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Trip.com vs Trainline for trains Bookings

Trip.com Trainline
Overview Overview

For many years Trip.com has been the undisputed leader when it comes to China trains tickets, which is what you would expect from a Chinese company of course. The slick experience is available on pc, mobile and in app form and is without a doubt the best experience out there, although there are a few other competitors in recently. In recent years Trip.com’s train coverage has expanded into other countries and regions, including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the UK and other major European countries like France, Germany and Spain. Unfortunately the experience is nowhere near as nice as their China trains product, and feels a little bit unfinished. Having said that it’s still solid overall and definitely worth checking out if you’re heading to one of those countries. They often give away promo codes for trains when you book a hotel in those countries so their worth looking out for.

When it comes to booking train tickets in Europe and the UK, the first company that will spring to mind for most people is Trainline. While extensive train coverage across the entire continent, plus the option to book coaches, they seem like the logical and obvious choice. There’s a few other companies doing similar things though, so let’s take a look to see if Trainline really deserves its crown.
Features Features
One of the features Trip.com offers is seat selection, which is generally much better than their competitors. Although the seats aren’t guaranteed, if you’re booking early you should have no trouble getting the seats you want. Trip.com also supports purchasing “return tickets”. In actual fact there are no such thing as return tickets when it comes to trains in China, so be aware that you’re actually just buying two single tickets. It is useful however as you can pay within one transaction. Another handy feature is the ability to pre-book tickets before the 30 day booking window opens.. This quirk of China’s train system can be quite annoying but with Trip.com’s system they’ll snap up your tickets the moment they become available. Their platform allows you the purchase all classes of tickets including the premium business class, and all kinds of seats and bunks on slower speed trains and overnight trains as well. Of course, child tickets are also supported. One of the leading features about Trainline is that they sell multiple types of tickets. Single trips, return trips, open return tickets and season tickets can all be found within the same app, which can’t necessarily be said for a lot of the competitors. In addition, they accept all the most common railcards, and you even purchase one directly through the app. Both adult and children tickets can be purchased. One thing we find particularly handy is the ability to not just search by departure time, but by arrival time too. This is particularly handy if you’re traveling on a less direct route which might involve multiple changes and different types/speeds of trains. You can also use their mobile app to track trains live, meaning you can see where the train is on the current route. You can also select your seating preferences and trainline will do what it can to accommodate them, however if it can’t it will just book you a ticket anyway. Originally introduced in the Trip.com app, trainline now also supports split ticketing for trains within the UK which can save you extra money. Click here to check the details in that. As with the competitors, Trainline offers you two different ways to collect your tickets. The first are e-tickets, which means that you’ll get a QR code which acts as your ticket. The other way is “Collect at station”. If you choose this method Trainline will give you a code for your booking. Once you’re at the station go to the ticket collection machine, insert the card you used to pay for the booking, enter your from Trainline, and the ticket will be dispensed. This can be done at over 1,000 stations across the UK. Another great feature is that you can specific a route via a certain station, or even exclude a certain station if that’s important to you too. If trains aren’t really your thing or you’re just looking to save some money, you can always quickly jump over to the coaches/buses section from the search results page if you’d prefer.
Pricing & Fees Pricing & Fees
Rail prices in China are set by the government and don’t change depending on where you book. As Trip.com obviously needs to make a profit they charge a small booking fee on top of each ticket which you can see details of in the “Payment and Fees” section. Most of their competitors charge similar prices or higher. For European trains their prices appear to cost more that other competitors such as Trainline, however are still very reasonable overall. For products like Korea trains, they are almost exclusive to Trip.com, and their prices compare reasonably to the local competitors. It’s unfortunate, but trainline charges a 3% booking fee on all transactions. When you add this fee to the total cost we found that Trainline was consistently more expensive that the competitors. Having said that the price different was minimal, usually less than one pound. The SplitSave split ticketing can sometimes save a huge amount of money but this will depend on the route, and other competitors are offering this as well.
Availability Availability
All routes and classes are available for all trains, for both their China and non-China train offerings. Coverage across Europe is very impressive, and can’t be beaten when it comes to European trains. From the UK and France to Poland and Sweden, you can find almost any train you might need on Trainline. Given that they are based out of the UK, the Trainline product is more aimed towards UK consumers, however continent-wide bookings are definitely supported.
Accessibility Accessibility
Trip.com’s train offering appear to be available across all their different sites, which means around 20 languages in total. The China trains product is available on desktop, mobile app, as well as mobile web – with the app being the best bet if you’re into mobile. For their non-China travel products, Germany, UK and Korean trains appear to be available on their desktop website, however only Korea trains appear to be available on their mobile website, with Europeans trains being listed as coming soon. As with other Trip.com products their app is clearly their strongest product so we’d recommend downloading that. Trains can be booked through Trainline’s service via their mobile app (both Android and iOS), desktop website and mobile website. In terms of languages options they support 11 different European languages, but you’re out of luck if you want it in other e.g. Asian, languages. Clearly their product is aimed at locals, and not international tourists.
Payment Methods Payment Methods

