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-   -   Booking a train ticket out of Xian in advance (https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/china/585388-booking-train-ticket-out-xian-advance.html)

iahphx Aug 3, 06 7:47 am

As a follow up, my friend was indeed able to get advance Xian-Beijing "Z" tickets in Beijing. There definitely seems to be some sort of modernized reservation system in place for such trains. A true godsend for the international traveller.

Buying "T" tickets, however, seems to still be tricky -- especially if your're not boarding at the train's origination (like trying to board the Shanghai-Xian train in Suzhou). There are very few seats allocated for intermediate stops (even in an important city like Suzhou), and they only go on sale at a magical, probably inconvenient time (I've been told the Suzhou tickets go on sale 8 days in advance). I have arranged contact with a travel agency in Suzhou to try to buy these tickets when they go on sale, but I'm not sure it will work.

This website is helpful in sorting some of this stuff out (although some of the information is inaccurate: for example, the child's discount is not as good as mentioned, and it also doesn't cover these ticketing issues).

http://www.seat61.com/China.htm#Shanghai%20-%20Xian

I must say that my willingness to travel by train is aided by the fact that there are 4 of us: meaning that we can get our own "private" soft sleeper. There are also even more deluxe 2 person soft sleepers on some of the major runs, for only a little more money. I'm not sure I'd be as eager to take the train if I had to share the sleeper with strangers -- although I suspect that would actually be more culturally interesting.

FWIW, the train also does save you some money over flying, in addition to saving a hotel expense. And since the opportunity to take an overnight train in America is so limited (and increasingly inefficient in Europe, due to the spread of low cost airlines), China seems like a good place to do it.

Peter N-H Aug 3, 06 11:09 am


Originally Posted by iahphx
I must say that my willingness to travel by train is aided by the fact that there are 4 of us: meaning that we can get our own "private" soft sleeper.

A further unwarranted assumption that things work as they do at home.

You may turn out to be together in one compartment, or you may be divided two and two or three and one. The tickets are often just sold consecutively.

The information on child prices on the web site quoted is correct, however. Half price is payable by children who meet the height criteria, regardless of age.

Peter N-H

moondog Aug 3, 06 11:15 am


Originally Posted by Peter N-H
You may turn out to be together in one compartment, or you may be divided two and two or three and one. The tickets are often just sold consecutively.

IME, if you ask, they will accomodate (4 people in same cabin). Furthermore, I can only assume that the friend who purchased the tickets for the OP stipulated the same cabin requirement when purchasing. (If you asked me to buy tickets for your family of 4 and I couldn't deliver the same, you can bet you'd get a phone call before any cash changed hands.)

iahphx Aug 3, 06 11:58 am


Originally Posted by Peter N-H
The information on child prices on the web site quoted is correct, however. Half price is payable by children who meet the height criteria, regardless of age.

Peter N-H

Are you 100% certain of that? Could there have been a recent change in policy?

On all 3 routes I have tried to book, with different Mandarin-speaking individuals calling different agencies, I have not been able to secure a full 50% discount for children under 140 cm. At the same time, I have received the listed prices for adults. While I certainly don't underestimate the Chinese ability to fleece foreigners for all they can, I'm skeptical that there's some sort of widespread "conspiracy" to overcharge "solely" for childrens' tickets.

moondog Aug 3, 06 12:27 pm


Originally Posted by iahphx
Are you 100% certain of that? Could there have been a recent change in policy?

On all 3 routes I have tried to book, with different Mandarin-speaking individuals calling different agencies, I have not been able to secure a full 50% discount for children under 140 cm. At the same time, I have received the listed prices for adults. While I certainly don't underestimate the Chinese ability to fleece foreigners for all they can, I'm skeptical that there's some sort of widespread "conspiracy" to overcharge "solely" for childrens' tickets.

although i've never traveled with children on a train, i have always been under the impression that kids only qualify for those discounts in cases where they share a bed with {mom, dad, sis, bro,..}

iahphx Aug 3, 06 3:34 pm


Originally Posted by moondog
although i've never traveled with children on a train, i have always been under the impression that kids only qualify for those discounts in cases where they share a bed with {mom, dad, sis, bro,..}

Well, in the soft sleeper class, they definitely get a discount on their own bed. But the discount I have been repeatedly quoted has been between 25 and 33%. Peter and seat61 say I'm entitled to 50%, and that's what I've been asking for. Like so many other things about travelling in China, this one is inscrutable. No doubt somebody will figure out the mystery some day (either I'm being fleeced or the rules have changed). As far as I'm concerned, I'm mostly glad just to have the tickets, given the difficulties in reserving them. We're only talking about a $15 difference for each kid's ticket.

Peter N-H Aug 3, 06 4:11 pm


Originally Posted by iahphx
Like so many other things about travelling in China, this one is inscrutable.

As has already been said:

Originally Posted by Peter N-H
It's the obsession with booking everything in advance (hotels and transport) that makes travel in China seem tricky.



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