trainstationEvery year, just anticipation of the Spring Festival travel rush raises the blood pressure of everyone hoping to make a trip. Visions of queuing for half a day, or more, dance in people’s heads. But this year, stress is down and most of that waiting can be done in the comfort of your own home.

New travel procedures are not uncommon and sometimes they even help. China has launched online and phone ticket sales. To encourage people to use this, tickets go on sale one or two days before ticket offices start selling. There have been lots of tales of glitches and frustrated customers, but overall the system is working well.

 
My husband booked the “soft” or first class, beds for himself and our three kids to travel 24 hours across the country from Beijing to Chongqing. The first tickets he booked by phone with little difficulty, even managing to cancel and change the dates for a faster train. The return tickets, being close to the actual Spring Festival travel time, he booked online and had to be on his computer the moment they went on sale for the desired date. It took a great deal of patience and time but he again got soft beds for the train he wanted. He encountered some hassle with payment. But he got there in the end.

A new regulation that has helped smooth sales is one ticket per ID. This reduces scalping and gives everyone a fair chance.
  
The website is: http://www.12306.cn/ And the phone booking # is 95105105. Only in Chinese as far as I can tell. Not sure if it works for foreign ID either. Perhaps these things will come as they continue to streamline the process.

Jenny Lin is a writer/editor working in Beijing. You can follow her @twinlins or keep up with her cross-cultural familial adventures at beijingmom.blogspot.com.