Confused about how to make an Indian railway reservation for train travel in India? Indian Railways requires reservations on long distance trains for all classes of accommodations except second class. This step by step guide will help you through the process using Indian Railways facilities.
Alternatively, a new online booking service for Indian Railways trains has been launched by Cleartrip. It's very user friendly but a 1.8% service charge is levied on the cost of the train fare. This website is recommended as many people have had issues with international credit cards not being accepted by Indian Railways and other travel portals.
Note: it has now become almost impossible for foreigners to make Indian Railways reservations online due to new verification procedures that require an Indian mobile phone number.
Find the name and number of the train you want to travel on by going to the Indian Railways Passenger Reservation Inquiry website. Click on "Train Berth Availability" under "Services". An on-line Indian Railways Trains at a Glance timetable is also available to assist you, although it requires quite a bit of navigating!.
Enter the details of the station you want to depart from and the station you want to travel to, your journey date, and class of accommodation that you want to travel by (hint: select all classes to keep your options open as some classes book up more quickly than others).
If there are no trains running directly between the stations you've selected, you’ll get an error message and will need to go back and try some different station names. Otherwise, you’ll be presented with a list of trains. Select the desired train and class you wish to travel by (and quota if relevant), and check the availability of beds. You can also check the train fare and route at this point.
If there are no beds available on your particular train, the availability will show as Reservation Against Cancellation (RAC). You can still book a ticket and you’ll be given a seat on the train, but not necessarily a bed unless there are enough cancellations. If the train is fully occupied, availability will be shown as Waitlist (WL). If you book a ticket in the waitlist queue, you won’t be allowed to board the train unless there are enough cancellations for a seat or bed to become available.
Once you've found a suitable train to travel on, make note of its name and number.
If you're booking over the counter, print out the reservation form. Complete the form and take it to a reservation office. Alternatively, you can obtain a reservation form at the office and complete it there. Try to go to one of the facilities for international tourists (click on the yellow "Tourist Bureau" menu near the top of the screen) as these places are much more efficient and customer friendly. Be aware that you must pay with US dollars, UK pounds, Euros, or Indian rupees and an Encashment Certificate if purchasing a ticket there.
If you're booking on line go to the IRCTC Online Passenger Reservation Site and register. Log in and then enter the station details of your travel, date of travel, and class of travel. Select e-ticket (electronic ticket) and click on "Find Trains". Select your train from the list that appears at the bottom of the page and click on "Book Ticket". Complete the electronic reservation form and click on "Go". You’ll be shown the details of your booking and you should review these.
- If your details look fine, click on "Make Payment". Choose the bank that you want to use to process your payment. For international credit cards, select CITI PG. Otherwise, if you’re using an AMEX card, select American Express. Enter and submit your card details. Your transaction will be processed and you’ll be provided with a booking confirmation. Print this out and carry it with you when you travel.
All bookings, made both over the counter and on line, are assigned a 10 digit PNR number. If you’re in the RAC or WL queue, you can check the status of your booking on the Indian Railways website by clicking on "PNR inquiry", then entering your number and clicking on the "Get PNR status" button.
Bookings should be made as far in advance as possible (up to 60 days before departure, now decreased from 120 days), especially during the busiest traveling times from November to March. Otherwise, you’ll need to be prepared to be flexible about your travel dates and times, and class of accommodation.
It's recommended that you book your tickets online to avoid the often maddening Indian bureaucracy and disorderly queues. However, the Internet reservation website can be slow and temperamental. If you happen to get an error message (such as "service unavailable"), try refreshing your browser or go back to the start and re-enter your transaction. Patience is the key here.
Sometimes the station name doesn’t reflect the place name (for example, the main railway station in Kolkata/Calcutta is called Howrah), so it pays to do a little research. You can do this by using the Indian Railways Trains at a Glance timetable.
Indian railways operates a number of quota schemes. Last minute bookings are allowed through a "Tatkal" quota on some of the most popular trains, whereby beds are released for reservation 24 hours in advance (previously 5 days). Foreign tourists can avail of a special tourist quota, which can also help in getting a bed during peak times. The availability of both quotas can be checked when you check the availability of your desired train on the Indian Railways Passenger Reservation Inquiry website. Unfortunately, the website's capability for bookings using these quotas is limited so it's best to make them over the counter.
Cancellations happen often, particularly in the 24 hours up to departure. If you’re waitlisted, you’ll have the best chance of getting a bed in sleeper class as the majority of beds (and therefore cancellations) are in this class.
What You Need
- Details of train name & number, boarding & departure points, & class of travel.
- Credit card (for internet bookings).
- Reservation form (for over the counter bookings).