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Types
Tickets are different according to the types of berths in carriages, including that for standing room, hard-seat, soft-seat, hard-sleeper, soft-sleeper, first class, second class, and platform tickets. 

 Hard Seat: there are usually 116 or 118 seats in a carriage, but a car may hold as many as 200 passengers at a time. A hard seat is the cheaptest seat.
 
 Tickets for standing room: these are only available in the hard-seat carriages of Accommodation, Fast, Express, Direct, and Temporary Trains. If all the seats in a hard seat carriage are sold out, there will be standing tickets available, which allow a passenger to stand in the carriage. The price is the same as that of a hard seat . 

 Soft Seat: a soft seat carriage has 70 to 80 seats,  which are much softer than hard seats. Seats in this carriage may not be overbooked, so the price of a soft seat is usually more expensive than that of a hard seat but cheaper than a hard sleeper.

 Hard Sleeper: a hard sleeper carriage usually has 60 berths in 10 semi-open rooms, and in each room there are 2 lower berths, 2 middle berths and 2 upper berths. Only passengers with hard-sleeper tickets are allowed to enter the car, so it is not crowded even in peak season. The price of a hard sleeper berth is about twice as much as that of a hard seat.  

Second Class Seats
Second Class Seats

 Soft Sleeper: There are usually 36 berths in a soft sleeper carriage. The carriage is separated into 9 enclosed rooms, in each of which there are 2 lower berths and 2 upper berths. Some soft sleeper carriages are also equipped with air-conditioner, TV, and radio. The price of a soft sleeper berth is about 3 times as much as that of a hard seat. 

 First-class Seat & Second-class: They appear in the CRH, Intercity CRH, and High-speed Trains. According to the new regulations, a valid identity certificate is required when purchasing them.

 Platform Ticket: It is only for those who are picking up or seeing off their friends or relatives on the platform. Passengers holding it are not allowed to get into the carriage. The price is CNY 2. 

Purchasing and Booking
 When to buy 
A ticket usually can be booked 3 - 11 days prior to the departure day, but the pre-sale period may be a little different in different cities. For instance, passengers in Xian can book 10 days in advance while it is 11 days in advance in Nanjing. Sometimes, that for CRH, Intercity CRH, and High-speed Trains can be bought 20 or 21 days in advance.

 Where to buy 
At railway stations and outlets. In some cities, such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Xian, and Shanghai, it can also be booked by telephone. The booking number is 021- 95105105 in Shanghai, and the number for other cities is Area Code + 12306. When booking at outlets or by telephone, a service fee of CNY 5 is charged. A Chinese ID number is required when booking by phone, and the ID card should be showed when collecting the it within 24 hours at railway stations or outlets. 

A ticket is usually hard to get during holidays, such as the Chinese National Day Holiday (October 1 - 7) and Spring Festival Holiday (December 31 to January 7 in the Chinese lunar calendar), so you can also book through some qualified travel agencies, which saves you the trouble of standing in long lines.

Since the September 30, 2011, online booking is available on the official website of China Railway Customer Service Center. Passengers' ID number or passport number and a bank account that accepts online pay are required when booking. In addition, many tourism websites also provide online booking service. Click for efficient and reliable China Train Ticket Booking on ChinaTour360.com.

Real Name Ticket Booking System 
To eliminate ticket scalping and guarantee railway safety, from June 1st, 2011, a ticket can only be purchased by showing the passenger's valid identification, including the PRC ID cards, temporary ID cards, driver's licenses, military ID cards, passports, the Home Return Permits for Hong Kong and Macau Residents, the residence permits for foreigners, and the exit-entry permits for foreigners. When entering a railway station, the identification should be shown together with the ticket. 

Tips
1. Tickets can be booked 10 days in advance, so are usually sold out 1 or 2 days before the departure day, and that for hot destinations such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xian are especially in large demand. Therefore, it's better to make early reservation in the pre-sale period. If you are not in mainland China, you can book it online or through travel agencies. 

2. There are usually no ATMs in Chinese railway stations, and credit cards or debt cards are not accepted, so please take enough cash (Chinese Yuan). 

3. Tickets for Children between 1.2 and 1.5 meters are half of the normal price. A child shorter than 1.2 meters (accompanied by an adult) can travel free. If an adult travels with three children shorter than 1.2 meters, he or she needs to buy one full-price ticket for him or herself and two half-price ones for the three children. 

4. If you lose your ticket, you need to buy a new one. The fare counts from the station where you lose it. 

5. Cancelation and Changing: 
Ticket can be canceled at any railway stations in China before scheduled depature time. A 5% service fee is charged if a ticket is canceled 48 hours before departure; 10% is charged if the cancelation is made 24 hours before departure; a service fee of 20% of the fare is charged if a ticket is canceled within 24 hours before departure. passengers should also provide their ID cards or valid identifications when canceling or changing a ticket. 
A ticket can be changed at any railway stations within China before the scheduled departure time. A ticket is allowed to be changed one time. Tickets booked through official website of China rail customer service center can be changed on the website 2 hours prior to departure if before exchanging it into a paper ticket, otherwise, passengers need to change the paper tickets at railway stations.

6. The ticket will be checked when you enter and exit a railway station, as well as during a trip, so please keep it with due care, especially the real-name ones, because they bear the passengers' names and ID numbers. If you buy a hard-sleeper or soft-sleeper ticket, the conductor will come to you to change it into a Sleeper Exchange Card during the trip and give it back before you arrive your destination.

Samples  

A China Train Ticket
A Train Ticket
A Real Name Train Ticket
A Real Name Ticket

1. Ticket Number
2. Departure Station
3. Departure Time
4. Train Number
5. Price: in Chinese Yuan.
6. Arrival Station
7. Carriage Number + Seat/Berth Number
8. Type of the seat: the type of your seat or berth (hard seat, soft seat, hard sleeper, soft sleeper, first class, or second class).
9. Validity: It can only be used for the train you intend to take, which means if you lost it, it is expired.
10. Serial Number.
11. Passport number or name and ID number of the passenger.

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Questions & Answers on China Train Tickets
  • I'm going to Guangzhou from Singapore.
    Wanted to travel CRH from Guangzhou to Nanning, and Nanning to Guangzhou.
    Need 2 First Class or Business Class ticket seats

    Asked By Adrian Wong (Singapore) | Jul. 12, 2014 06:27
    1 AnswerAnswer Question
  • Hello,

    I read what you say about children above, but it is slightly confusing.

    I have a boy who is 1.2m - 1.5m,

    1/ He will want a seat on the express train? What is the fare?
    2/ He can share my adult berth on a sleeper, so what does he need to pay?
    3/ If he wants his own berth on the sleeper, is there any discount?

    What if my boy is less than 1.2m, what is the discount then for a seat on an express train or a sleeper berth?

    Thanks,
    Andy

    Asked By Andy (Beijing) | Jan. 14, 2013 02:59
    2 AnswersAnswer Question
  • Asked By christine subrata (indonesiac) | Feb. 05, 2012 06:28
    1 AnswerAnswer Question
  • i will be in Beijing next week and heading to Xian the same day, can i get the ticket the day i arrive?
    or how should i book it?

    Asked By Nancy | Nov. 10, 2011 02:03
    1 AnswerAnswer Question
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