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Small local ticketing agencies are located all over town. You'll find these train availability boards at all main station ticket offices and they're not hard to read, even though they're in Chinese.

Don't expect English to be spoken, so ask your hotel to write down what you want. The photo below was taken at Beijing West on 1 August, and as you can see, there's zero availability in any class for today's train G625 leaving at , so don't waste time asking.

It's also busy throughout the summer, and the beginning or end of university terms.

China has one of the biggest and busiest rail networks in the world, and trains link almost every town & city.

Chinese trains are a safe, comfortable & cheap way to travel around China, and a Chinese train journey is an experience in itself, in contrast with less reliable and environmentally-unfriendly internal flights.

Barriers close 5 minutes before departure, and the train is then shown as 'check out'.

Photos in this section are courtesy of Sunil Mehta.