For anyone planning on visiting and travelling within China, here is some information regarding the booking of bus and train tickets that might be useful.
First of all, when you know where you want to go, when you want to go and how you want to get there, you should find out how early the tickets will be available. In western countries it’s often possible to book tickets up to a year in advance. That’s not likely to be the case in China. You may find that the tickets for your destination are only available seven to ten days before the date of travel. If you’re told it’s seven to ten days, check which it is. You may find you go to the bus or train station ten days ahead of time to be told that it is in fact seven days, please come back in three days’ time. If you’re travelling and sightseeing, time is precious, so you don’t want to waste a morning trying to buy tickets.
In fact, the advice to double check goes for almost everything. Which platform does your transport leave from? Even if it says on the ticket, check on arrival, it may have changed. Before getting on the bus or train, double check it’s the right one, going to the right place. If your Chinese is not good, show the ticket to the driver or guard. Make sure they look at it though, it’s not uncommon for people to glance at the thing your showing them and just not or appear to agree. Sometimes they’re nervous around foreigners, sometimes they just don’t want to do their job properly, whichever, make sure they look at the information.
When your booking your outgoing tickets, you can try to book your return tickets at the same time, but be aware that this is not always possible. It’s more likely to be okay for a train journey, but very often, if you’re traveling by bus, you will have to book the ticket home when you arrive at your destination. Go straight to the ticket counter when you get to where you’re going, and ask if it’s possible to book the return ticket. Again, you might not be able to do it that day, you may have to come back a few days later. If that’s the case, find out what time they open, and get there early to make sure you get a ticket.