The Indian Railway system is one of the longest and the busiest railway networks in the world with more than 7000 railway stations throughout the country. For most Bollywood fans no India tour will ever be complete without a train journey. It is indeed true that the best way to understand the vast Indian landscape is through its railways. It is keeping this in mind that we at The Week spoke to Aditya Gupta of Orient Paradise Tours and Travels in Kathmandu to help you unveil a safe railway adventure across the vast Indian sub-continent. Tickets and reservations
Bookings for Indian railways usually open 120 days before the departure of any train. It is recommended that you book your tickets at least three months in advance to get the seat of your choice. Keep in mind that seats in Indian railways fill extremely quickly.
Booking an Indian railway ticket is extremely easy in Nepal. You can book your train tickets from various travel agencies around the city. But before booking your tickets ensure that you check the prices of your railway tickets online. One of the most reliable websites to check your train ticket fare is http://www.indianrail.gov.in/. This is the official railway website of the Government of India.
Also note that foreigners aren’t required to pay more than Indian citizens for any railway ticket. Check the website to ensure that your agency does not trick you into expensive deals.
Booking tickets online
It’s possible to book your tickets online and there are a few websites apps that are extremely reliable. Cleartrip (www.cleartrip.com) is a very useful website and it is the easiest way to book your railway ticket. This website accepts international master card and visa credit cards. IRCTC website (www.irctc.co.in ) or app has also been launched by the government of India and is a very reliable site to book your railway tickets. Make My Trip (www.makemytrip.com) and Yatra (www.yatra.com ) websites and apps are also extremely dependable for safe online booking.
The tourist quota
If you are in India and the train you want is fully booked, you might still be able to get a railway ticket. Foreign tourist quotas are available even a day before the departure of the train so that foreign travelers are able to travel at a short notice. However, despite the fact that foreigners do have a quota, there is no guarantee that you will be able to reserve a berth just a day or two before the train departs. This is due to the limited number of available foreign quota seats.
Foreigners aren’t required to pay more than Indian citizens for any railway ticket. Check the website to ensure that your agency does not trick you into expensive deals.
There is a New Delhi International Tourist Bureau at New Delhi railway station and Bombay CST foreign tourist counter at the former Victoria Terminus. These places make it easy for foreigners to buy railway tickets. Even if the train is fully booked for Indian passengers, they book your tickets from the foreign quota. For us Nepalis, the Nepal Embassy in New Delhi can also be of great help if you immediately need railway tickets. Nepal Embassy will help you buy tickets under the foreign quota.
Understanding their terminologies
Indian railways have a complex yet a unique system and it is extremely important to understand their terminologies. There are primarily three kinds of tickets sold. The first one is confirmed reservation (CNF) where a railway seat is secured for you. After the train is fully booked, a number of seats are sold as Reservation Against Cancellation (RAC). After the RAC tickets are full, further tickets are sold as waitlisted (WL).
You are allowed to board the train if you have a RAC ticket. You can buy a RAC ticket even though you will not be specified a berth or a seat number. In most cases, you will get a confirmed reservation once you board the train. You can even check the status of your ticket online through the IRCTC official website. There is a high probability that a RAC ticket gets converted into a confirmed reservation before the train departs.
The last category is waitlisted. Do not board the train if your ticket status is waitlisted. You may have paid money for the ticket but your seat on the train is not secure unless your ticket changes to RAC or CNF before departure. Therefore, it is advisable for you to buy a waitlist ticket if you are listed between one to 10. In such cases, there are chances that you will be promoted to a CNF or RAC seat 24 hours before the train departs.
In most trains there are seven types of tickets that can be reserved. The first one is Air-Conditioned First Class (1AC). This is the most expensive berth in any train, followed by Air-Conditioned 2-Tier (2AC) and Air-Conditioned 3-Tier (3AC). Then there are AC Executive chair and AC chair seats. The cheapest classes are the sleeper class and second class seats.
If you wish for a safe and comfortable journey, Air-Conditioned 2-Tier (2AC) and Air-Conditioned 3-Tier (3AC) might be the right choice and these won’t create a dent in your budget either.
Through the tatkal scheme, you can book your train ticket at the last possible minute. The tatkal scheme tickets can be booked both online or through your travel agent. However, the tatkal quota usually gets full just a few hours after it opens. It’s best to not completely rely on this scheme to get your tickets but, sometimes, it can be an option you might want to explore when you make last minute travel plans.