In this short post we are going to share with you some advice that will help you to plan your holidays if your are planing to travel by train in China.
The first thing you need to know is that booking the train tickets online is by your own and directly via the train companies can be quite complicated.
Reserving a ticket
The ticket reservations open 60 days before departure for online bookings and 58 days before departure for sale at stations, for all long-distance trains. You cannot buy tickets before reservations open.
Most long-distance trains get fully-booked days ahead. So book as many days ahead as you can. Although as China’s new G-category high-speed trains are expensive by Chinese standards you’ll sometimes find Beijing-Shanghai or Beijing-Xian high-speed train tickets available on the day of travel or the day before, assuming you are flexible as to the class or exact departure time. But in all other cases, long-distance train tickets often sell out days before departure.
Train tickets are best booked at least 3-4 days in advance, preferably more, apart from peak holiday periods when they should be booked as soon as reservations open or secured through a train ticketing agency who knows the ropes, as trains get very fully-booked weeks ahead.
There are many websites that can help you to book your ticket but we used www.chinahighlights.com/china-trains. It is a reliable and helpful train ticketing agency which has been around since 1998.
They have developed a clear & easy-to-use English-language train booking website linked to the Chinese Railways ticketing system to show train times, fares & availability for any train journey within China. They can book any Chinese domestic train, although not international trains or trains to or from Hong Kong (We are going to fly from Shanghai to Hong Kong to get around this problem).
Note: you need to send a copy of your passport to book the train tickets.
Collecting your tickets
If you book your train tickets online with an agency such as www.chinahighlights.com the no-extra-fee option is to collect the tickets at the station.
You’ll be emailed a booking confirmation stating the date, time, train number, car & seats number and (most importantly) your booking reference. This booking confirmation is not valid for travel, you need to collect the actual ticket before you board the train. You can do this at any station at any time before departure. If you plan to collect them immediately before departure then you should get to the station at least two hours beforehand as there might be long queues. Language isn’t a problem, you simply show the booking confirmation plus your passport and the passports of everyone travelling with you and the staff will hand you your tickets.
Note: There’s an RMB 5 (= 50p, $1) fee for collecting a ticket in a city that’s not the city where your journey starts.
You might want to collect tickets ahead of time to get this out of the way. In Beijing, it’s easier to collect them at Beijing’s centrally-located main station even if your train leaves from Beijing South or Beijing West, which are a mile or two’s metro ride out of the centre. There’s no fee for collecting a ticket at Beijing main station even if the journey starts from Beijing South or Beijing West. The ticket hall is to the right of the main building, clearly marked ‘ticket office’. Be prepared for an X-ray baggage check just inside the entrance.
After searching online the best source of information we found was the website http://www.seat61.com/China.htm check it out of you need additional help.