Here's my dilemma. I need to get from Chengdu to Lhasa via train. I have found the official Chinese rail network website and they have the train listed here -> http://www.cnvol.com/train-13/en-3828.htm
The price they are quoting for a soft sleeper is around 900 RMB, which is around $150. I need to secure these tickets before I fly in to Chengdu from Kathmandu because I already have the 3 week tour lined up in Tibet and I can't afford to arrive at the train station and find out that it is booked our for the next month or something stupid.
All of the websites that i have been looking at that will purchase the tickets on your behalf are asking for $300, twice the price of the ticket!
The tour that I have booked with in Tibet is offering to buy them - although they are jacking on their commission as well. I hate booking things through tour agents as I feel like it's a waste of money, but perhaps this time I have no choice.
Does anyone know the best way to purchase Chinese train tickets from outside of China?
Best info you can find is on: http://www.seat61.com/China.htm and http://www.chinatravelguide.com/ctgwiki/Special:CNTrainSearch?method=1
Unfortunately from outside of china, you will have no other option than using an agent to buy your ticket. The double price indeed looks way too much. You can alternatively, try to contact a hostel (as they are always joint with a tour agency) with good reference in Beijing and ask if they can help you buy the ticket in advance, and if so how much it would be.
Usually, you can buy your ticket 5-10 days in advance at any main train station or at a ticket office in town. I know one ticket office near the bell tower in Beijing where usually the queue is not so bad.
I am not sure how quickly train tickets are sold out for this route, but once I bought it app 5 days before.
Soft sleeper is a very comfortable/luxurious option. Should soft sleeper be sold out, you can still buy hard sleeper which is not too bad at all. Although, hard sleepers sell quicker in general.
Damn. I thought maybe I had missed some sort of miracle website. Looks like I can't get past the commission . Oh well, thanks for the info.