Thanks to China DIY Travel's Helen who made it possible to book train tickets on our recent trip. The service Helen provides is perfect. Without Helen we would have had to resort to booking through an Aussie travel booker and would have paid more than double for each ticket.
We contacted Helen about 3 months out from out trip and she provided us with booking sheets which include the train destinations, and 3 preferences for either time or standard ( hard /soft sleeper) and our name and passport number. Helen's service uses the CBA currency converter and adds a single $10 per ticket per person booking fee which is all paid via Pay Pal (no passport copies supplied by us - just our passport number).
20 days out from travel we received confirmation from Helen of our tickets with a request for payment via Pay Pal. On payment we received a full 'how to' set of documents. How to navigate the station, how to read your ticket, how to collect you ticket (written in chinese for the ticket station staff), how to deal with problems and how to get to the station (chinese instructions for a taxi driver). All were most helpful and current.
We purchased tickets for a bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing, and overnight sleeper tickets for travel from Beijing to Xi'an and Xi'an to Chengdu. Helen's suggestion of collecting all of the tickets in Beijing was fantastic (no extra paid at the station to do this even though I thought there was a fee). Helen's advice on navigating each station was also spot on. Yes Xi'an station is a 3 ringed circus but we managed it (no english words or numbers on most electronic display boards). We were helped by fellow passengers who either spoke or didn't speak English to ensure we arrived at the correct waiting room for our train. Having a couple of blonde children helped no doubt as many locals wanted to speak with them and try out their English skills.
A big thank you goes to Helen from my family, without your assistance our train travels may not have been such a pleasurable and memorable adventure.
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