How to buy China train tickets online or by telephone

Buy China Train Tickets Online

With the rapid expansion of hi-speed train network in China, train travel in China has become easier and more comfortable, not to mention much faster. Purchasing train tickets, however, remains a tricky business, especially for foreigner visitors. Good news is that now train tickets can be purchased online or by telephone.

For foreigners who want to travel by train in China and want to purchase their train tickets online, there are basically two ways to go about this. If you know the Chinese language and do not mind trying to figure out a complicated system, which in the end may prove futile efforts on your part, you can try out China's official railway ticketing web site. Alternatively, you can go to an online travel agency to have done it for you.

The official railway ticketing web service, 12306.cn, is in the Chinese language only. If you think can handle this, you get started in the following way. You go to 12306.cn. You irst create an account at the web site. You'll be asked to download a "certificate" from the web site onto your computer. You search for your train and book your ticket. You enter the number of your ID card or passport. You pay with your bank card. You can pick up your train ticket later on, at the train station or at a train ticket office near you. To do so, you need to show  your id or passport used to book the ticket; or a photocpy of the documents. And also the confirmation number you got when you booked your ticket. You need to pick up your train ticket at least two hours before your train's departure time. To board your train, you need to show your id card passport to board train as the the ticket is for the bearer of that particular id card or passport to use. (At some stations, those who have second-generation Chinese national id cards can board your train with those id cards; again this possible only at certain train stations).

If you actually managed to get hold of the train ticket you want to have at 12306.cn, you can purchase it with a card issued by one of China's main banks or a card from China UnionPay. The main banks in China are the Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, as well as the China Merchants Bank. To use your card online, you should have made proper arrangements with your bank beforehand. As for China UnionPay, this is a network of banking associates that facilitate domestic and nternational electronic payments. 

If you cannot make direct use of 12306.cn or do not want to go through all the troubles, you can enlist the help of an online travel agency. What happens in this situation is that you go to the web site of one of those service providers, where you can search for your ticket and then ask the agency to complete the purchase for you. You can pay for the ticket with credit card or Paypal account. The agency can deliver your ticket to an address you choose. For this service, you pay a small fee, $10 or so. Needless to say, you want to check out the agency you're going to use. Fortunately, with the advance purchase period extended to 60 days, there is plenty of time for you to plan your trip and obtain your train ticket so that you can save yourself from uncertainties with regard to your itinerary.

Make Reservations for Your China Train Tickets by Telephone

If you can handle phone calls in Chinese or have a Chinese friend who can help you, you may reserve your train ticket first and pick up later on. The difference here is that you do not have to pay with a card while on the phone. You can pay later when you pick up your ticket at the train station or a train ticketing office. Your reservation is good for about a day; you need to pick up your ticket during this period. The number to call is 95105105. The customer service number is 12306 (which, as you can see, is associated with web site 12306.cn.