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Sharell Cook

Impossible for Foreigners to Make Online Indian Railways Reservations?

By March 21, 2012

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Ouch! My head hurts. I've just tried for almost an hour to make an online reservation with Indian Railways and have given up. I known I'm not the first person, and I'm sure I won't be the last.  The system has become so over regulated and burdensome, it makes it almost impossible for foreigners to make online bookings.

There are two obstacles. 1) Needing an Indian mobile number. 2) Not being able to pay with a foreign credit card.

Indian Railways can't seem to make up its mind whether or not it will accept foreign credit cards. Initially it was yes, then it was no, then it was yes again, and now it's no again. I only discovered Indian Railway's latest rejection of foreign credit cards after getting through numerous system time out errors, to at last reach the final stage of ticket booking -- the payment.

Undeterred, I decided to try booking through a travel portal. There are three travel portals that I know of that handle Indian Railways reservations -- Makemytrip.com, Yatra.com, and Cleartrip.com.   For some strange reason, Cleartrip wasn't showing the train that I wanted to travel on. So, since I'd just reserved a flight with Makemytrip using my foreign credit card, I thought I'd also use them to make my train reservation.

That's when I discovered the new registration requirement. No matter what travel portal you use, accounts must be verified by Indian Railways. To complete this, both an email address and Indian mobile number are required.   Fortunately, I do have an Indian mobile.

It took me around 30 minutes to complete the verification process, including waiting for a verification code to be sent to my mobile phone.  I found the train and completed the reservation details in under 5 minutes. But then, when I went to pay for the ticket, I discovered that Makemytrip don't allow foreign credit cards on rail bookings either.  I was surprised, because I'd had no trouble paying for my flight with my international credit card.  No doubt, Indian Railways has something to do with the rule.

The whole process has left me irritated and annoyed. Apparently, the local post office now does train bookings, so I guess I'll go and try my luck there tomorrow. I do realize that I'm one of the fortunate ones who has the option of doing this because I live in India. I can only imagine the angst that this new system is causing foreigners who don't live in India.

The Ministry of Tourism has set a goal to dramatically increase the amount of foreign tourists that come to India. Yet, the government presents foreign tourists with insurmountable difficulties simply to reserve a train ticket. It's not exactly encouraging tourism, is it?

What have other people's experiences been like? What problems have you encountered with the system? Share your Indian Railways reservation problems here. (It feels good to have a rant).

March 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm
(1) shiv says:

Why not go for an Indian credit or Debit card. Yes this should be resolved by the railways so that foreign tourists can book online. Why don’t you write to PRO Railways.
Anyway for Indian traveller it is worst. The travel agentd in connivance with booking officials have ensured that ordinary traveller will rarely be able to find a confirmed seat online or offline. That is corruption.

March 22, 2012 at 12:50 am
(2) goindia says:

I could go for an Indian credit or debit card but that would mean I’d have to open an Indian bank account. Dealing with Indian banks is another nightmare I’d rather avoid. I could write a letter but I’m not convinced anyone would pay any attention to it. And even if they did, how long and what procedure would it take for change to happen? Dealings with the Indian Government are another thing I try to avoid as much as possible. :-( It’s really sad that I’ve developed this way of thinking, but it’s come after so many frustrating episodes.

March 21, 2012 at 1:52 pm
(3) Anil says:

Just 1 hour?

One particular night, I promised my dads friend that I’ll book a tatkal ticket for him the next morning at 8am. I sat exactly at 8am and continued till 3pm in the evening which is when I was finally able to book a ticket.

The thing about IRCTC website is that once you cross the first three pages(1.login 2.data entry 3.click book), you will be locked inside a limited slot. When this slots fills up, others won’t be able to get in until someone within the slot exits.

In other words, internet technology does not solve indian population problems.

March 22, 2012 at 12:45 am
(4) goindia says:

Oh, I’ve tried to book a Tatkal ticket on Indian Railways too. The system was so jammed, I couldn’t get past the time out errors. It must’ve been because of the limited time slots like you said. They really need to do something about their system. India has so much great technology these days, but that beast of a system remains a big slow dinosaur. ;-)

July 16, 2012 at 6:49 pm
(5) Carlos says:

If you are annoyed by this, try doing it without an Indian Mobile number! Apparently, some web pages do accept international credit cards, but without an Indian mobile phone number, you cannot register with them!

July 24, 2012 at 9:47 pm
(6) Hima says:

Four pronged approach is required to solve the reservation issue.
1) Railway should take firm action against touts. This is black marketing and should be handled as a criminal offense. This will reduce the crush at opening times

2) Size systems according to the load. They have enough data now to get a good sense of the actual load. Increase booking capacity to match demand and leave spare capacity for peak periods. You only have to do one thing. At least do that well.

3) Expand payment options. Paypal, direct bank debits, prepaid vouchers, what ever. There is no excuse for not accepting foreign credit cards. It makes things so difficult for people to plan things from outside. This is a huge problem for millions of NRIs as well.

