A foreigner wanting to buy a train ticket in China, who cannot speak or read Chinese, will find it very frustrating. It is hard, very hard. The common experience is, you take your chance to queue at one of the long lines, and when you finally get to the front, you are told it is wrong line, or “mei you mei you” (not available).
The tip is, you go to the five-star hotels, if any, and try your luck. In these luxury hotels, they usually have ticketing service and the staff can speak English. You can get your train or bus tickets for a handling fee of 5-20rmb.
You can also try four-star hotels where ticketing service can be available.
You don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to use the service.