How to Board and Get Off a Train in China

You need to purchase a ticket before you board a train in China. You can buy your ticket at the train station, at one of the ticketing offices scattered across the town, or through a travel agency or the hotel where you’re staying. Train tickets can be purchased some days in advance (7 to 10 days, unless it is holiday season). It is also possible to buy a ticket for your return trip if your train originates from the city where you’re going to board the train (you cannot buy a return-trip ticket for a passing-through train).

When you arrive at a train station, most likely you’ll have to clear security first. Security-check at a railway station is not as tight as that at an airport; in most cases, all you need to do is to place your luggage on a conveyer belt and let it go through an X-ray machine.

Now you’re in the station, look up your train on one of those information boards to find the waiting room you should go to. At some stations there are “Soft-seat Waiting Room” (Ruanxi Houcheshi). Many foreign travelers seem to wait their trains there regardless they have soft-seat tickets or not. It is less crowded and nicer in there.

About twenty minutes before a train’s departure time, a gate will be opened to let in passengers for that particular train. A station worker will puncture a hole in your ticket and return the ticket to you. Follow the crowd to your train. On your ticket you’ll find the numbers for your car of the train and for your seat. Keep your ticket; you’ll need it later. There is overhead space for your luggage; large suitcases can be placed at the either end of a car. Keep an eye on your luggage, especially if you have valuables and especially at times of train-stops.

As your train approaches your destination, listen to the announcement on the train so that you don’t miss you stop.

After you step off the train, follow the signs (more likely, follow the crowds) to go to the station exit. By the way, at many Chinese railway stations there are many steps to climb up and down, with no help of elevators or escalators. Don’t take too much stuff with you when you travel by train.

At the exit, a station worker will ask you to show your ticket. Then, you’ll be out of the station and have successfully made your train trip.


I did find two booking agencies on the net that allows you to buy in advance the tickets. Tickets are sent to your hotel a few days before departure. Has anyone tried one of these? Can they be trusted? (linked to Chine Evasion)
Thank you for your help,