4) Add an email verification option for overseas customers. ICICI bank sends third party verification codes by email to confirmed email addresses.

All this has to start from Nr 1 though. Without integrity, no system can function well.

August 15, 2012 at 1:49 pm
(7) Mick says:

I,ve just come up against the IRTC internet reservation brick wall for foreigners. I have previously registered on their web site and successfully bought tickets in the past using my Indian bank debit card. Now however I’m being asked for an Indian cell phone number so that a confirmation code can be sent to it. How can foreigners have access to an Indian cell phone? My wife is an OCI and I have PIO status, we are intending to settle in India later this year, hopefully then we can set up a cell phone account and this will no longer be a problem. In the mean time however I’m going to have to spend a great deal more on internal flight tickets, which I can do on line with no problems.

August 31, 2012 at 3:17 am
(8) stephen says:

I had exactly the same problems reserving train tickets.. The process is tedious and basically impossible.
However, there is a solution.. If you have booked a hotel in India, send them an email and they will do it all for you.. Its the only way.. See ya there!

September 17, 2012 at 7:07 am
(9) jimbo says:

Just the 5 hours for me to buy a ticket! Queued, needed a pen, decided to buy online, bought a simcard (280 rps and photocopies of passport and also a passport photo – 60 mins), and tried registering on the rail website itself and clearway. Both refused my Brit visa payment. Ended up filling out the form at the station again – having had to find to train number on the internet first because that info isn’t at the station. Frustrating – but fortunately I’m not in a hurry… Can someone tell me which, if any, websites allow foreign payment cards??

September 18, 2012 at 3:20 am
(10) goindia says:

Hi Jimbo, if Cleartrip has denied your British card then unfortunately, as far as I’m aware, there are no other websites that will allow you to pay with a foreign card. Cleartrip is your only hope, but it doesn’t accept all foreign cards. :-(

September 29, 2012 at 11:00 pm
(11) AP says:

I don’t think it will take much time for you to open a indian bank account.if you do not want to deal with a indian bank .A lot of foreign banks like citibank operate in india and have a fairly large operation .I do agree that foreigners living outside will not be able to do this .

October 14, 2012 at 4:39 am
(12) guljo says:

I got the mobile confirmation code to my email by sending scan of my passport to: care@irctc.co.in But in the answer they stated that they accept only American express credit cards.

October 15, 2012 at 2:30 am
(13) goindia says:

Unfortunately, you get over one huge hurdle only to be faced with another one. :-(

Some people have success using Cleartrip.com with a credit card that’s not American Express. Have you tried that? However, it doesn’t work for all credit cards. There are many exceptions.

November 2, 2012 at 1:16 am
(14) vishnuvardhan says:

this is especially created for the Indian people no where in the world has the best online safety other than India, we dent junk ur mail or accounts. but its our and government responsibility to feast u foreigners and we do that awesomely good but we will try to regulate things which are not in order too.

November 2, 2012 at 1:22 am
(15) vishnuvardhan says:

I’m one of your fan shrell. we are glad that you born as an Australian and as an Indian we really admire for that , you do respect our culture, people and India , we salute for that. Its our duty to save and make you foreign pals happy in India and memorable. we will certainly do it shrell. bye

November 2, 2012 at 1:34 am
(16) vishnuvardhan says:

Anil for your info its not Indian IT doesn’t know how to control the Indian population, its about giving preference to each and every citizens of India. In India there are more than 80 lac people travel in train and mostly reservation through online and it actually bothered people who don’t want do it online so irctc tried to put a restriction for online booking so the Q’s in the station don’t suffer, so only it has put slot way of booking in online and its for protection too. Sitting near computer not able to book online tickets for hours and finally booking is less pathetic than not getting tickets Q’s.

November 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm
(17) salaigeethan666 says:

@vishnuvardhan Did you just say world’s best safety? lol it is the worst service in the whole of earth. You’re not helping. The question is why can’t a foreigner book a train ticket in india without much hassle? Personally, I think the government should do something about accepting international credit cards. It is always a pain to book a ticket even for the Indians. Even if one does manage to get a ticket, the trains are so unclean.

December 11, 2012 at 2:35 am
(18) Subhodeep says:

The system is horrible. I have come close to throwing my computer out the window in frustration.

December 28, 2012 at 4:20 pm
(19) Patrick says:

With all of the horror stories that I have read about how hard it is to get Indian train tickets, I feel something strange about how I got mine. I got on Cleartrip.com. I don’t have an Indian phone # to get an IRCTC, but the instructions on Cleartrip tell you what to do if you don’t have one…email a copy of your passport and they will email you a mobile code. I got my code by email the next day, got back on Cleartrip and bought tickets between Delhi and Agra in like 5 minutes with no issues at about 12:30 Calfornia time (I state time because I have heard that you can only get tickets on the IRCTC website at certain hours Indian time). Cleartrip does charge a fee, but the fee is only about 1.8%. With how difficult it has been for so many foreigners, I just feel like I missed something when I bought mine so easily and maybe I really don’t have tickets. But what I got by email surely says E-Ticket with confirmation #s and everything else.

