A guide to train tickets during Spring Festival rush

Updated: 29 Dec 2011
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Spring Festival train ticket
A ticket sample, picture from Chinatravel.com.
As China's Spring Festival travel peak approaches its January 8 start date, the Ministry of Railways (MOR) is preparing for the annual mass onslaught of passengers with new, Internet-facilitated booking services.

The online booking system for express train tickets was launched last Saturday, providing greater access to tickets for express train routes (those starting with the letter "T"). It spares passengers the time-consuming annual ritual of standing for hours in queues.

The ministry has also released a detailed guide to the booking process to promote the new service, as part of the "unprecedented effort" to ease the tensions around travel planning as people head to their hometowns for traditional Lunar New Year celebrations.

The guide explains passengers can log on to the China Railway Customer Service Center website (www.12306.com) to book tickets, however the website currently offers only a Chinese-only interface. Tickets of train routes starting with the letter C, D, G and Z can be reserved 5 days.

Once the online booking and transaction is completed, travellers simply go to any nearby ticket office or the train station itself to pick up the tickets.

By the 2012 Chinese Spring Festival, it will be possible to book tickets online for all classifications of trains, but passengers are expected to provide details from identification documents such as their passport, Chinese citizen ID card, or mainland travel permit issued to Macao / Hong Kong / Taiwan residents.

Booking by phone is now available in several cities, but currently only for Chinese nationals, including Taiwan residents. Foreign tourists unable to use the online booking system should use a reliable travel agency, such as the authorized ticket offices scattered throughout the city, or purchase directly from the train station. Generally, passengers need to act 10 days ahead of travel time, and in the case of Z and D trains, 20 days. An additional service charge of 5 RMB per ticket will be charged for the purchase. Meanwhile, passengers looking forward to buy tickets of bullet trains would have to hand over their valid certificates for a scan.

The ministry warns not to buy from ticket scalpers or piaofanzi as they are known in Chinese. The obviously higher prices are one penalty; but even worse, these speculators frequently unload fake tickets that are very difficult to distinguish from the real ones.

In addition, the 'Real-name Train Ticket Selling' policy which specifies tickets must be issued to a specific buyer, as with airline tickets, will be implemented during the period of January 19 to February 27 in major cities that include Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hangzhou and Suzhou. This anti-scalper measure requires purchasers to produce valid ID when buying train tickets.

The latest regulations allow a ticket to be changed one time only, and at designated counters in railway stations. Earlier or a later departure times may be available on trains with extra passenger capacity.
SOURCE: Ecns.cn
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