How to travel smoothly across China by train?

Traveling across China sometimes can be an exciting adventure.
The places that you see may most likely thrill you, especially if it is your first time to visit here.
However, if you are not familiar with the transport system, you may end up messing up your trip. 😀
Each major city has at least two train stations, one for regular trains, another for high-speed trains.
Shanghai Night View
Take the example of Shanghai.
The trains in Shanghai can be divided into 2 classes: passenger transport and non-passenger transport.
For those that are passenger transport:
  1. 上海站 – Shanghai Railway Station
  2. 上海南站 – Shanghai South Railway Station
  3. 上海西站 – Shanghai West Railway Station
  4. 虹桥高铁站 – Hongqiao Railway Station
  5. 松江站 – Songjiang Station
  6. 松江南站 – Songjiang South Station
  7. 金山北站 – Jinshan North Station
  8. 南翔北站 – Nanxiang North Station
  9. 安亭北站 – Anting North Station
  10. 海湾站 – Haiwan Station
  11. 芦潮港站 – Luchaogang Station
Shanghai Railway Station
For those that are non-passenger transport:
1. 南翔站 – Nanxiang Station
2. 安亭站 – Anting Station
3. 金山站 – Jinshan Station
4. 江湾站 – Jiangwan Station
5. 北郊站 – Beijiao Station
6. 新桥站 – Xinqiao Station
7. 枫泾站 – Fengjing Station
Theoretically, each station has its particular destinations.
Among these train stations, the 3 major passenger stations are:
上海站 Shànghǎi zhàn – Shanghai Railway Station
Shanghai Railway Station is the main passenger station.
There are more than 70 trains that are sent to major cities across the country every day.
Feature: regular trains + a few high-speed trains,  mainly to the north of the Yangtze River.
How to get there: Metro line 1, 3 and 4, station ’Shanghai Railway Station’
上海南站 Shànghǎi nánzhàn – Shanghai South Railway Station
No high speed or bullet trains, only have regular trains, and a few long-distance buses, mainly to the south of the Yangtze River. (e.g. Jiaxing, Hangzhou)
How to get there: Metro line 1 and 3, station ’Shanghai South Railway Station’
上海虹桥站 Shànghǎi hóngqiáo zhàn – Hongqiao Railway Station
The major railway train station, only for high speed and bullet trains.
How to get there: Metro line 10 and 2, get off at ‘Hongqiao Railway Station’
If you purchase tickets online or through apps, be careful you have to get your tickets printed out in advance and manually.
In other words, you have to go to the train station at least 1 or 2 hours before the departure time and ask for a staff working at the window there (售票处shòu piào chù – ticket office) to have it printed. During this process, remember to bring your passport (护照hùzhào – Passport).
Caution1: there are always too many people at train stations. Thus, if your departure time is during peak hours, be ready there will be a very long queue in front of the ticket office. If you forget or don’t have time to print the ticket out one day before, you’d better arrive early at the station.
Any machines showing below are only for Chinese citizens.
Ticket Machine
Caution2: In China, you need to scan your luggage every time when entering a train station (including metro stations). It is quite simple. Firstly, prepare your paper ticket and passport, then you need to go through a metal detector, sometimes there will be a security officer who will scan your body with a hand-held metal detector. The whole process lasts only 3-5 minutes if it is not rush hours. Otherwise, bear in mind,  you may need to spend at least 30 min in getting in.
Security Check
Tip1: Ticket offices can be always found outside of the station, where they also sell tickets, and it is marked obviously with ‘售票处’ these three Chinese characters.
Ticket Office
Tip2: Avoid traveling in China during several important Chinese festivals, such as National day (Oct. 07), Chinese New Year (Feb).
I am sure that you don’t want to see this as below:
Beijing Railway Station
Apps and websites recommended to book train and flight tickets :
Useful words and expressions when you are at a train station:
  1. 打印车票 dǎyìn chēpiào – Print the ticket out.
  2. 我要改签 wǒ yào gǎiqiān – I want to change the ticket.
  3. 我要退票 wǒ yào tuìpiào – I want to refund the ticket.
  4. 候车厅在哪里? hòuchētīng zài nǎlǐ? – Where is the waiting area?
  5. 几号站台?jǐ hào zhàntái? – which platform?
  6. 护照 hùzhào – passport
  7. 行李 xínglǐ – luggage

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