Can foreigners also use electronic tickets on Chinese trains? In the past, when traveling by train to China, one of the more troublesome things was having to queue up for paper tickets, especially during the peak tourist season. Sometimes, you cannot even catch your train because of the amount of time it takes to queue and collect your paper tickets. Now, the e-ticket policy, which will be promoted in 2020, will solve this problem perfectly. China has implemented electronic tickets nationwide. Foreigners can also use electronic tickets, but with a difference. 

From late November 2019, the railway stations in China stopped using printed tickets for high-speed trains due to China Railway’s e-ticket policies. This means you will receive an electronic train ticket after you have successfully bought your ticket.
Trains are a major form of transportation in China so a large number of paper tickets are issued every day. By canceling the need for paper tickets, China is also increasing its progress toward protecting the environment.

Also, using an electronic train ticket is expected to save you more than 30 minutes on average. You do not need to queue up to collect any paper tickets and no need to print you e ticket, also no longer have to go to the train station too early to get your tickets.

Moreover, it reduces any issues created if you lose or forget your paper ticket.

As a foreigner, are you ready to embrace the changes and understand the detailed rules about the e-ticket policy to take a train in China? Don’t worry, we have detailed the real facts you need to know below.

Can China Electronic Train Tickets be Used for Normal-Speed Trains?

From June 20, 2020 not only high-speed trains but also normal-speed trains can be boarded via electronic tickets. This makes up for the limitation that electronic tickets are only applicable to high-speed trains.
This new change greatly improves the efficiency of getting in and out of the station, saves the time of the passenger travel cost, but also can effectively guard against risk of lost tickets, buy fake tickets, etc.

An E-Ticket Is Only Available on a Chinese Booking Website and App

Both the ‘12306’ website and app are only available in Chinese. It's very hard for you to purchase an e-ticket if you don't understand Mandarin. According to statistics, the language barrier is the biggest issue when booking an electronic ticket. Therefore, choosing a third party to help you get an e-ticket is a good choice.

The good news is our China Train Booking app has already added this e-ticket function. You can download our app to book your e-ticket now!

How to Use a Chinese Train E-ticket? How Do I Get in or out of The Station?


manual checking lane

Chinese passengers (including those from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau) who have bought their e-tickets online can use their Chinese ID cards or travel permits to pass through the security gate as well as the check-in gate via a self-service machine.

Foreigner passengers need to show their passports and have to go through a special lane where their passports are checked by the station's staff. Therefore, please remember to get your passport and your e-ticket(s) ready and show it to the train station’s personnel.
When exiting the platform at your arrival station, your passport will be checked again. To exit, you can head directly to the manual checking lane.  

The development of e-tickets is a great improvement, which we have all been waiting for. However, as you can see, there are still some difficulties for foreign travelers. Let’s hope the complete “paperless ticket” age can be carried out in the future! 

E-tickets Have One Distinct Advantage - Avoid The Virus Transmission

The opening of e-ticket service will greatly improve the efficiency and make it easier for passengers to get into the station quickly. After all, we are all nervous about the epidemic, and this kind of contactless approach to the station gives passengers more peace of mind. In addition, paper tickets will no longer be available at China Railway Stations from June 20. Instead, passengers can download or print their itineraries from the railway's website or print them from station windows and ticket vending machines.
All in all, passengers no need to go to the window or self-help machine to pick up tickets, and this effectively reduce the possibility of cross-infection, full implementation of electronic ticketing requires the replacement of a large number of equipment, which is a huge and rapid improvement. In addition, railway stations have taken more measures to avoid the spread of the virus.
Further reading: Is It Safe to Travel to China Now ?

What does the E-Ticket look like?

Below is the interpretation of electronic ticket. Click the picture to see a larger and more detailed e-ticket:

larger e-ticket

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