Some of us are already planning for the summer holidays. For those of us in Shanghai who’d like to travel by train, the city’s railway stations has published the following ticketing advice:
- Booking online or via smartphone app gives you probably the most flexibility. You can choose from any train leaving in 30 minutes’ time — or you can plan ahead for a trip 60 days in the distance. Note that the service goes offline at night, though, so online and smartphone app ticketing is not available between 23:00 and 07:00 the next day. (There are also limited options to pick your preferred seat, if you travel a lot.)
- Going to a staffed ticket counter is still the “traditional” way to book. The ticket counters at Shanghai South (Shanghainan) is open 24 hours a day, whilst those at the main city station and the Hongqiao HSR hub also keep long hours (counters all open at 05:00, and end at 22:00 for Shanghai Hongqiao station and 23:00 for the main station in the city centre). If you know the exact seat on the train, you can ask counter staff to try booking you in that seat — provided it still is available. You can also book at authorised railway ticketing agents, but do note they have their own (sometimes erratic) opening hours.
Important: Ticket counters at the railway stations themselves may only sell you tickets 3 days (or less) in advance. (Those at authorised ticketing agents, however, will allow you to book up to 58 days before you travel.)
- Phonebooking: Finally, the railways also have a “traditional” phonebooking service. (Experience dictates this can be very complicated to operate, however, so really only consider this as something of a last resort.) Tickets available via this service is restricted to 4-60 days before travel, and you must pick tickets up quickly — before 12 noon the next day if you booked before 12 noon today, and before midnight the next day if you ordered after 12 noon this day.
Always note that today itself is already regarded as “Day 1” in the ticketing system. This means that the earliest travel date you can book for on 01 June 2015 is 30 July 2015. Also, always remember to bring either a copy or (better) the original of your passport or Chinese ID card when buying tickets. The original is always needed when travelling.