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How to Book a Train Ticket in India (For Foreigners)

Travelling by train in India can be an exciting and affordable way to explore the country’s diverse landscapes and culture. However, as a foreigner, it can be overwhelming to navigate the Indian Railway system.

In this blog post, we’ll cover how foreigners can book train tickets in India, including how to book under the foreigner quota and the Tatkal system. We’ll also detail ten issues to be aware of when travelling by train in India.

Travel on the train with me as I show you everything you need to know.

How long in advance do train ticket bookings open?

Indian railway ticket bookings open 120 days before the date of travel. This means you can book your train tickets up to four months before your planned travel date.

Additionally, some long-distance trains have a quota for foreign tourists, which allows them to book tickets up to 365 days in advance, subject to availability.

How to book a ticket under the General Quota

A train ticket in India can be booked online or at the railway station ticket counter.

To book a ticket you must create an account on the Indian Railways booking website and enter your travel details, such as the departure and destination stations, date of travel, and class of travel.

Payment can be made via various online options, including debit/credit card or net banking.

Alternatively, you can visit the railway station ticket counter and purchase your ticket in person. Be sure to bring a valid ID, as it may be required to book your ticket.

It’s advisable to book your tickets well in advance, especially during peak travel times, as trains in India can get very busy, and seats can fill up quickly.

Booking under the Foreign Tourist Quota

Foreign tourists visiting India can use the foreigner quota to book train tickets up to 365 days in advance.

To book under the foreigner quota, visit the Indian Railways website and select the “Foreign Tourist Quota” option.

You must provide your passport details and personal information to create an account.

Search for the train and the travel date you wish to book, select your preferred class of travel and the number of passengers and proceed to payment.

After completing the payment, you will receive a confirmation message with your booking details.

The IRCTC has also released their own PDF explaining the process of booking under the Foreign Tourist Quota.

My full guide on how to catch a train from a rural Indian train station.

How to find the foreign tourist quota on the Indian Railways website

The foreign tourist quota is a little hidden on the Indian Railways website; here’s how to find it.

How to book a foreigner qouta train ticket in India 2
Look under Trains, then select Foreign Tourist Booking. Sometimes you can directly select “Foreign Tourist” from the drop-down below the “From” and “To” fields also.
How to book a foreigner qouta train ticket in India 2
Now you’ll see the Foreign Tourist quota option!

Booking under the Tatkal Quota

The Tatkal system allows passengers to book train tickets on a last-minute basis, usually one day before the travel date.

To book under the Tatkal system, visit the Indian Railways website or the railway station ticket counter.

Tatkal tickets are subject to availability and can sell out quickly, especially during peak travel times.

The fare for Tatkal tickets is usually higher than regular tickets.

What are the bathrooms like on Indian trains?

Bathrooms on Indian trains can vary in condition and cleanliness depending on the train and class of travel. In general, Indian trains have two types of toilets: a squat and a western seat.

However, it’s worth noting that the conditions of the bathrooms on Indian trains can be challenging, especially on long journeys.

This is a western toilet in an AC 2 coach.

The bathrooms can become dirty, and the water supply may be limited.

It’s essential to bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitiser and to use the bathrooms with caution.

What are the different train classes?

First-class couples room on an Indian train
This is a couples suite on a first-class coach on the Hampi Express train.

Indian Railways offers a variety of classes for passengers to choose from, each with its own set of amenities and price points.

Here’s a brief overview of the different classes in Indian Railways:

  1. AC First Class (1A): The most expensive and luxurious class on Indian Railways, AC First Class provides private cabins with lockable doors, comfortable beds, and exclusive access to a personal attendant. It is available only on a few select trains.
  2. AC 2 Tier (2A): AC 2 Tier provides private berths with curtains for privacy and air-conditioning. It has two tiers of sleeping arrangements, with a lower and an upper berth.
  3. AC 3 Tier (3A): AC 3 Tier provides sleeping arrangements with three tiers of berths, with a lower, middle, and upper berth. Each compartment is air-conditioned and has curtains for privacy.
  4. Sleeper Class (SL): Sleeper Class is a non-air-conditioned class that provides sleeping arrangements with three tiers of berths, similar to AC 3 Tier. It is the most popular and affordable class in Indian Railways.
  5. General Class (GN): General Class is the most basic and cheapest class on Indian Railways. It is a non-reserved class, where passengers sit on wooden or cushioned benches.
  6. Executive Class Chair Car (EC): Executive Class Chair Car is a premium class with reclining chairs and air-conditioning. It is available only on select trains, usually for short-distance journeys.
  7. Chair Car (CC): Chair Car is a class that provides comfortable chairs and air-conditioning, usually for short-distance journeys.
This is an average AC 2 area for 4 people, with a curtain to close.

It’s important to note that the availability of different classes varies by train and route. Passengers can choose their preferred class based on their budget, comfort preferences, and the length of their journey.

