You can book the tickets just by an email or a phone call through their professional English-speaking staff. With a reasonable extra charge of $5-$10, all the hassle and troubles could be saved. In addition, multiple payment methods are supported, such as Paypal, Visa and Mastercard. The ticket could be retrieved by yourself at the train station or be mailed to your hotel in China.
After booking online, you need to go to the railway station to collect the tickets with your passports. There are self-service Ticket Machines in most railway stations, but they accept Chinese ID cards only. Thus, you need to queue up at a ticket counter for pick-up. Alternatively, you could opt to use the ticket delivery service if you book with Elysian Tour, as we could help to pick up your ticket and mail it to your place like hotel in China several days ahead of departure.
Considering the time in line and the hassle of language barrier, we recommend getting your train tickets delivered to your hotel in China, and the small service fee for ticket booking and delivery is definitely worthwhile.
1. You could have a totally hassle-free ticket booking experience with us by providing your passport info and your itinerary in China. Our operator will handle the booking procedure promptly once you confirmed the order.
2. We could help to collect the train tickets from the railway station and offer ticket delivery service to your place in China, which could save all troubles you will encounter when collecting them on your own.
3. If you have preferred seats, we could select the seats by windows or adjoining seats for your companions. Note: Seat selection only applies to high-speed trains.
4. We are always here to help you to reschedule and refund the tickets if your travel plan changes, which might not be accepted by other travel agencies.