How-to Guide: Chinese Train Travel

By Urban Family, September 16, 2016

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ctrip-logo.pngIn less than a decade, China has created the world’s longest high- speed rail network. Stretching across 28 provinces and spanning over 19,000 kilometers, it’s longer than the rest of the world’s high-speed rail tracks combined. With summer upon us, going on an adventure across China has never been easier.

On top of offering great prices on China train tickets, Ctrip has kindly put together an easy, step-by-step guide for people new to Chinese train travel.

1. Book tickets

Through the Ctrip app or website, booking train tickets takes just a couple of minutes. Other options include booking directly through the train station’s website or at the station, but English service is often patchy at best.

2. Pick up your tickets

Most stations will have a designated place to buy and pick up tickets before you enter the station, but Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station is an exception.

Don’t bother with the ticket dispensing machines (only Chinese citizens can use them) and look for the 'Tickets' sign. If you can’t see anything in English, look out for the Chinese characters 取票 (qupiao) or 改签 (gaiqian).You’ll need both your passport and booking number starting with E (i.e. E12345678) to collect your tickets. The booking number is essential; don’t expect to pick up your tickets without it.

How-to Guide: Chinese Train Travel

3. Entering the station

At most railway stations you’ll need to show your ticket and passport to enter the station itself. Line up and put your bags through the x-ray machine. You’ll get a quick pat down from one of the security staff and then you’re good to go.

4. Work out where to wait

Check the top right of your ticket to find out where you need to wait. ( 候车室 = Waiting Room, 检票口 = Gate)

In newer stations there is simply one big waiting hall with a series of gates taking you to the platforms below. However, in the older stations you’ll need to be waiting in the correct waiting room. Check the top right of your ticket to find out where you should be.

5. Enter the platform

Boarding usually starts 15 minutes before the train departs. There will be an announcement in Chinese (and English if you’re in a major train station) and the information board will change from 等候 (denghou / wait) to 检票 (jianpiao / check tickets). Join the queue and when it comes to your turn, simply insert your ticket in the slot at the front of the gate and retrieve it when it pops out from the top. Make sure you keep your ticket as you’ll need it to exit the station, and usually someone will check it while you’re on the train.

6. Board the train

Printed on the right side of your ticket are the carriage number ( 车 = carriage) and seat number ( 号 = your seat number). Wait at the designated carriage area and hop aboard when the train doors open. If there’s someone in your seat, just show them your ticket. Sit back, relax and make sure to listen for English announcements for your stop. Once you arrive, just insert your ticket into the exit gate and enjoy your trip.

For more information and to download the Ctrip app, visit

This article originally appeared on our sister site, Urban Family. For more Urban Family How-To Guides, click here

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