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I purchased my Beijing-Nanning tickets from China DIY Travel through seat61 as there is a discount off the booking fee. Payment was easy, with great after-sales service. And I’m not paid to write this down. This post is relevant for collecting of tickets for all China Railway domestic trains. Remember to key in your name exactly as it is printed in your passport, china Railway is strict on passenger details when boarding the train.
They will send you an eticket which looks like this. Print this out and bring it to any railway station in China to exchange it for the actual ticket.
I picked mine up from Beijing Railway Station as it is closest to my hotel. It’s not difficult to locate this humongous building if you make your way there by foot.
There are some ticket counters on the outside of the building, and you can use the manned counters here to pick your tickets up. You do not have to use the ones inside the station building. I was deciding whether to join the queue for the security checks to enter the ticket hall in the building, when I just decided to ask the staff here if I could exchange it, and I got my ticket within a minute.
The ticket is credit-card sized, make sure not to lose this as once it’s printed, there is no reissuing of tickets. And trains do get full, even if you have the money to buy a new ticket.
But of course, I decided to explore the station a little bit after that, so I did go to the ticket hall inside the station afterwards. An English-speaking staff is located at counter 16 in the middle, but I didn’t test her abilities. It is not necessary to speak when exchanging your ticket though, especially if you don’t look Chinese. Just give the eticket print-out and your passport to the counter staff, and they’ll know what to do.
I barely spoke three sentences to the staff to get my ticket. In fact, she only said two words to me throughout the whole process when I asked if I could exchange my tickets: “护照” (passport).
If you are buying tickets for travel within the next 5 days, look out for this board for ticket availability. If you are, beware of ticket scalpers and touts located both outside and inside of the building. Always get your ticket from the counter direct, or a travel agent nearby. Even if your train is officially full, it is not worth getting it from a scalper roaming around the station, since there are fake tickets floating around, and even if it is real, the printed name and identification number will not match yours anyway, denying you boarding.