Top 8 Tips for China Train Guide

Written by Vivi Updated Feb. 21, 2023

China is famous for having the world’s biggest and fastest train network. A train ride should be included in your travel itinerary. Is it difficult to travel in China by train? Here are the top 8 useful tips about traveling by train in China.


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1. Have a Quick Lesson about China’s Trains

Traveling in China by train is easy and fun, even for first-timers. However, you might not be familiar with China’s rail system, making it difficult for you to decide which train option will be better for you.

The first step is to have a quick lesson about train travel in China. We have made some videos about China’s trains, which include the differences between the train types and seat classes and the processes for collecting your tickets and boarding the trains.

Watch these videos to be prepared for a smooth train trip. Click the link to access our YouTube page and watch our China train travel videos.

2. E-Tickets Have been Fully Implemented on China Trains

E-ticketing has been available for all trains in China, paper tickets are not required for boarding. This has brought great convenience to passengers. Foreign passengers can use a passport to check in at the automatic or manual ticket check-in gate, with no need to collect a paper ticket. After your e-tickets are issued, you will be able to swipe your passports at the ticket check-in gate to board the train. 

See How to Use a Chinese Train E-ticket.

food on china trains

3. Purchase Your Tickets Online as Early as Possible

You can book your China train tickets once your schedule has been confirmed. To guarantee a smooth trip, you are strongly advised to book your tickets in advance, especially when traveling in the peak season.

There are different ways to buy train tickets in China, including booking online with China Travel, at a train station, or at a ticket office, among others.

The best and most convenient way is to book online via China Travel. We provide a helpful and professional one-to-one service as well as continuing 24/7 after-sales support.

Buy your high-speed train tickets at the station kiosk

You can purchase your tickets online - the train tickets are usually put on sale 15 days in advance. We will keep your reservation and confirm the booking once the tickets are put on sale.

Purchasing your tickets when you arrive in China is not a good idea either. Tickets are sold out very quickly and there are language issues because most of the staff members at train stations only speak Chinese.

4. Get to the Train Station at Least an Hour Earlier

We suggest you arrive at the station at least an hour ahead of the stated departure time to allow enough time to pass through the security and ticket checks before entering the departure lounge. The boarding gate will be closed 5 minutes before the departure time. Make sure you have everything ready. Your passport and paper ticket (for normal-speed trains) are the two essential things needed for boarding, along with your luggage.

China Railway now provides an e-ticket service for all trains. You can use your passport to check in at the automatic ticket check-in gate with no need to collect a paper ticket.

Check your departure railway station in advance. Most cities in China have more than one train station. On your departure day, please time your arrival at the station wisely.

Board Your Train in China

5. Bring Some Food Onboard

On distance high-speed trains and normal-speed trains, there are dining cars onboard. Chinese-style food like boxed meals, instant noodle, snacks and soft drinks are available. Dining car is usually not available on short-distance trains. But sometimes you can see staff wheeling a food trolley through the aisle of the train offering snacks and fruits.

The choices of food on the train is limited. The food price is usually higher than that of the outside restaurants or supermarkets. It is recommended that you buy some food at the supermarkets before getting on the train. It is also recommended that you bring a bottle of water. Or you can bring a bottle to take hot water on the train. Drinkable hot water is available at the end of each coach.

food on china trains

6. Smoking is Forbidden on High-Speed Trains

a. For safety reasons, smoking is prohibited on all Chinese high-speed trains (G, D, and C trains). The high-speed trains are all equipped with smoke detectors. Smoking anywhere on the trains will trigger an alarm, slowing down or even stopping the train.

b. Most Chinese normal-speed trains (Z, T, and K trains) offer smoking areas in the spaces between the cars. You will find the “Smoking” sign at the connection space between two cars.

c. You are allowed to smoke in the open areas of the platforms. You can get off the train and smoke on an open platform for a little while when it stops. It is recommended to check the stopover time at each station in advance because the trains only stop for 2–3 minutes at some stations.

d. If you are allergic to smoke, it is better to travel on a high-speed train to avoid the smell. This is because the smoke can spread to non-smoking sections on normal-speed trains.

If you have to travel in a normal-speed train, the best solution is to get a ticket for a seat in the middle of a car.

China high speed rail

7. Bring Boilet Paper on Your Own

Toilet paper is provided on Chinese bullet trains, but is not provided on normal-speed trains. However, toilet paper usually runs out. So it is suggested that you bring you own toilet paper. You can also bring you own hand sanitizers and disposable toilet seat covers because these are also not available on the train.

There are two types of toilets on China trains, squat toilet and western-style toilet. Both are available on a high-speed train, but only squat toilet available on normal-speed trains. The toilets will be locked when the train stops. Avoid to use the them when the train is about to stop for arriving at a station.

China high speed rail

8. Prepare to Get Off Your Train

Be ready to get off your train 10 minutes in advance.

If you need to get off at an intermediate station, it is advisable to remember your arrival time. Most of the trains arrive at their destinations punctually.

You can take your luggage to the exit and get ready to get off the train. You can also ask the conductor or other passengers to remind you before you arrive at the station. Here is a sentence that might be helpful:

If your arrival station is the terminal station, you can take your time and move slowly. The train will stop for a quite long time so you can get off just after the other passengers to avoid the crowds.

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