Whilst using the train is a lot of fun, the logistics can be a bit daunting for the first timer. The following sections attempt to make things a little simpler!! Finding the train you need. The trains in India are usually identified by name or train number with no reference to intermediate stations. There are several ways to find the train you need, we recommend the purchase of Trains At a Glance, (see the side bar for the online version!) this is a invaluable tool for finding the train you need with times, distances and more importantly the names and numbers of trains. You will need these to make a reservation, without it you rely totally on other people ( be aware not all I.R. employees are not as forthcoming with info as they should be ). Available in train station at a price of around 50Rps it's a must for travelers.
NB UK citizens can use the link below for a company in London that can supply Trains at a Glance as well as bookings on certain trains!! Alternatively you can avail yourself of I.R. information/ booking services to be found in Most decent size towns or the special tourist cells set up to ease the confused tourists, these are usually only found in the big cities once again you will find the link below!!
These offices which are open seven days a week ( despite what touts might tell ) and will advise you on trains for you destination, seat/berth availability departure times they also issue the Indian Railways passes of which more later. These are handy places where you can pay in local or foreign currency, one draw back is that they are almost always busy so be prepared to wait for up to 2/3 hours. Remember you do not have to use these offices sometimes it's faster to just queue up with the locals at the ticket booths, you will need all the train details to do this of course.The third option is to purchase your ticket through a third party like say your hotel or a trusted travel agent ( yes, they do exist, but be fickle ). The beauty of this is it requires no thinking or legwork on your part simply supply your name and destination and for a charge they will make your reservation for you, sorted. The only problem with this method is that you may not be booked on the fastest train ( unless you stipulate this before hand ) and you may not get the bunk arrangement you want.When using a third party never part with the full cost of the fare, and insist where possible that he/she supplies you with a computer print out ticket, where all the info is clearly stated on the ticket. The old style yellow/ red cardboard tickets which have almost disappeared are often in Hindi and as such are pretty confusing.N.B. For the all new online booking service from I.R. click here!!2. Purchasing a ticket. Buying a ticket by yourself in India is a bit of a process.First of all arm your self with all the necessary info ( this is where Trains At a Glance comes into play ) train name and number etc. Then you need to find a reservation form, usually found at one or all of the ticket counters just ask around, or click here for print version Fill in the forms carefully and neatly Having completed the reservation form it's time to queue be sure to check you're in the correct queue as particular counters only issue tickets as specified above the counter and there's nothing more frustrating than waiting for ages only to find out you were in at the wrong counter ! If you are a tourist you can use the designated tourist counter or indeed the tourist cell in larger cities, you will need your passport here!Hand over the form and within minutes you will be issued with a ticket if your requested date is available. Should the train be full however the ticket vendor may look further for you on the reservation computer or he may wash his hands of the whole thing and back to information you go for another long wait!In our experience a couple of days notice will usually get you on the train of your choice! (this is changing fast to avoid disappointments book as far ahead as you can, if you don't mind the wait, well book as you go) If you are relying on a train to get you somewhere on a certain date, say to catch your flight home, book early the trains are busy sometimes and it' good to know that you have ticket in your back pocket. This is especially true of trains running on the konkan Railway since it's mostly a single track railway, limiting the number of trains that can run on it. Consequently the trains' books up fast beware!. Which kind of tickets? There are many classes of ticket to choose from with Indian railways below you will see a brief summary of the different tickets available with booking codes. These codes appear on your ticket and can also be used in the booking process!
Any extended trip through India will almost certainly involve the use of the train.