One of the disadvantages of Trip.com is that they charge a booking fee. For China trains this ranges from 20 to 70rmb per ticket, and appears to be based off of how far you are traveling. Expect to pay 30rmb for most 1-3 hour trips. They don’t however add any extra credit card fees on top so that’s a bonus. When it comes to changes and cancellations they’re all done according to the standards imposed by China Rail and don’t attract and additional charges besides that. Depends of what currency you have selected, beside any credit and debit card, you can also use PayPal, Google Pay and Apple Pay. If you happen to be living in China, Alipay, WeChat Pay and local UnionPay credit and debit cards are also selected if you are paying in CNY. Similarly for trains in other countries, Trip.com also charges a booking fee like most competitors. Once again, there are no additional charges for changes and refunds besides what the operators charge, but be careful as some tickets are non-refundable (as per supplier rules).

Trainline accepts all the major credit and debit cards including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Maestro and Diners, however they seem to offer support for some of the small ones like UnionPay, JCB or Discover. If credit cards aren’t your thing you also have the option to pay with PayPal, or with Google Pay or Apple pay depending on your device.
Reputation Reputation
If you do a quick search you’ll find that Trip.com, as with a lot of other OTAs, has some horror stories floating around. That said it also has a fair amount of positive feedback, especially in the app stores. It gets a Trustscore of 3.5/5 on TrustPilot, which isn’t a great score, but it’s also not terrible considering we’re in the middle of a pandemic which has no doubt battered travel company’s reputations. Trainline has a reasonable reputation. Given their market dominance and the fact their competitors aren’t very strong tends to back this up. Where they fall down is in regards to customer service, but as already mentioned, it should only be in a very rare case that you need to actually contact them.
Customer Service Customer Service
One of the advantages of booking China Trains with Trip.com is that have a lot of experience in this area, especially with their parent company selling tens of thousands of tickets per day. Thus, the service you will receive for China train booking is second-to-none. As with most Trip.com products, service is available through phone, email or service chat directly within their app/website so you’ll be spoiled for choice. They can even help you in multiple different languages if English isn’t your preferred languages. Trainline makes it quite difficult to find their contact details on both their website and app. They do however offer phone numbers both in and out of the UK, and if you search for long enough you find a form on their website where you can send them an email. They seem to flog off a lot of the heavy lifting onto the rail operators themselves, advising you to contact them if your request is urgent. Luckily most of the features most people will need like cancellation can be done from directly inside their platform so there shouldn’t be too much need to actually contact them.
Summary Summary
When if comes to booking China Trains, Trip.com is a sure bet. For the best experience we recommend you download their mobile app. This way you’ll have a record of your ticket’s with you while you are traveling. If you're travelling elsewhere in the world they are worth a quick look but probably better to stick with one of the other major competitors. No other competitor across Europe offers such a complete rail booking experience. When you throw in the fact that they also offer coach bookings, you can book things the open-return and reasons tickets, and that they support mobile payment methods like Google Pay and Apple Pay, you’d be silly to not at least consider using Trainline to book your next train ticket in Europe.