It might seem a bit early to start thinking about Spring Festival, as it’s still more than 2 months away, but new train ticket purchasing rules and high speed lines mean that you’ll need to get your tickets bought earlier than ever.
As of December 6, the pre-order period for tickets is now 60 days via Web/phone and 58 days directly from a ticket office. While the change is mainly to accommodate the CNY rush, the policy may continue after the holidays.
Online Booking with China Railway Customer Service Center:
Passengers can book ticket through the website of China Railway Customer Service Center 60 days prior to departure. A valid passport number and a Chinese phone number are required. The website is exclusively in Chinese, and payment needs to be made within 45 minutes via a China UnionPay bank card that supports online payments. Tickets can be collected at the railway station before boarding. [source]
These new rules mean that tickets for February 4, the start of the Spring Festival travel rush, went on sale this past Sunday.
The 2015 Spring Festival falls on February 19 with the holiday starting February 19 and running until February 25. A rush on travel tickets is expected for several weeks pre-/post-Chinese New Year, so best to book early.
Refunds and Scheduling Changes
Additionally, new rules were brought in on December 3 for refunding tickets. If you return your train ticket 15 days before your departure date, you can get a full refund.
If you are looking to change your departure time, you can do so without penalty at least 48 hours before the departure time on your ticket. Simply visit a ticket office, or login to the online booking system (Chinese), and you can change your ticket to any train to the same destination on any day within the pre-order period.
However, if you are less than 48 hours out from your departure, you can still change your ticket, but are limited to seats on trains on the same day of travel. If you miss your train, you are likewise able to reschedule to any train to and from the same points before midnight on that day.
New Shanghai -> Guangzhou/Guilin high speed line to open soon
Soon there will be little reason for those in Shanghai and surrounding areas to wrestle with traffic and long journeys to PVG to catch flights to Guilin and Guangzhou. Starting December 10, a new high speed line is opening to offer trips from Shanghai to Guangzhou in about seven hours, less than half the current time. The Shanghai-Guilin route will offer similar time savings, cutting the current 19-hour trip to just under nine hours. Prices have yet to be announced, but are expected to be cheaper than the full-fare airline rates, which typically run north of 1,000 RMB.
Be sure to check out China Travel Guide‘s excellent resource for train ticket purchasing information.
h/t That’s Mags