Whether in the dusty shadowy bowels, of second class or the cool sterile atmosphere of AC class, trains are the perfect way to cover the miles.Whether you want to travel a few kilometers or a thousand take the train whenever possible. India trains are not only a conveyance, they are an odyssey through India.Having found your seat/bed relax, sit back and enjoy the show. The endless swarms of peddlers selling everything you could ever want for your train journey chains/pad-locks, blow up pillows towels the mysterious "paper soap" pens, torches, cigarettes, books, toys for the kids and so on. Amongst all the peddlers juggling for position are the food vendors, ( sadly now mostly licensed By India Railways ) offering their delights at the top of their voices, "CHAI CHAI CHAI GARAM" " CUTLET CUTLET " These vendors offer all sorts of delicious snacks samosa, bel puri, banana fritters, sweet coconut, fruit, fresh roasted peanuts and of course Chai (milk tea Indian style) You will grow to love these guys as they offer a tasty alternative to Train meals. Which although filling and sometimes even tasty, become a bit boring on those long trips.So keep your eyes open and follow your nose who knows what you might find. After you've bought what you need and had a decent meal what better than a bit of entertainment, well train travel supplies you with plenty. Blind men singing folk songs, young boys accompanied by a bellows organ and his sisters, pretty young girls belting out bollywood song to the rat-a tat of their castanets the father so drunk he can't find his carriage never mind his berth and of course the crude transvestites (Crude as in some of them are not very convincing , in fact a few of them could use a shave) a special caste\cult and much feared it seems by ordinary Indians!Your fellow passengers can make or break a pleasant journey, we have had many pleasant journeys with our Indian travel companion, and few bad experiences.The scenario is nearly always the same, having found your berth you greet your travel mates with a nod or a half smile, awkwardly arrange who's luggage goes where making big work out of locking your stuff. There then follows a bit of a lull whilst everybody sizes each other up, then suddenly the question " which country sir " and your off, the connection having been made. Listening to Indians and discussing such things as money, politics, your country, the Raj, India today can be a interesting way to learn something about India as you pass through and wee tip Knowing something about Indian No1 love Cricket is a great icebreaker for instance do you know who Sachin Tendulkar is ? Conversation is one way to pass the time and in such confined spaces a polite interaction!Traveling on trains in India is a joy, without it India would certainly lose something for us. So try to enjoy it don't clock-watch, interact and let the journey drift by, this will be one of your enduring memories of India soak it up!
For the costs of these various tickets we sampled a train trip from New Delhi to Madgaon (Margao). The different costs appear below, There are many variables in this but this is a decent guide to what train travel will cost you in India
The distance is 2100 Kilometers between the two so I' calculated the cos pre kilometer in each class. Again this is not definitive merely a rough guide.
AC 1st price 3332 Rps = 1.58 Rupees per Kilometer
AC 2-tier price 1965 Rps = 0.93 Rupees per Kilometer
AC 3 Tier price 1433 Rps = 0.68 Rupees per Kilometer
Sleeper Class price 529 Rps = 0.25 Rupees per Kilometer
N.B. For special express prices ie. Rajdhani/Shatabdi express 2nd AC/ 3rd AC and other select super-fast trains go to the Indiarail website
When the train halts at a station you often don't have a lot of time to find your carriage. In the theory the carriages are consecutively numbered i.e. S1 S2 S3 S4 etc. ( located on the middle of the carriage) with a passenger list posted on the door, In practice you can follow the numbers only to find out your carriage isn't where it should be the list has long since blown away or the number is missing, confusing! Here are a few tips that will help.1. You can ask the TTE a porter (they always know) or already seated passenger.2. Try to find the reservation board usually somewhere on the departure platform. There you will find a passenger list for that station. Find your name and then look at the top of the page for coach/bogie number. This 6 digit number is the serial number of your coach which never changes; you will find this number painted above the doors. Have a torch handy!3. Look for the train composition board, not always available these boards tell you where your carriage is in relation to the engine, simply count the carriages as they roll by and you'll find your carriage! 4. If in doubt hop aboard anywhere and find your carriage later!
Having successfully found your carriage, you need to find your bunk. The berths/seats are all numbered find the number that corresponds with your ticket and you're home and dry.
N.B. Be sure that you are in the correct carriage before claiming your berth it's rather embarrassing waking someone up asking them to vacate your berth only to find out you're in the wrong carriage!!!
A FEW TIPS, it's not all straight forward for the new visitor to India. Here's a few pointers
COSTS, So how much will train travel cost whilst in India?
FINDING YOUR CARRIAGE, The numbering is confusing, as is the make up of the train..........
