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Booking Your Train Trip in China

Friday, July 21, 2017

Booking Your Train Trip in China

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As you will read in many guidebooks, train tickets are only sold at rail stations, and typically 10 days before the day of departure. Being used to planning my entire trip in advance and booking everything online, this became a big inconvenience for me, for two reasons: 1. the best trains / seats are generally sold out on the day of the trip; 2. I need to have an idea of timetables so I can plan the rest of my itinerary and be able to make hotel reservations for example.

Maglev
Creative Commons License photo credit: zieak

Here are few tips of what I found along the way that perhaps can be helpful for you as well:

– To avoid leaving to the last day to buy your ticket and having to go to the rail station, you can purchase your tickets through a travel agency recommended by your hotel once you get to China.

– If you prefer the convenience of buying the tickets online and in advance, you can do so up to 30 days in advance through online travel agencies. The process is not ‘real time’ – it takes about 3 days for you to get your confirmation, and the tickets will then be delivered to your hotel in China, so you may want to purchase it only few days before you get to your hotel. The best website I found in terms of clear information and cheaper prices was China TripAdvisor (not related to US tripadvisor review website)

– If you just want to find the train schedules, China Travel Guide is a great resource. The website is easy to use – designed in a wiki layout – and gives you information about the best trains, timetables according to city of departure and destination, reference point prices and much more.

After all my research, I actually found the best resource for rail trips in any part of the world. Seat61 has all the basics in a way that even the least traveled can understand. The site explains the differences of each train, what are the best options according to your preferences and what you should expect, from food options to types of toilets.

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If you’re planning a trip to China, you may want to check one of these books as a starting point – they are great references to understand the country and culture, and good resources for you to have during your trip as well.

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