If you can't read Chinese it can be very daunting to try to find your seat on a Chinese train. While Chinese people are usually very helpful and would gladly walk you to your seat, below is a simple guide to help you read a Chinese train ticket.
There are two kinds of train tickets in China: red paper and blue magnetic. Although different in color, they have not much difference in how they show information. Let’s read them from top to bottom and left to right.
Departure and Arrival Stations:These are the largest characters on the whole ticket, with departure station on the left and arrival station on the right. The English letters below them are their Chinese pronunciations in pinyin.
Departure Date and Time: These are located in the fourth row on the left, in the order of year/month/date/hour/minute. Usually, passengers are allowed to enter the railway terminal at most 2 hours before departure; the boarding gates are opened 30 minutes before departure and closed 5 minutes before.
In China, a railway station is usually named after the city, such as ‘西安(Xian)站(railway station)’. When the city has more than one station, any station built later is named as ‘city name+location of the station in that city’, like ‘北京(Beijing)南(south)站(railway station)’. The locations used in station names are usually ‘东(east)’, ‘西(west)’, ‘南(south)’, and ‘北(north)’, while a few are local well-known places like Shanghai Hongqiao and Luoyang Lonegmen.
Train Number: This is placed between the departure station and arrival station, made up of several digits or an English letter prefix, which refers to different train types.
Seat Number: Once you board the correct train car, seats are clearly labeled and there’s plenty of staff to help direct you.