YOUR CHOICE OF BERTHS, all the different berths a guide.
Below is a summery of the different classes and your entitlements in said class bed rolls are not include in the price of the ticket unless stated otherwise !!I AC. Berths for night and seats for day. Both berths and seats are considered identical with respect to fare and accommodations. Bed roll included.
AC 2-tier sleeper. Berths for night and seats for day are considered identical with respect to fare. The extent of accommodation for night journey and day journey (that is, sitting and sleeping accommodation) generally remains same. Bed roll included. .
I Class. Berths and seats are considered identical with respect to fare but during the day, number of seats are greater than the number of berths during the night. Bed roll included.
AC 3-Tier Berths for night and seats for day. Both berths and seats are considered identical with respect to fare and accommodations. Bed roll included.
AC chair car seating only.
Sleeper class Berths for night and seats for day. Both berths and seats are considered identical with respect to fare and accommodations.
II Class sitting (Day coaches ) seating only.
II class general allows you with permission from the TTE to board the train you DO NOT however have a reservation, this you will have to sort that out later with the TTE
With all these different classes of ticket you can choose from a range of chairs/bunks from the Adequate to the luxurious.Below you will find a summary of the various set-ups with the minus + plus points For a photgraphic guide click HERE
Third/General class, small partitioned seating area for 6-8-10? with wooden slat benches and two side window seats. There are no sleeping facilities in these carriages (although the large luggage rack seems to suffice for many Indian passengers)
Second class sleeper, small partitioned seating area for 6 with pull down beds for everyone again two side window seats/beds. With padded beds a fan and opening windows these provide adequate comfort for long journeys.
3 Tier AC, small partitioned seating area for 6 with pull down beds for everyone again two side window seats/beds. With AC, wider and better padded beds! These are ideal for the long journeys in the hot season. No opening windows
2 Tier AC, small partitioned seating area for 4 with pull down beds for everyone again two side window seats/beds. Again with AC and good beds, these proved you with a little more space to stretch out, there's also a personal reading light next to your bunk handy when you can't sleep! No opening windows.
1st class AC, the absolute top in accommodation, but expect to pay! 2 or 4 beds in a largish room with lockable door and buzzer service. Again each bunk with a reading lamp you'll also find a small table and best of all there's a shower in the WC!
Special express Rajdhani/shatabdi, these high speed luxury trains offer, included in the price of your ticket (very expensive in Indian terms) food, water news papers etc.
These trains have three classes 3 Tier 2 tier and 1st AC the layout of these carriages is the same as in other trains.The Rajdhani/shatabdi expresses are priority trains, which means they are fast, often saving hours on a journey and are generally very punctual. Besides all that there is something to be said for being gently awoken by the steward informing you that your breakfast is ready.
N.B. Users of Indian Railways passes should be aware that the purchase of a 1st class ordinary pass allows you to travel on these train, (3 Tier AC)
Indian railways offer rail passes for all classes, these will probably work out uneconomic unless you plan to spend a lot of time on trains. One bonus of a card is that you may use the super express services with a first class pass,..For more on the passes and their costs see the table below !!
Period of Validity
AC first class/AC 2tier AC 3 tier/first class sleeper/2nd class
Adult Child Adult Child Adult Child
Half Day 57 29 26 13 11 6
One Day 95 47 43 22 19 10
Two Days 160 80 70 35 3 0 15
4 Days 220 110 110 55 50 25
7 Days 270 135 135 68 80 40
15 Days 370 185 185 95 90 45
21 Days 396 198 198 99 100 50
30 Days 495 248 248 126 125 65
60 Days 800 400 400 200 185 95
90 Days 1060 530 530 265 235 120
N.B. Users of Indian Railways passes should be aware that the purchase of a 1st class ordinary pass allows you to travel on these trains the Rajdhani exp, the Shatabdi exp, (3 Tier AC) so go on treat yourself !
FINDING YOUR BUNK, even in the dark....
Indian Railways unlike most western railway companies offers to refund you ticket should you decide not to travel (even after the train has departed). Below are the rules explaining what you can expect to receive if you refund your ticket.