January 14, 2013 at 11:27 am
(20) Jes says:

I just bought one through makemytrip from Kolkata to Mathura. I have an Indian phone number, a Mastercard (debit/credit) through my bank in Missouri, and already had done my IRCTC through cleartrip, so I just did it again… so, this is working fine for me. Well, you know, “fine” after I tried to book for an hour on the IRCTC site.

January 17, 2013 at 2:37 am
(21) Alan Broom says:

I can second that makemytrip works. I tried Yatra and Cleartrip, both failed to ‘sync’ with my IRCTC account. Booking directly from IRCTC with my Australian AMEX also failed, stating my address was somehow incorrect. (Checked with my bank, the request never made it out of the IRCTC site).

Makemytrip worked perfectly. Created a new makemytrip account, synced with the existing IRCTC account (I did borrow an Indian colleague’s mobile to speed up the OTP registration, but I’m confident if I’d emailed IRCTC for the OTP code it would still have worked). I did a ‘test’ booking with my Australian Mastercard, no problems. Yay! I’ve spent hours trying to crack this!

January 17, 2013 at 7:55 am
(22) goindia says:

Hi Alan, huge congratulations are in order for you! What an outstanding feat you’ve accomplished. You managed to use an Australian Mastercard on Makemytrip, where I failed. :-( They rejected my Mastercard, saying no international cards accepted. I’ll have to go back and try again after this encouraging update.

January 25, 2013 at 11:43 am
(23) Kiran says:

I was able to do booking from USA using Amex card.I tried using Visa , it didn’t work. Customer service mentioned they allow Amex only.

February 17, 2013 at 1:43 pm
(24) gillekes says:

I got my train tickets with Cleartrip. Worked very fine, they even have passbook tickets for your iPhone!(but take a printed version with you, we had some problems with the digital versions.)
Payment was done with a Portuguese VISA card.

February 22, 2013 at 1:25 pm
(25) J. says:

Cleartrip.com is the way to go! I’m in New York and just booked my tickets from Chennai to Bodhgaya with my American Visa. I had to enter a ‘dummy’ Indian mobile # and Indian address to begin the registration process. I used the # & address of the hotel where I’ll be staying the first night and was able to continue through the rest of the process smoothly. There is a time frame from around 9am-12noon Indian Standard Time when they do not allow online reservations, so I just had to work around that. In the middle of the process, I had to wait to receive my mobile password via email, but this happened the same day. In the end, it took less than 24 hours to complete the booking.

October 28, 2013 at 8:20 am
(26) Parvez Ahmad says:

I am NRI . It tried to make train booking from Sharjah , UAE under foreighn tourist quota. But un fortunately seats are available but there charges are 5 to six time actual fare.

I request Indian Railway Authority to allow foreigners/NRI to make direct train booking from abroad through International Credit/Debit Cards.

Being an NRI it is very difficult us to make train booking from Abroad.

November 7, 2013 at 12:05 pm
(27) Michael Steinberg says:

Cleartrip works very well for me, after the complicated setup process. Follow the directions at <a href=”http://www.seat61.com/India.htm#book%20-%20from%20outside>Seat 61</a> (follow them to the letter!) and you should be good to go. IRCTC does supposedly allow booking from abroad but accepts only AmEx.

November 7, 2013 at 6:29 pm
(28) Sarah says:

I’ve found this to be the most accurate, detailed & informative site regarding train travel in India:


Go to above link and select ‘How to buy Indian train tickets online’
The whole process took me about 30 total minutes online and there were no issues.

*I’m American, prebooking tickets online in the States, no Indian cell, etc.

December 29, 2013 at 12:03 pm
(29) allaisa says:

This time when I was in India I have booked on Indian Railway website several tickets. The problem I had was paying with my Visa/Master Card. Amex works if there is an option to select International cards. But Amex charges foreign trans fee. Now I found Net Banking always works but it is a four step process for which you need Indian Mobile. (You need to log in to your Indian bank, enter t rans password, dig out your debit card and enter the code from grid at the back of the card and also enter one time password sent to your mobile) Visa/MC cards error out for some reason even when you try from USA. The only way to make them work is call their Customer service and do the payment while they are on line. This way I found they can override what ever that is causing the error. But this is difficult to do if you are in India.

Also to register at Indian Railways website you do need an Indian mobile number.

January 27, 2014 at 10:48 am
(30) Asnish says:

Hope the solution I’m gonna provide you, is easy and simple. Many Foreigners are doing the same thing while they struck at this point.

It is advisable to contact with any travel agent in India, there are many travel agents details available online, but there is a problem with them that they(local agent) don’t have any online payment option. And also their fees is usually high, they are charging Foreigners anywhere between $15-$30 and for Current Reservation upto $80 extra amount per ticket.

And for the sake of humanity, I’m ready to help you[ Sharell Cook] and other Foreigners to book there ticket online and email it to them.

If you like my services then you can pay me $5, just for my Internet and Fuel expenses. And if you don’t then also I’ll be feel happy to help all.

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