Deciphering a Chinese train ticket

You’ve bought your ticket, and you’re all ready to board that train and be on your way. But hang on a minute: what carriage are you in? Are you sitting together with your travel companions? And what time is your train? All this information is on your ticket, if you can just learn to read it. And that’s what we’re here for.

Take a look at the first sample ticket below and follow the key to decipher what each item means. Then try reading the subsequent samples without referring to the key!


1. A typical Chinese train ticket


On this ticket, from the top-left:

A: Your ticket number. 

B: Departure station in Chinese.

C: Departure station in pinyin.

D: Departure date and time. The date follows the standard “YYYY/MM/DD” format used throughout China, while the time, printed immediately after, uses the 24-hour clock.

E: Ticket price in RMB.

F: Validity of ticket. Common examples include:

   限乘当日当次车: Valid only on the specified date and specified train.
   在3日内到有效: The journey must be completed by the end of day 3 (day 1 is the date of departure).
   中途下车失效: Invalid if journey broken.

G: A 21-digit code. Letters H, I, J, K and L below break down what the various parts of this code represent.

H: Code of the train ticket issuing station. This is not necessarily the departure station. If you buy a ticket from Beijing to Shanghai at Hangzhou train station, for example, then this code will be for Hangzhou train station.

I: Code of means of ticket sale.

J: Code of ticket window where ticket was issued.

K: Date ticket was issued.

L: Ticket number.

M: Name in Chinese of ticket-issuing station.

N: Destination in Chinese.

O: Destination in pinyin.

P: Carriage number, seat/sleeper number (including upper, middle or lower berth for sleeper carriages) and train class. For example: 

    XX车(carriage) YYY号 (seat/sleeper cabin number) 
    新: New (higher standard)
    空调: Air-conditioned 
    特快: Express train 
    快速: Fast train 
    普快: Ordinary train 
    硬座: Hard seat 
    软座: Soft seat 
    硬卧: Hard sleeper (上铺: upper berth, 中铺: middle berth, 下铺: lower berth) 
    软卧: Soft sleeper (上铺: upper berth, 下铺: lower berth) 
    高级软卧: Deluxe Soft sleeper (上铺: upper berth, 下铺: lower berth) 
    一等座: First class seat 
    二等座: Second class seat 

Q: Discount info.

R: 2D bar code.

S: Train number.

Phew. Now here’s another example of a ticket decoded for ease of use.


2. Another sample ticket



Now try reading these real-life tickets for yourself …


3. Paper ticket from Jinzhou to Shenyang Bei (Shenyang North) 



4. Magnetic card ticket for high-speed train from Beijing South to Tianjin



5. Magnetic card ticket for D308 from Shanghai to Beijing


And that’s that. Easy, huh? Happy travels!


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