Maybe you’ve already made your plans official for your upcoming China trip a couple of months in advance. And maybe you have all your international tickets, valid visa and passport in-hand. But maybe you have no idea of where and how to buy train and flight tickets for traveling within China.
Here, I’ll walk you through the process of booking tickets for domestic travel using two highly recommended and popular ticketing websites – Ctrip and eLong. Both these websites have English and Chinese simplified and traditional versions available. Ctrip even has eight other languages – Japanese, Korean, French, German, Spanish, Vietnamese and Russian. So, now that your potential language worries have been put to rest, let’s get going with five steps to buy tickets in China!
1. Create an account
Before you can buy tickets in China online, you will need an account. Create your own account by simply clicking “Sign Up” or “Register” on the home page. The only information you’ll need to fill in is a valid email address and your personalized password for logging into the website. Your account is ready to go after you type in the verification code.
2. Choose your preferred flight or train schedules
Click “Flight” or “Train” to check for the available schedules. Book the ticket that best fits your itinerary. But always remember to read the ticket refund policy next to the pricing when booking a flight ticket, just in case there’s any change to your itinerary later.
For some of the cheapest tickets, you won’t be refunded the price of the ticket in the event you cancel. You’ll only be refunded the taxes and fees you paid when purchasing the ticket. Therefore, if you’re plans aren’t set in stone yet, it’s recommended that you don’t book one of the cheaper tickets with this kind of refund policy.
3. Purchase your ticket
Make payment online to buy the ticket. Payment can be made by using Visa, Master Card, American Express and JCB credit card.
4. Pick up your ticket
You generally don’t need a physical ticket for flights before arriving at the airport. Instead, you can often come to the airport with your passport ready and pick up your ticket when you check in.
Train tickets can be obtained at the train station’s counter with your passport. Train stations will usually have pick up windows separate from the others and there may or may not be English signage to direct you where to go. Arrive at the train station at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure time, just in case there’s a long waiting line. If you find yourself having trouble getting your ticket or have questions about the ticketing process, go on to Step 5.
5. Call the 24-hour hot line service
If you have questions, you can always call the service center.
C-trip’s 24-hour hot line: 400-619-9999
eLong’s 24-hour hot line: 4009-333-333
If your ticket is refundable and you need to cancel your booking, you can request a refund online or by calling the service center as well.
One of great benefits that’s come along with the advent of high-speed rail and other innovations in China has been the improvement made in convenience. It's never been easier to buy tickets in China. By following this five-step process, you can now book your tickets faster and in your preferred language, without ever having to leave your computer to wait in line at a ticketing office.
I wish you the best for your travel experience to, and within, China. Have a safe and pleasant trip!