12306 home page
www.12306.cn is the only China train official website to buy train tickets.
However, www.12306.cn only supports Chinese language, Chinese customer service and payment in RMB presently. That's why it is a huge challenge to use the 12306 website for international travelers.
For non-Chinese users, it is suggested to use China Train Booking app. Not only because it supports multiple languages (English, Spanish, French, Germany, Italian, Japanese and Russian), but also supports payment with international credit cards and PayPal.
If you would like to take the challenge, you will read a detailed instruction of how to buy train tickets at www.12306.cn in this article.
How to Buy China Train Tickets at www.12306.cn (for English Users)?
Steps 1. Buy a Chinese Mainland SIM Card (Chinese Phone Number)
Chinese SIM card
A Chinese cell phone number is needed to receive a verification code from www.12306.cn to register an account.
You can easily buy a Chinese mainland SIM card at any service hall of a Chinese operator (China Mobile or China Unicom).
Step 2. Apply for a Chinese Online Payment Method
- Alipay: a Chinese online payment app, like PayPal.
- WeChat payment: the most common used chatting app in China, and it also allows E-payment.
- A Chinese bank card: It's not easy to apply for a Chinese bank card unless you are employed by a Chinese company in China.
Step 3. Register a 12306 Account (Chinese Phone Number Is Needed)
1. Visit 12306 home page: www.12306.cn .
2. Click “Register (注册)” on the top right corner.
3. Fill in the personal information table.
Please firstly select your “ID Type” before filling in the other blanks. There are four ID types to choose: Chinese ID cards, HK/Macau Travel Permit, Taiwan Travel Permit, and passport.
You will see an example to register in the following picture. And here are the explanations for some important blanks:
- User name: The user name must be within 6 to 30 characters. Letters, numbers, and "_" are available.
- Password: Your passwords must be a combination of letters, numbers, and punctuations, within 6 to 30 characters.
- Name: Please input your full name that less than 30 characters. If the letters of your full name are more than 30 characters, it's ok to omit the last letters.
- ID number: Please double confirm your ID number and make sure it is as the same as on your ID.
- Phone number: Only Chinese phone number is accepted, or you can’t receive your verification code in the next step.
- Passenger: There are four passenger types to choose from: adult, child, student, and handicapped soldier/police. Please note that foreigners can only choose adult (成人) or child (儿童) options. Overseas students can’t use student ticket discounts.
4. After you finished all the columns, please click the button “Next”.
5. Then, you need to input the verification code that sent to your phone in the pop-up window. Please click the orange button “Sign Up” (完成注册) after you input the code.
If everything goes well, you will be able to successfully log in www.12306.cn in 2 days.
Step 4. Log in www.12306.cn
1. Click “Log in”(登录) on the top right corner of the page.
2. There are two ways to log in: Input your account’s information (user name and password) or use 12306 app to scan the login QR code. For first-time visitors, please choose "Account to Log in".
The most difficult part is to click the right identifying pictures. It's not easy to understand what to click. You'd better have a Chinese friend to help when you log in.
3. A pop-up window will ask you to slide the slider to the right for verification.
4. After log in, another pop-up window will tell you to use passenger's Chinese phone number or email to book tickets. It means that a phone number and an email is needed when add a passenger into your passengers' list.
Step 5. Add Passenger’s Information
1. You are not allowed to input a passenger's info while booking a ticket. A passenger's info should done before you start to book. Click “Passengers” after you log in.
2. Click “Add a passenger” to input passenger’s information.
3. Before you fill the table, please firstly choose the ID Type. There are four document types to choose: Chinese ID cards, HK/Macau Travel Permit, Taiwan Travel Permit, and passport.
Please input the right passenger's information.
Wrong ID information will cause the rejection of boarding.
- For Chinese names, please input the simplified Chinese(简体字).
- For passengers from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, only travel permit is allowed.
