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How can I buy train tickets in China by myself?

How can I buy train tickets in China by myself?

China has one of the biggest and busiest rail networks in the world, and trains link almost every town and city. Chinese trains are a safe, comfortable and cheap way to travel around China, and a Chinese train journey is an experience in itself, a total contrast with environmentally-unfriendly internal flights.

How to buy tickets at the station...
It's easy to buy tickets yourself at the station, but remember to take your passport with you.

In big cities such as Beijing or Shanghai you should look for the special ticket window for foreigners.

Reservations for the best D- or Z-category express trains open 10-20 days before departure, but reservations for other trains only open 5-10 days before departure. You cannot buy tickets before reservations open. If the train you want starts its journey somewhere else and calls at your boarding station already well into its journey, tickets may only be available 2 days before departure. The exact rules vary by city and by train.

Chinese Railways don't have a central reservation system, only local computer reservation systems based in each city that aren't linked to each other. So a station can generally only sell you a ticket for a journey starting at that station, not for journeys starting elsewhere. For example, the ticket office at Shanghai can sell you a Shanghai-Beijing ticket but cannot sell you a Beijing-Xian ticket. However, at major cities you can sometimes buy a return ticket for key routes - for example, in Beijing you can buy a ticket from Beijing to Shanghai and also from Shanghai back to Beijing. But in most cases, you'll need to book your return journey when you get to your destination.

Tickets are best booked at least 2-3 days in advance, apart from peak periods (the Spring Festival, May Day 1st May, National Day 1st October) when they should be booked as soon as reservations open.

In Beijing, you can buy tickets at Beijing Main station (metro Bejingzhan), or Beijing West station (called Beijing Xi or Xizhan, metro Junshibowuguan sometimes called 'Military Museum'). At Beijing Main station, the ticketing office for foreigners is on the north west corner of the 1st floor, accessed via the soft seat waiting room. It is open 05:30-07:30, 08:00-18:30, 19:00-23:00. Only domestic Chinese tickets are sold, not international tickets. At Beijing West station, ticket window 1 in the main hall is marked 'English speaking', open 24 hours. Service here is reported as 'fluent and efficient'.

In Shanghai, the English speaking ticket window at the main station was window 43 though this has now (2009) been reported as changed to window 10 on the ground floor of the main ticket office to the southeast of the main station.

How to buy tickets from outside China...
There are several ways to arrange Chinese train tickets from outside China. Just remember that reservations for the best D- and Z-category express trains open 20 days in advance, but for most other trains bookings only open 5-10 days before departure. Even an agency cannot positively confirm your booking before reservations open and they buy your ticket!

1. Ask your hotel...
This may well be the cheapest and easiest option. Book a hotel, and ask them to arrange train tickets for you. Many hotels will do this for you for a small fee, perhaps RMB 50.

2. Buy from train ticket agencies If you want to book a Chinese train in advance from outside China, you can do this with several agencies. Tickets cannot be posted abroad, but can be delivered to your hotel in China to be picked up when you get there. This will cost more than you'd pay at the ticket office, but if you really need to be on a particular train on a particular date, it can be worth booking ahead, especially at peak times, such as around the time of the the Spring Festival, 1st May, or 1st October.,
Author/Editor By : HCT