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How to Book Train Ticket in China

When traveling to a new place, transportation within that new place must be taken into consideration. Nowadays, there are tons transportation methods: trains, airplanes, ships, taxis, buses and subways. All of these add a bit more convenience to our lives. China is now leading the way in creating modern trains. It’s high-speed bullet train is known around the world, attracting global attention and foreign travelers. This article will demonstrate how to book a train ticket in China, step-by-step, as a foreigner.

1. Find and enter the official website

You will see the homepage shown below.

2. Register

Click 注册 (zhùcè, Register) on the top right corner and register with your Passport.

Process:

Username→ Password → Reconfirm → Certificate Type→ Your Real Name → Passport Number → Date of Birth → Gender → Country/Region → Email → Phone Number → Passenger Type → Mark → Submit

Explanation:

  • Username: use 6 – 30 letters, numbers or _ and start with alphabet. Once it’s done, it can’t be changed anymore.
  • Password: to use 6 – 20 letters, numbers or symbols.
  • Certificate Type: choose “护照” (hùzhào, Passport).
  • Your Real Name: copy your name from your passport.
  • Phone Number: only for Chinese Number. If you do not have a Chinese phone number, it is best to ask a friend to use their number.
  • Passenger Type: to choose “成人” (chéngrén, Adult) or “儿童”( értóng, Child) accordingly.

3. Login in

Once you registered, you can click “登录” (dēnglù, Login in) on the top right corner to enter.

When clicking 登录, you will enter a page similar to the one shown above. There are two ways for you to login in – scan a QR code or use your username and password. Usually, a QR code is easier for those who have downloaded the official APP. You can choose either of them to enter.

4. Begin booking your ticket

After logging in, you can begin booking your ticket. On the homepage, you can directly input your “出发地” (chūfā dì, Departure) and “到达地” (dàodá dì, Destination) in the corresponding blanks and choose your travel dates to search available tickets.

Note:

you can choose “单程” (dānchéng, One-way) or “往返” (wǎngfǎn, Round trip) according to your own situation. It will provide all available trains for you, similar to the picture shown above. If you’d like a more specific result, you can mark “车次类型” (chēcì lèixíng, Train Type), “出发车站” (chūfā chēzhàn, Departure Station) or “发车时间” (fā chē shíjiān, Departure Time) to narrow down your choices. However, sometimes there are not trains available on specific dates or times, or they are all booked up. Don’t worry, the website provides you with alternative ways. These alternative ways are the “接续换乘” (jiēxù huàn chéng, Transfer).

Click “接续换乘” and all the alternative routes are laid out for you.

5. Choose the train

Choose the train you want and click “预定” (yùdìng, Book). It will take you to an information and booking page. Click “提交订单” (tíjiāo dìngdān, Submit).

Explanation:

  • The first rectangle in picture 1 gives the information of the train, including destination, type of seat, price and tickets left.
  • The second rectangle in picture 2 asks for the Passenger’s Information. You should input yours or your passenger’s information, mark passengers who need tickets, and then choose type (成人 or 儿童) and seat.
  • After clicking “提交订单”, the page will take you to picture 2, to reconfirm your information and choose your preferred seat. Once you are finished, you just click “确认” (quèrèn, Confirm).

6. Payment

you should pay within 30 mins with either one of the bank cards shown below or a Third-Party Payment Platform (支付宝Zhīfù bǎo, Alipay / 微信支付 Wēixìn zhīfù, Wechat Pay). Just click “网上支付” (wǎngshàng zhīfù, Online Payment).

7. Booking successful

when finished, it will take you to a page saying that the order was successful, Like this:

At the same time, the system will send you an email confirmation and a short message including all the relevant information, like this:

8. Notes

  • Foreigners can pick up their tickets at a Ticket Counter with a valid passport.
  • Available time for online booking is 6:00 – 23:00.
  • Usually, 5 mins before driving, the High-speed Train will stop checking tickets. Passengers should arrive at least 60 mins before take-off. (Editor notes: from personal experience, I think if someone is going to a train station for the first time, they should arrive 1-2 hours before the train takes off, depening on time of year and the size of the station. at Hongqiao Station in Shanghai, I would say they should arrive probably 1.5-2 hours early in case they get lost.)
  • In the entrance, the staff will need your valid passport and ticket for checking. You should put all your bags or luggage on the machine for the security check. At the same time, they will also check the passenger.
  • Usually, as it gets close to departure time, the system will send a reminder message to you.
  • Want to book or interested in information? Then download the official app and add the official account! Here are the relevant QR codes from the official website.

9. Practical Usage

Here are some sentences you may need.

– Getting ticket:

1) 您好!请问售票大厅怎么走?
(Nínhǎo! Qǐngwèn shòupiào dàtīng zěnme zǒu?)
Hi! Do you where the ticket office is?

2) 您好!我要取票。
(Nínhǎo! Wǒ yào qǔ piào.)
Hi, I’d like to pick up my ticket.

3) 这是我的护照。
(Zhè shì wǒ de hùzhào.)
Here is my passport.

4) 谢谢!
(Xièxie!)
Thanks!

– In the Waiting Hall

1) 您好!请问洗手间在哪儿?
(Nínhǎo! Qǐng wèn xǐ shǒu jiān zài nǎ’r ?)
Hi! Do you know where the bathroom is?

2) 请问哪里可以充电?
(Qǐng wèn nǎlǐ kěyǐ chōngdiàn?)
Is there a place to charge my phone?

3) 请问XXXX的检票口在哪儿?
(Qǐng wèn XXXX de jiǎn piào kǒu zài nǎ’r?)
Do you know where the check-in entrance is?

4) 请问什么时候开始检票?
(Qǐng wèn shénme shíhou kāishǐ jiǎn piào?)
When will check-in start?

5) 请问13号车厢往哪边走?
(Qǐng wèn shí sān hào chēxiāng wǎng nǎ biān zǒu?)
Do you know where carriage 13 is?

Do you feel more confident in booking a ticket now? It looks like so easy, right? If you really want to experience the true nature of the High-Speed Train, you should open the web or download the 12306 APP to book a ticket! Besides the official website, there are also some third-party booking sites that was also super helpful and responsive, such as travelchinaguide.  You could also check the 16 Essential Apps to Survive While Staying in China. Of course, learning at least some Mandarin can help you overcome some of the problems you may face. So, before you come to China, you should start, or continue your Mandarin learning journey. Knowing basic Mandarin will help you more in practical situations than articles every will, plus it will give you a richer understanding of Chinese culture (click here to know more). Hope this article was helpful for you and may you start planning your trip right away!

Cecilia He

Cecilia majored in teaching Chinese as a foreign language. She has vast experience in educating her students on how to listen to and speak Chinese, and is trained to teach HSK courses. She has mastered the method and practice of teaching the structure, historical development, and relationships of languages as an academic subject, and has also done extensive research on Intercultural Communication and Sinology.

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