4. Fill in the required blanks marked with “*”, and click “Save” to complete.
Step 6. Search the Timetables
1. Input your departure city, arrival city, and departure date. The student ticket is NOT available for international students. If you would like to take a high speed train only, you can tick the box on the right.
In this following we will show you how to book a one-way ticket.
2. Check the timetable and pick one train to book.
For the Chinese chacter "候" in orange, it means that this seat type is not available at present. However, passengers are allowed to choose this train as an alternate order. When there is a ticket refunded, you will have a chance to book that ticket. It is helpful when there is no ticket available. However, it's still not easy to grab one ticket in peak season.
Step 7. Choose the Passenger(s) and Seat Type
1. Here you need to double confirm your train schedule (date, departure and arrival stations, time). If everything is correct, please choose the passenger(s) and a seat type. You can choose a seat type based on our translation below:
- 商务座/特等座：Business class seat
- 一等座：First class seat
- 二等座: Second class seat
- 高级软卧：Superior soft sleeper
- 软卧/一等卧：Soft sleeper
- 动卧：Personal soft sleeper
- 硬卧/二等卧：Hard sleeper
- 软座：Soft seat
- 硬座：Hard seat
- 无座：Standing ticket
2. Please note that you are only allow to book five tickets the most at one time. For the rest of passengers in your group, please place a new order. Besides, you are not able to edit passenger's info or add more passengers at this step. To do that, please turn to "Passenger".
3. There will be a pop-up window to ask you to select your seat. Here you can choose to sit by the window or the aisle.
4. In the next step, you will re-confirm your order details, and then click "Pay".
Step 8. Pay for Your China Train Ticket(s)
Now you can pay for your order. We suggest you choose Alipay or WeChat pay, as they are easier to process. Only to open Alipay or WeChat Pay app and scan the code in the next step, you can easily get the payment done.
Step 9. Receive Your E-ticket or Pickup Voucher
Since 2020, all the high speed trains in China mainland support to board by using e-ticket, which means that passengers do not have to collect train tickets before check-in at any railway station.
The ticket voucher includes your departure date, stations, time, and your seat number(s). While check-in, you just need to hand in your ID that used to book the ticket(s).
For normal speed trains, passenger(s) have to collect paper ticket(s) before boarding by showing the pickup numbers and the ID that used to book ticket(s).
Step 10. Get Ready to Travel
Now your ticket(s) are successfully booked.
If it's still early before your departure date, it would be better if you make a reminder of departure date and time on your phone.
In China, high speed trains always depart punctually. If you miss your train, you have to buy a new train ticket.
1. What time can you book my China train ticket?
The working hours of www.12306.com is 06:00 – 23:00, GMT+8. Please book your train tickets during this time.
2. When can you buy China train ticket in advance?
you can buy train ticket on www.12306.cn within 30 days before departure date,
3. How many tickets can you buy at one time?
Five tickets at most at one time. If the number of your team exceeds 5 passengers, please make the bookings separately.
4. How many passengers can you have in one 12306 account?
One 12306 account only can have 15 passengers the most in 6 months. After 6 months, you can delete any passengers in your list and then add new ones.
How to Cancel Your Ticket on www.12306.cn
Before collecting train tickets or boarding the train, you can cancal your ticket at least 2 hours before departure time. China Rail will charge some commission fee if you cancel the ticket(s) within 15 days ahead of departure date.
Book China Train Tickets with China Train Booking App
As you can see, it is very difficult to book your train ticket(s) via www.12306.cn. The steps are very tedious for foreign travelers. Therefore, we strongly advise you use our China Train Booking app to skip the difficult process.
- No language barriers. Our app supports seven languages: English, Japanese, Spanish, France, Italian, German, and Russian.
- No need to register an account. You can directly book your train tickets once you download our app.
- Pay with your currency. No need to apply for a Chinese payment method.
- 24/7 English customer service: Our excellent sales team can help you solve any problem in China.
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