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Some kind of guide / best practices for booking Chinese bullet train trips?

Some kind of guide / best practices for booking Chinese bullet train trips?

Old Aug 3, 19, 10:03 am
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Some kind of guide / best practices for booking Chinese bullet train trips?

Hi there!

We're going to be going to China next month, and we're traveling by rail from Beijing to Xi'An via bullet train. What's the best way to book? At the station directly? Through a 3rd party like trip.com? If a booking site, is there a preferred site that people usually use? In this case, "googling it" hasn't turned up amazing results for me. I'm hoping y'all can drop your wisdom on me. Thanks!
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Old Aug 3, 19, 10:58 am
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I would recommend Trip.com. They add on a small booking fee (about £3 per ticket), but for the ease of being able to use international credit cards and a decent user interface, it's the reliable choice for me. My seat preferences (direction and side of the train) have always been successfully granted too.

Booking in person at the station is also possible, but there's the risk that your preferred train will be full, and if you don't speak any 中文 then you might struggle at the ticket booth. The Trip.com mobile app produces a screen with your route and confirmation number, that you just need to show at the counter, no speaking needed. I'd recommend taking a screenshot of that in advance in case you don't have an internet connection at the station.

If this is your first time travelling by train in China, have a read of Seat 61 (https://www.seat61.com/China.htm) too. The process is a bit odd the first time (security checks, showing your passport 3 times, queuing up at the boarding gate and then again on the platform), but it's simple enough when you know what's going on.
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Old Aug 3, 19, 11:26 am
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Ditto ctrip as the path of least resistance.
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Old Aug 3, 19, 1:53 pm
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Originally Posted by hungarianhc View Post
Hi there!

We're going to be going to China next month, and we're traveling by rail from Beijing to Xi'An via bullet train. What's the best way to book? At the station directly? Through a 3rd party like trip.com? If a booking site, is there a preferred site that people usually use? In this case, "googling it" hasn't turned up amazing results for me. I'm hoping y'all can drop your wisdom on me. Thanks!
Where are you staying in Beijing? If there is a booking office nearby, I would buy tickets there. Second choice would be to ask the hotel concierge to book. The key point for me is to have physical tickets in hand before heading to the Train station. With ctrip bookings, you need to do will call, which is often just as annoying as buying tix at the train station.
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Old Aug 3, 19, 1:59 pm
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
With ctrip bookings, you need to do will call, which is often just as annoying as buying tix at the train station.
Not sure what you mean - for all my Trip.com bookings, I've just turned up at the ticket counter at the station...
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Old Aug 3, 19, 2:13 pm
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Yes, pick the tickets up at the station is what he means by "will call." Sometimes slow, but not that big a headache.

Wait till you arrive in China and tickets may be sold out.

With the vast shift to online booking, many of those city ticket offices have closed.
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Old Aug 3, 19, 2:23 pm
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Originally Posted by 889 View Post
With the vast shift to online booking, many of those city ticket offices have closed.
This is certainly true, but my favourite one in Shanghai still exists, and with a little googling, I can usually find convenient options in most cities.
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Old Aug 3, 19, 3:54 pm
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Thank you for all the feedback! I'll use trip.com...
  • I read something about ticket delivery to the hotel. Is that possible?
  • If will call is a pain, could I go pick them up a few days in advance? I'll be with my wife and two young children, and if I can avoid day-of hassle, that would be
  • Are all "G" trains bullet trains? I see some differentiation between bullet and high-speed trains. It appears that high-speed is a bullet train with less stops. Can you confirm?

Thanks!
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Old Aug 3, 19, 4:06 pm
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In some places ctrip may offer a delivery service, but I think picking them up is safer. You can pick them up at any train station as soon as you have the confirmation number.

All G trains are high speed, that's what the G stands for as in 高速 gaosu "high speed." But some G trains on the same route run faster than others because they make fewer stops.
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Old Aug 3, 19, 4:10 pm
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Originally Posted by hungarianhc View Post
Thank you for all the feedback! I'll use trip.com...
  • I read something about ticket delivery to the hotel. Is that possible?
  • If will call is a pain, could I go pick them up a few days in advance? I'll be with my wife and two young children, and if I can avoid day-of hassle, that would be
  • Are all "G" trains bullet trains? I see some differentiation between bullet and high-speed trains. It appears that high-speed is a bullet train with less stops. Can you confirm?Thanks!
I've asked hotel concierges to order (with delivery) tickets for me a handful of times, with service fees ranging between Y10 and Y50. Y50 might seem a bit steep on the surface for those of you who use SF Express regularly, but is worth it to me.

Off site ticket offices are still my sales channel of choice. As noted up thread, they are less common these days, but they definitely still exist. Just find one that is convenient wrt your hotel and/or places you intend to visit.

Assuming you book a few days in advance, and it's not a busy travel period, I wouldn't be especially worried about availability on Beijing-Xi'an.

Yes, G trains are the fastest. Single digit trains (none on this route afik) have the fewest stops, followed by double digit and triple digit trains. There are also still some slower overnight trains on the schedule, which I prefer sometimes when I can get soft sleepers. For these, the pecking order is typically Z, T, K, followed by trains without a letter prefix. Unlike G trains, some slow trains actually have edible food.
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Old Aug 3, 19, 4:27 pm
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"I wouldn't be especially worried about availability on Beijing-Xi'an."

Problem is, if you're wrong -- and it does happen sometimes -- he's up the creek. Strongly suggest he put his mind at ease and get the tickets on ctrip beforehand.
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Old Aug 3, 19, 4:30 pm
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Originally Posted by 889 View Post
"I wouldn't be especially worried about availability on Beijing-Xi'an."

Problem is, if you're wrong -- and it does happen sometimes -- he's up the creek. Strongly suggest he put his mind at ease and get the tickets on ctrip beforehand.
When I know I have a trip coming up, I monitor availability on 12306 starting ~10 days out, and if things start to tighten up, I pull the trigger with ctrip. Most of my routes are not especially busy though.
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Old Aug 3, 19, 5:46 pm
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Buying on trip.com and then using their confirmation to pick up the tickets a few days before would be my recommendation for you. You can pick up the tickets at any train station, it doesnít have to be the one youíre leaving from on your tickets. This makes it easier in cities like Beijing and Shanghai where there are multiple stations. Itís gonna be a bit of a hassle no matter which way you do it but having the tickets in hand before your travel date is definitely worth it.
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Old Aug 3, 19, 7:50 pm
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There are many ticket agents, all pretty similar and reliable. If you schedule is firm, you should definitely book ahead. This is summertime and tickets do sell out.
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Old Aug 4, 19, 2:43 am
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It'll be easier in the future when the e-tickets are offered in whole China and the paper tickets are history.
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