Buying a Train Ticket2012 was the first year that Chinese customers could buy domestic train tickets online. However, this presents a problem for anyone who does not read Chinese. So unless you can read Chinese or a friend can help you, this is not an option. You can click here to check out the booking website in Chinese. Hopefully someday they'll put an English version up. Until then, see other options below.
The next best option for buying a ticket is to go physically to a railway ticket office to purchase your tickets. There is now a "real-name" policy for booking tickets. This means the purchaser must show identity papers for each ticket they are purchasing. (This policy was put into place to prevent scalpers from buying up tickets during peak travel seasons.)
- To buy your ticket, check the route and decide what train you want. China Train Guide is a great site for looking at train schedules.
- Take along your passport for identification. If you are purchasing tickets for others in your party, you'll need a copy of a passport for each ticket you're buying. Photocopies of passports are acceptable.
- Go ten days before you want to leave. Generally tickets are released ten days before the date of travel.
If you're not physically in China and neither is anyone you know, find yourself a good travel agent in China to book things for you. A Chinese agent will be cheaper than your agent back home and probably a little more flexible. Of course there will likely be a nominal fee on top of the ticket price, but this is worth the peace-of-mind as well as the time saved.
Your agent can courier you the tickets to wherever you are but the thing to do is just to have them hold on to the tickets until you arrive in China and then have them sent to wherever you're staying.
Another way to go about booking tickets without your physical presence is to ask your hotel concierge to do it. Even if you're at a small inn without a concierge, they will likely be able to help you out. Again, especially for that small inn with no official concierge, you can probably talk them into going for you for a small fee. You'll have to email or fax them a copy of your passport.