Railway network in India is the world’s 4th largest with 114,500 kilometers of track and 7,500 stations nationwide. With better roads and airline network, there are options for traveling across the country, but trains still remain the best way to move around.
So how does one make an Indian Railways Reservation online, especially if you live out of India? Here’s our take on Indian railways reservation process.
The first thing is to plan in advance. The reservation is available 60 days in advance, excluding the date of journey at the train originating station.
Indian railways don’t work in the way European rail networks do. And if you’re out of India then booking a seat can be a bit challenging. However, online seat availability checks and online train ticket booking is available for most of the trains though the Indian Railways website.
Here are your options to book tickets online:
Indian Railways I-Ticket Reservations
I-Ticket reservation is basically a booking on the internet. You can avail of this facility on their website, but the downside is that you will have to get your tickets delivered to an address in India. Courier service deliver the tickets and a list of cities and towns where this courier service is available are published on the site.
Unfortunately, the India railway booking office does not courier tickets to overseas locations. You will have to provide a local address to receive these tickets. Possible suggestions for destinations are friends currently located in India or the hotel you might be staying at in India. You should allow for about two to three days’ delivery time.
Indian Railways E-Ticket Reservations
With this option, you still make your reservations online on their website, but you can print the ticket at any printer. This is a good idea if you have access to a printer and you don’t reallty want to have them couriered elsewhere. It is not possible however to pick up tickets booked online at train stations.
You have to register online on the India railway website in order for the site to process your purchase. An extra service charge of 1.8% is levied on the total cost of the tickets for internet bookings. The site accepts Visa and MasterCard. A refund is made on the card if you cancel the ticket later. Make sure you note down the 10 digit PNR and the Transaction ID as you will need these if you want to cancel.
A maximum of four online bookings can be made in a month, and each ticket can be for a maximum of six passengers.
Booking India Railway tickets in person
You can always reserve tickets in person at the India railway reservation counters in India. There are hundreds of them all over the country. Most cities have ticket counters located at multiple locations. There are special quotas for foreign tourists. Inquire about this at the reservation inquiry counter on your route. India railway ticket counters are open 8.00 a.m. till 8.00 p.m. on weekdays, and 8.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. on Sundays.
You can use credit cards for booking tickets at the reservation counters. IMPORTANT: look for the special Credit Card counters at the reservation office, where the lines are shorter, though you need to pay an additional Rs. 30/- as a service charge.
Checking seat availability on the India Railway System
There are chances that upon a successful booking your ticket may be wait-listed. And if that is the case then you can find out the current status of your ticket through the interactive voice response system (IVRS) facility, by dialing the IVRS telephone numbers. IVRS numbers are as follows for for New Delhi- 1330, 1335; Mumbai- 2656565: Kolkata- 136, 137, 138; and Chennai- 1361, 1362, 1363. Indian railways have earmarked universal telephone number 139 for inquiry, throughout India from state owned MTNL/VSNL networks.
“Tatkal” (priority) Scheme
“Tatkal”, literally “priority”, scheme provides a limited number of seats/berths in more than 90 trains. This is available at a small premium of Rs.200/- for AC 2 tier, Rs.150/- for AC 3 tier and Rs.50/- each for chair car and sleeper class. Railways have appointed railway tourist agents (RTAs) and rail traveler’s service agents (RTSAs) in major cities.