10 Issues to be aware of when travelling by train in India

  1. Be prepared for long journeys: Train journeys in India can be long and may require overnight travel, so be sure to pack accordingly.
  2. Book your tickets in advance: Popular train routes and travel dates can sell out quickly, so booking your tickets well in advance is advisable.
  3. Beware of scams: There are many scams associated with train travel in India, including touts selling fake tickets and people stealing luggage on crowded trains.
  4. Carry a valid ID: A valid ID, such as a passport or Aadhaar card, is required to book train tickets in India.
  5. Be prepared for delays: Train delays are common in India, so plan accordingly and bring snacks and water.
  6. Check your train schedule: Trains can arrive at odd hours, so double-check the train schedule before travelling.
  7. Be mindful of your belongings: Keep an eye on your belongings and be wary of pickpockets and theft on crowded trains.
  8. Be respectful of local customs: Indian trains can be crowded and noisy, so be respectful of local customs and etiquette.
  9. Be prepared for different types of trains: There are different types of trains in India, ranging from local commuter trains to long-distance express trains, so be prepared for different kinds of journeys.
  10. Carry cash: Many train stations and vendors on the train only accept cash, so be sure to carry enough cash for your journey.

What are the luggage limits on trains?

There are no baggage limits on Indian trains, but it’s advisable to keep your luggage secure and within reach. You can also store your luggage in the storage compartments above the seats.

How to keep your valuables safe on train trips

You can use a lock and chain to chain your bags underneath the seats while sleeping. For my valuables, I have them in a backpack and sleep with that next to my pillow.

What are the different types of train tickets?

In Indian Railways, waitlist and confirmed tickets are two types of tickets passengers can book for a train journey.

Here’s a brief explanation of each:

  1. Waitlist tickets: A waitlist ticket is a type of ticket that is issued when all the available seats or berths on a train have been booked. Passengers who book a waitlist ticket are placed on a waiting list, and their ticket is not confirmed until there are cancellations or additional coaches are added to the train. Waitlisted tickets are designated with a WL followed by a number, indicating the passenger’s position on the waiting list.
  2. Confirmed tickets: A confirmed ticket is issued when a seat or berth is available on the train at the time of booking. Passengers who book a confirmed ticket have a guaranteed seat or berth on the train. Confirmed tickets are designated with a CNF status on the reservation chart.

Passengers with waitlist tickets can check their PNR status online to see if their ticket has been confirmed or if they are still on the waiting list.

If the ticket is not confirmed, the passenger is not allowed to board the train. However, if the ticket is confirmed, the passenger can board the train and occupy the designated seat or berth.

What are reservation charts, and when are they released?

Indian Railway reservation charts are physical or electronic documents that contain important information about the passengers who have reserved seats or berths on a train.

The charts contain details such as the passenger’s name, age, gender, seat or berth number, coach number, and other relevant information.

Passengers can check the charts to know if their reservation has been confirmed and to find their seat, berth number, and coach number.

These days important information like your coach and seat numbers are sent in an SMS a few hours before the train departs. So you probably won’t even need to check the reservation charts online.

These charts are prepared by the railway authorities a few hours before the scheduled departure of the train and are posted at the railway station.

4 hours before your trip, you should be sent an SMS with your seat information; in this case, it’s coach HA1 and seats B5 and B6. So just look for the coach and find your seats within the coach.

In the case of electronic charts, passengers can check the information online through the Indian Railways website or mobile application. Electronic charts are usually available a few hours before the scheduled departure of the train.

In conclusion, travelling by train in India can be an unforgettable experience for foreign tourists. Following these tips, foreigners can easily book train tickets in India, navigate the Indian Railways system, and enjoy a comfortable and safe journey across the country.

Enjoy your trip, and drop any questions in the comments.

By Karl Rock

Karl Rock, is a Hindi speaking Kiwi ex-pat who take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India and its neighbours. He has visited every state and union territory in India, and its culturally similar neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, and aims to make others fall in love with India and the subcontinent.

3 replies on “How to Book a Train Ticket in India (For Foreigners)”

Hi Karl, I’m trying to book a train ticket in India from NZ and am hitting a brick wall. When registering on the IR website, I could only give a NZ number as I don’t have an Indian mobile. Then while trying to book a ticket, the system won’t proceed until I give a +91 mobile number! Any idea how one gets around this?

Try Foreign tourist quota account, and also check out Make my trip website, else put in a Indian mobile number of any of your friends in India.

Hi Karl, I just love your India blog. I’m a British Indian used to travelling in India. Your blogs confirm everything I’ve experienced and it’s comforting to know that I’m having equally good experience of India. Off course this includes having relations there too. This is the first time I’m travelling around India on the train and want to experience the new semi-bullet trains like the Vande Bharat. This blog has focused my mind and now I have secured three confirmed journeys, around Maharastra and Gujarat. Only one tiny issue you might be able to help with. I tried to book seats for my wife and myself, one window and an Isle seat on the Vande Bharat train using the IRCTC website. On completing the booking I find that both of us have been allocated isle seats in different places. Any suggestion how this can be amended.

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