board a train on platform

A Chinese station platform

From June 20, 2020 passengers can board trains via electronic tickets. This change also changed the steps of entering the station and boarding trains in China. Foreigners can also use electronic tickets now.  
(Tip: If you still want to collect your paper ticket(s), you can go to the station counter to get it.)

How Do Foreign Passengers Board China Trains?

Here are the main steps.

Please prepare your e-ticket(s) and your passports in advance. → Arrive at the station 40 minutes before the departure time. → Find the entrance. → Pass through the security check. → Find your waiting area. → Check-in when the staff informs you. → Follow the streams and find the right platform. → Find your carriage(s) and seat(s).

This article explains every detail about boarding trains in China, including images within a station pictures and translations of signs to help you understand how the process works.

Step 1. Go to Your Departure Station in Advance

manual checking lane

manual checking lane

Although we always remind our customers to arrive at the station in advance, sometimes they still get late and miss their train. This might cause huge losses for their whole journey and ticket fares.

To avoid this situation, we highly recommend you:

1. It takes a lot of time to go through security check. For special festivals, if you are coming for the first time, you need to spend time to find directions. The arrangement of passageways in each railway station is usually different.
2. Arrive at the station at least 1 hour before the departure time if you decide to collect your ticket(s) on the departure date.
3. If you are not sure about distance and time to go the station, please consult your hotel reception before your travel date.
4. If you go to the station during rush hours, please depart an extra 30 minutes prior.

Step 2. Pass Through the Security Check with Your Passport(s) and E-Ticket(s)

Passengers need to go through a security check before entering the station:

  1. Show your passport(s) and your e-ticket(s) to the station clerk to check.
  2. Have your baggage checked on the security scanner conveyor belt.
  3. Find out what can’t be carried on the train by reading Baggage Rules of China Rail. It’s recommended for you to check it before the departure.
  4. Walk through a detector gate and be scanned by the station staff.
  5. Successfully enter the train station.

And nowadays some stations have automatic ticket checking machines/face-identification machines, which are not available for foreigners to use. Please queue up in the line for manual ticket check.

the process of having the security check in China

Step 3. Find the Right Waiting Area, Like Waiting for the Flight

After you have pass through the security check, you need to find your check-in point and wait in the nearest waiting area (just like waiting for the flight). Each station has a different arrangement. Some stations are on the second or third floor. You can follow the signs to find the waiting area.

Some stations’ waiting areas are built as waiting rooms, while other stations’ waiting areas are built as open-plan waiting sections.

check-in point (As you can see, the below check-in point is A8.)

e ticket

If you can't find it, please ask the nearest officer with the check-in point number on your ticket.
(This is my e-ticket. Could you please tell me where to wait for my train?)

Step 4. Go through the Check-In Gate

check-in gate

check-in gate

Please prepare your e-ticket and queue up to board the train 15–30 minutes before its departure time.
Generally, you can check in 20 minutes in advance. If it is not time to check in, you can take a rest near the check-in gate.
For E-ticket holders, you can only show your e-ticket(s) and your passport(s) for checking.
Some passengers have collected the paper tickets, please queue up to board based on the color of the ticket:
If your ticket is blue, you can scan it with the machine to pass through the check-in gate (just like taking a subway train). If your ticket is red, you need to queue up in the line for manual ticket checks to pass through the gate.

Step 5. Find the Right Platform

business class carriage

business class carriage

After passing through the check-in gate, please follow the signs to get to the right platform. You can follow the people who pass with you. Pay attention to the position of the carriage indicated in the aisle. Some passageways have left and right entrances so that you can find the correct direction. The key is to find the platform number which corresponds to your train number.

  • 这是我的电子车票,你能告诉我应该去哪个站台吗?
    (This is my e-ticket. Could you tell me which platform I should go to?)

Step 6. Find the Right Carriage to Board and Sit in the Right Seat

Get on to a right carriage according to the number

There is a small screem showing the carriage number

Each train carriage has a small LED screen showing the carriage number. Please board the right carriage by reading the carriage number on your e-ticket correctly.
You also need to find your seat according to the information on your ticket

You can put your big luggage at the rear of the carriage. For the small luggage can be put on an overhead rack.

  • 请问我的座位在哪里?
    (Could you please tell me where my seat is?)
  • 对不起,我和我的同伴不在一起,请问你是否愿意和我换一下座位让我和我的同伴坐在一起?
    (Excuse me, my companion and I are not seated together. Do you mind swapping your seat with me so that I can sit with my companion?)

Arrive Your Arrival Station

station exit

station exit

Sometimes the train you take may not arrive at your final destination. So pay attention to the voice broadcast of arrival information during the journey. In general, the time of arrival of high-speed trains is relatively accurate, and you can check it half an hour before the arrival time.
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.  

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August 27, 2020 Updateded by: Virginia Fu