I don’t take the train very often, but this year I will be joining my kids in Shandong province for a week of the CNY holidays. Train tickets for our ideal dates were sold out ages ago, so the kids had to leave with their grandparents a whole week earlier than my work schedule would allow. This left the problem of a single train ticket for me, just before NYE. I then came up upon an issue of needing to “验证” or “verify” my identity with the train station as a result of being a foreign passport holder.
This has happened before. I had to go down to the station with my passport in hand in order to pick up the actual ticket rather than being able to get it at my local little train ticket window down the street. I assumed that I had solved the problem that time, that it had been “verified” adequately.
So, when WeChat added a third-party purchase option in the wallet section, I easily purchased a ticket. Within twelve hours it had been refunded. Confused, I purchased another. Then I received another refund. I was starting to panic that I wouldn’t secure a seat to be reunited with my kids!
It turns out that registering with the 12306.cn website is key. All I needed to do (and what they’d failed to tell me to do before I sat on hold for ages and finally got a representative at the China rail company to speak to me) was register an account and then wait for 24 hours before I could purchase a ticket online. The next step is presenting your passport at the train station for the requisite verification—something that only needs to happen one time—but without the registration (注册) at the website, no matter how many times you go down to pick up a ticket directly, your passport won’t be properly verified. What a headache!
Finally, wary of the WeChat option, I resorted to downloading the 12306 app (pic above) and purchased my train ticket directly through this app, happily scoring a cheaper price than I had originally found for February 7—the final hour before the new year (when there were still some tickets available!). I didn’t receive a refund so I appear to be in the clear. When I pick the ticket up on February 7, I’ll just have to be sure to stress that my passport is finally verified once and for all!
Then it’s easy train ticket purchases from here on out!
Photos: Ember Swift