Ultimate Guide of How to Take a Train in China
Safe, comfortable and economical, trains are now the most popular way to travel around China for both foreign and domestic Chinese tourists. Particularly, high-speed trains connect nearly all the provinces of China, and it is utterly easy to take a train in China. Here is a step-by-step guide for first-time visitors to have a smooth train travel experience in China.
Commonly, there are more than one train station in service in most cities of China. For instance, Beijing has four railway stations for trains operating at different speeds and to different directions. Thus, the very first step to take a train in China is to go to the right station, and that could be confirmed from the ticket on which the train station is clearly shown. You are supposed to arrive at the train station at least 1 hour earlier so as not to miss the train, and two hours beforehand suggested during travel peak time like the Chinese holidays and weekends.
If the ticket is booked online, you shall go to certain windows of the ticket office to collect your train ticket as foreign passports cannot be accepted on the automatic fetching machine. Though it is advised to book tickets in advance, you could also choose to purchase the tickets on the site if you are going to take an intercity train with departure of high frequency. If you book a tour including train rides with us, we will handle the ticket booking in advance and the ticket will be given to you by your tour guides. Besides, Elysian Tour provides ticket booking and delivery service, and we could also help you to reschedule or refund the ticket if your travel plan changes.
Read more on How to book train tickets & collect train tickets?
Your tickets and passports are required to be verified before you go through security check. So, it is advised to keep them closer at a handy bag to avoid spending too much time looking for them which will hold the long queues.
You need to go through the security check when entering the railway station. Your luggage like suitcases, parcels and bags would be examined by the scanner conveyor belt, while you would also be scanned through a security check gate and manual scanner by the station inspector. Different from the security check at airport, you could pack drinks to board the train in China. And during holiday time, the queues for security check will be usually long, which is also why you need to arrive at the train station early enough.
More details about Baggage Allowance on the Train
After going through the previous processes, you could find the right waiting room according to the train number on your ticket and sit down to take a break. Usually, there are large LED screens at the main hall to display the information of all trains departing the station. The info might be shown in Chinese only, but the train number and departure time are easy to recognize. Moreover, in some high-speed train stations, there is no separate waiting room at all, but an open resting area with lines of seats next to the check-in counters, which could be directly located by the info printed on your train tickets. For travelers of soft sleepers and business class seats, there will be special waiting rooms and VIP lounges at some train stations. If you have problems finding the correct waiting area, you could always turn to the working crews to ask for help.
Tips: Most big high-speed railway stations are now well facilitated with fast food restaurants (KFC, Burger King and McDonald's), shops, cafés and book bars inside for you to kill time during hours' waiting.
The check-in usually starts about 20-30 minutes before departure, sometimes about 10 minutes in priority for short-ride highspeed trains. At some modern train stations, there are LED screens at the check-in gate to show the train status. Usually the train number turns green when it's time to check-in. Please note that you may get a high-speed train ticket in pink color sometimes, and there will be a special check-in channel to get your ticket checked manually. For blue ticket holders, you can just insert the ticket into the check-in machine to have it auto-checked. However, in some old train stations, there will be only Chinese-version announcement to let you know the time to check in, and the tickets are all checked manually by the station staff.
Passing the check-in gate, you could follow the flow of people to find the platform to board the train. The carriage, cabin and seat numbers are clearly demonstrated on your train ticket and you need simply find the right carriage and get to your seats. (Read more on How to Read a Train Ticket). At the entrance of each carriage, there stands an attendant to check your ticket again and make sure you board the right train/carriage. Then find your seat according to your seat number on the ticket, and put your baggage on the rack overhead.
If you ride an overnight sleeper train, your ticket (sometimes with the passport) would be changed to a card by the attendant, which would be returned before the termination so that you will not miss the right stop to get off.
Note: There is an independent dining cabin for travelers to have meals, but the food tastes terrible. Popular snacks are sold on carts wheeled through all the cabins by the staff onboard at times, while the price is a bit expensive. Thus, you are suggested to prepare some snacks in advance. More details about Food & Drinks on HSR
About 10 minutes before the arrival, there will be announcements to alert you to prepare to get off. (Chinese version only in normal trains, and English version available on most high-speed trains). If the train is not delayed, you can get off just according to the arrival time on your ticket. If you are taking the sleeper train, the train attendants will come to inform you the right time to get off. Never forget to check and take all your belongings before debarkation. The ticket-check is required at the exit, too. Likewise, the high-speed train tickets will be scanned again by machines, while other trains will be checked randomly by working staff. So, you'd better make your tickets handy before exit.
- Never wait till the last minute to reach the train station for the lines for entry could be incredibly long.
- In most railway stations, there are porters who can help to carry your big luggage onto the train, which charges CNY20-25 per piece.
- Always keep an eye on your belongings as there could be pickpockets at train stations (old train stations in particular), especially when you queue up for security check and push over to board the train.
- If you arrive at the railway station too early and want to have some free time to hang around outside, you could deposit your baggage at the luggage service center, but please do take the valuables with you.
- Keep your train tickets in right place even after boarding, as it would be rechecked when you exit. Staying on board, sometimes you may be requested to show your ticket and passport for inspection, too.
- Do take the traffic time into your consideration when heading to the railway station. Traffic in big cities of China, such as Beijing and Shanghai could be a pain in busy hours.