Buying Train Tickets in China has let quite a few people to the brink of tears! I myself am still sometimes close to throwing a fit.

Transport in China can make any holiday exhausting. It is all fine, well most of the times, once you got the tickets, but getting them is the tricky part.To make it easier for you I set together a Train Travel Guide. And this is Part 2 of the easy Train Travel in China.

But this here isn’t a guide…more a recolection of the strange happenings when booking Train Tickets…a warning for all the future travelers. May my most annoying situations help you overcome yours 😉

China is not like in other countries where you mostly have the options of English Versions for Tickets or you always have at least one person speaking decent English. No, as soon as you leave the bigger cities like Shanghai, Beijing or Xian you are alone with all the bits and pieces of Chinese you speak.

Getting a Train Ticket in China is the perfect test for your self-discipline.

Which is why I always research the trains, write down the train numbers I want and best let a Chinese Person write down what I want. Because sometimes they simply refuse to understand me. Even if I speak Chinese, show them the train number, tell them the date and time, some still pretend to not understand what I am saying.

Which always makes me wonder if they are just too lazy to be bothered by it or if they actually really are that slow and don’t understand what the hell I want.

This is the perfect moment to practise your meditation techniques. And you are not alone with that, seen many locals screaming at the ticket sellers xD

So do your research and search for alternatives, because they won’t offer you these. They will simply say there are no more tickets and sent you away. Even when you know exactly that there are still tickets, because you just checked online.

My standing ticket! Yes 18 hours train ride without a seat...that was the adventure of a life time!
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Thanks to being very persistent we managed to get onto the train we wanted to the Harbin Ice Festival. My standing ticket! Yes 18 hours train ride without a seat…that was the adventure of a life time!

Not even Online Booking is easy!

Which means best is to book the tickets online over Ctrip. Yes you pay a bit more, but what you pay more you get as Ctrip Money, which you can use when you book a Hotel later.

But even that isn’t always easy. For example when you book more than one ticket. The girl at the counter asked for the booking number and the passport, but just printed one train ticket, even though we bought two.

We where like, no way we booked two, write the other Passport Number into the computer too. And she refused for a couple of minutes, saying that we need another E-Number.

What a bullshit.

After a while she finally typed it in, when she realizes we wouldn’t leave and tadaaa there was the second ticket. I mean come on!

Half of China is booking tickets with Ctrip, how can you work at a train station and not understand the booking system? This was one of these I am going to cry moments, because that train was completely booked out and we wouldn’t have gotten another ticket.

Do I believe them or do I not?

Another of these moments was when we wanted to book return tickets for our trip and the person working there warned us not to take that train because it is always late.

But firstly it was our online option anyway and second you just never know if they actually say that just because they can’t be bothered to type in all the passport numbers again or it really is always late.

train station china
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Be prepared for delays, but always come at least 30 minutes earlier. You never know how long the lines are to get into the station!

Well it was 2 hours late, so he was totally right. Like I said, not that we had another option. Which makes me wonder if this train is really always late, why the hell don’t they adapt the time schedule?

It’s not all bad!

But China booking has its perks too. For example it is super easy to return tickets, which most people don’t know. Even a Day before the actual trip you still can return the ticket for a small percentage of the price.

And you can buy tickets for other stations from your city for a small fee of 5 Yuan. So getting tickets is super simple, but you might have to stand quite some time in the line.

And always book early enough. I wrote about that annoying experience some time ago: Lessons I learned the hard way! Always Prebook!

What if you lose your ticket?

Taking a train at least is always an adventure, from getting those stupid tickets to getting on the train.

Pray you don’t lose your ticket, because that is a real pain. You will have to buy a new ticket exactly for that seat and they will give you a piece of paper. When you arrive at your destination you hand the paper over to the staff right when you get off. Don’t leave the area, hand it to the next train staff! He/She will then take you to the front or write something onto the paper so that you can get your money back. Usually at the Ticket Counter.

They have to make live complicated. Which makes me wonder. Those tickets are booked under your name and passport number, why all that work? Not like anybody else could use your ticket anyway.

Well they maybe could, because on the countryside people rarely check the passport.

What happens if your Passport Number is wrong?

They won’t let you board! Check if the passport number is right, because once they nearly refused to let me in, because the ticket seller made some writing mistakes.

I already was stuck into the city and had to sleep illegal in a chinese hotel after walking around from Hotel to Hotel for 2 hours (they are not all allowed to take foreigners) and she refused to let me pass to my train.

I broke into tears and no I am not embarrassed about that at all. Geez I was 20, tired and alone. So whatever helps, I am not ashamed of pushing the tear button when it needs to be. She let me board!

train china
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If you made it on the train the hardest part is over!

But there was a lot of good stuff too!

  • Having an entire conversation online with a translator app, with 10 locals on the train
  • Actually having a proper Karaoke Session
  • Sleeping under the seats
  • Sharing beer with the people I was traveling on a sleeper with
  • Giving up my lower bed for an old lady
  • Nearly falling out of the top bunk on the sleeper
  • My mother trying to climb into her bunk
  • A friend being to tall with his feet hanging over the bunk
  • Another friend nearly missing the stop and having to jump out the already driving train.

China Train Travel is probably one of the biggest adventures you can go on when discovering China.

It made me cry, it made me laugh and it gave me some of the best travel  stories 😉

train tickets in china
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Ps. Again just to remind you : to make it easier for you I have two post explaining all the details about how to get tickets and how to get around at the train station, explaining the tickets ect here : Part 1 of the Train Tickets in China Guide and here: Part 2 of the Train Tickets in China Guide. These should at least prevent you from getting a nervous breakdown 😉


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