Where to purchase train tickets in China?

Online Travel Agency: rail tickets are not easy to buy during the peak seasons like the Golden Week (October 1 – 7) and Spring Festival. It is advisable for tourists from other countries to purchase via a reliable travel agency like TravelChinaGuide.com. This is a very efficient and secure way. Book at TravelChinaGuide.com

Online Booking with China Railway Customer Service Center: Passengers can book online with China Railway Customer Service Center (www.12306.cn). From the beginning of 2012, tickets of all trains are available online. While booking, it is valid to present one’s passport, mainland travel permit for Macau / Hong Kong / Taiwan residents or Chinese citizen ID card, however the website only has Chinese version and only offers online reservation service to its registered users, for tickets in 1-12 days. Payment online are applicable for bank card of the Bank of China, China Merchants Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and bank cards stipulated by China UnionPay. The users should open up the e-currency payment service. In the near future, passengers can choose seats when booking the bullet train tickets online. The seat number is made up of a digital number and a letter. The digital number shows the row, while the letter indicates the seat position. There are totally 5 letters to indicate the position including A, B, C, D, and F. Among them, A or F represents a seat by the window; C or D represent a seat by the corridor; B represents a seat in the middle of the three-seat.

Telephone booking is available in several cities but only for local citizens (95105105 for Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Wuhan, Nanchang, Taiyuan, Shenyang, Zhengzhou, Lanzhou, Jinan and their subordinate stations, 96006 for Chengdu and 96688 for Xian).

Railway Station: At the booking offices of railway stations, passengers could purchase the tickets on the spot or a few days in advance. In these popular cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Xian, the booking offices are opened 24 hours round the clock.

Designated Booking Office: Generally, passengers could purchase the rail tickets 3~10 days (20 days for Z and D trains) ahead of travel time at the booking offices distributed throughout a city. An additional service charge of CNY5 per ticket should be paid.

Travel Agency: It is often more convenient to obtain your tickets through a reliable travel agency or at the Reception Desk of your hotel. While this is both convenient and can save time, relevant service charge is required, maybe more if you require a delivery service.

Tips:

1. The pre-sale period may be adjusted temporarily during the rush Chinese holidays or festivals, such as Chinese New Year, National Holiday and summer vacation. To avoid disappointment, it is suggested that you book through an agency as early as possible.
2. Scalper, Huangniu or Piaofanzi in Chinese, refers to those who buy tickets repeatedly and resell them at higher prices. They loiter at the railway station trying to sell for a profit. This practice is of course illegal and it is not recommended to buy tickets from them. Some sell fake ones that are difficult to distinguish from the real ones. We supplied samples with some facts below to identify the authenticity of a ticket.
3. Children between 1.2M and 1.5M are charged at a half price while those under 1.2M are admitted for free. Please note that children are asked to be accompanied by adults on the train.

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