The rules on refunds change nearly every year, so we've set up a new page where you can find the most upto date rules on ticket refunds.
Taktal is now also available upto 5 days before departure on trains within the scheme. This is really a service best left for emergencies as in many cases the cost are way beyound what you would pay for a standard resevation.
As you are required to pay the point to point price from departing to terminating station no matter how far you plan to travel.
This plus a hefty surcharge makes this an expensive option!
Probably best used as a last resort. Anyway here are the rules for Taktal passengers
Recently India Railways has introduced a e ticketing scheme. Below you'll find and explanation of which trains are part of the e ticket scheme as well as the rules and regulations for their purchase/cancellation!
To book click here IRCTC and fill in the registration form, to make a booking
E-Tickets (e-reservation) are another innovative service provided by IRCTC, which dispenses with the need for the physical ticket to be carried for a rail journey. The user can take a print out of the reservation details and perform the journey with a personal photo identification without requiring to carry the regular railway ticket..
Making an E Ticket reservation?
To use this service, user's can log on to www.irctc.co.in and book his ticket on the Internet just like any normal booking, and selecting ‘e-Ticket’ in the Plan My Travel page. The user has to give the photo identity card details of any one of the passengers, while booking the ticket. On confirmation of his booking, the user can take a print of the Electronic Reservation Slip (ERS) and can perform the journey with the ERS and the photo identity card.
This service is now available in nearly ALL expresses!!
The following photo identity cards are considered valid.
Voter Identity Card
Central/ state Govt issued Photo ID card.
Payments for e-Tickets can be made by ICICI Payment gateway(using Master / Visa Credit Cards) or direct debit (Internet Banking, with 15 Banks) or with the Cash Card(ITZ Cash) Option.
Journey with an e-Ticket (Reservation)
The passenger is required to, carry the same Photo Identity card as given during the booking, along with the Electronic Reservation Slip(ERS). If the passenger is not able to carry the ERS but is carrying the proper Identity card, as given during booking, an excess fare ticket will be issued by the TTE/ Conductor/Guard against payment of Rs.50/- per ticket, provided his/her name appears on the chart. If the name is not recorded on the Reservation Chart, he/she is not authorized to board the train and the case will be treated as ticketless travel.
This Electronic Reservation Slip would also be treated as a valid authority for entering the Railway premises as for a normal ticket when accompanied by the relevant photo Identity Card.
Electronic Reservation Slip (ERS)
After successful payment and booking of accommodations, the User is shown the ticket confirmation details along with a “Print Reservation Slip” Button”. On clicking the button ERS is shown with an option to print. The customer can subsequently also print Electronic Reservation Slip from the 'BOOKED TICKETS' history page and the 'CANCEL TICKETS' page. He should give the ID card details of each specific ticket to view the corresponding ERS and print it.
Cancellation of e-Tickets
E-Tickets can be cancelled on Internet at this website till Chart preparation of the train .Cancellations are not allowed at face to face Railway Counters. If the user wishes to cancel his e-Ticket, he can do so till the time of chart preparation for the train (which is normally 4 hours before the scheduled departure of the train from the train originating station). He can log on to www.irctc.co.in and go to Booked Tickets link and select the ticket to be cancelled and can initiate the cancellation by selecting the passengers to be cancelled. However if the Identity Card holder in the original ticket is selected for cancellation, all the passengers in the ticket would be cancelled and a fresh reservation will have to be made, duly including the ID particulars of another passengers. Cancellation would be confirmed online and the refund would be credited back to the account used for booking . If there is any partial cancellation of ticket please ensure that a fresh e-reservation slip (Electronic Reservation Slip) is printed separately as done for the original ticket.
For any claims on e-tickets that are cancelled after the preparation of the Reservation charts, the user has to send an email at the earliest possible time to firstname.lastname@example.org giving full details of the ticket and stating the claim, which would then be processed by IRCTC with the Railway administration offline and refunds as sanctioned by the Railway administration would be credited back to the user’s account.
I tickets can also be booked online. These can be booked online but MUST be delivered to a home address or your hotel of choice.