In less than a decade, China has created the world’s longest high- speed rail network. Stretching across 28 provinces and spanning over 19,000 kilometers, it’s longer than the rest of the world’s high-speed rail tracks combined. With the holidays upon us, going on an adventure across China has never been easier.
Here's a quick step-by-step guide for smooth travels.
1. Booking tickets
Booking train tickets takes just a couple of minutes and can be done digitally on apps like WeChat or Ctrip. Other options include booking directly at the station, but English service is often patchy at best.
2. Picking up your tickets
Getting tickets delivered prior to departure will spare you from queueing at the railway stations. If you are picking up tickets at a station kiosk, note there are three stations in Shanghai:
Shanghai Railway Station
Hongqiao Railway Station
Shanghai South Railway Station
Most stations will have a designated ticket hall to buy and pick up tickets, but Hongqiao Railway Station is an exception.
Don’t bother with the ticket dispensing machines (only Chinese citizens can use them) and look for the 'Tickets' sign. If you can’t see anything in English, look out for the Chinese characters 取票 (qǔ piào) for printing prebooked tickets, or 改签 (gǎi qiān) for changing itineraries. You’ll need both your passport and booking number starting with E (i.e. E12345678) to collect your tickets. The booking number is essential – don’t expect to pick up your tickets without it.
3. Entering the station
At most railway stations you’ll need to show your ticket and passport to enter the station itself. Line up for security check and put your bags through the X-ray machine. You’ll get a quick pat-down from one of the security staff, and then you’re good to go.
4. Working out where to wait
Check the top right of your ticket to find out where you need to wait. [候车室 (hòu chē shì) = Waiting Room; 检票口 (jiǎn piào kǒu) = Gate]
In newer stations like Hongqiao Railway Station or Shanghai South Railway Station, there is simply one big waiting hall with a series of gates taking you to the platforms below. However, in older stations like the Shanghai Railway Station, you’ll need to be waiting in the correct waiting room. Check the top right of your ticket to find out where you should be.
5. Entering the platform
Boarding usually starts 15 minutes before the train departs. There will be an announcement in Chinese (and English if you’re in a major train station) and the information board will change from 等候 (děng hòu / wait) to 检票 (jiǎn piào / check tickets). Join the queue and when it comes to your turn, insert your ticket into the slot at the front of the gate, and retrieve it when it pops out from the top. Make sure you keep your ticket as you’ll need it to exit the station at your destination, and usually someone will check it while you’re on the train.
6. Boarding the train
Printed on the right side of your ticket are the carriage number [车 (chē) = carriage] and seat number [号 (hào) = your seat number]. Wait at the designated carriage area and hop aboard when the train doors open. If there’s someone in your seat, just show them your ticket. Sit back, relax and keep those ears tuned for English announcements for your stop. Once you arrive, insert your ticket into the exit gate and have a lovely journey ahead.
[Cover image via Pexels]
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