How to book train tickets in India?

The Indian Railways constitute one of the largest rail networks in the world. The first passenger train in India left Mumbai (then Bombay) on 16 April, 1853 for Pune. The rail network in the country has come a long way since. Currently it employs over one-and-a-half million people, links 28 states and three union territories, operates over 6,000 locomotives running on more than 60,000 km long tracks spread across the country and ferrying over 10 billion people (more than the planet’s population) every year. This gigantic network offers an unmatched variety of trains – from notoriously crowded trains whose photos you often see on the web to cruise trains that offer an unrivalled luxury – and unique way to discover India.

Indian railways
Indian railways

Depending on whether you are in or outside India, there are two ways to book train tickets in IndiaOffline and Online?

Offline booking

(a) Inside India

Once inside the country, you can go to a railway station (there are more than 7,500 of them) and get a ticket from there. This is most conventional way of booking train tickets and you’ll not be over charged. If you don’t like standing in a queue, an authorised railway agent (not a ticket tout) can make things go faster for a small commission. Your hotel should be able to direct you to one. Remember if you do decide to buy tickets at the railway station, there are separate queues for women.

Most international airports in India will have an railway counter (just like a prepaid taxi stand) where certain number of train tickets are reserved for tourists. You can always take advantage of this and buy your reservations or tickets before you come out of the airport.

 (b) Outside India

The Indian Railways operates a series of offices in several countries. You can find contact information to your nearest office at the Indian Railways website.

Online booking

(a) Indian Railways

While the official Indian Railways website is a popular choice, a downside of the service is that it isn’t very user friendly so you end up spending a lot of time just figuring out how the whole booking system works. In addition to that, the official website doesn’t accept all credit cards.

(b) Online travel websites

There are numerous online travel portals that can be used to book tickets. For example, ClearTrip, although a private website, it beats its government competitor by a long shot; it even accepts foreign credit cards. You have to register before booking but the whole process is very simple and intuitive. Unlike the official website, this one charges a little commission; and from what its users have to say, it’s worth it.

MakeMyTrip and Yatra are other big players in the online booking world. In case you haven’t heard of them, they happen to be very popular. Both these websites offer a variety of services in addition to mere ticket booking. They accept major credit cards and have a wonderful customer service.

Ticket buying tips

(a) Know your destination

That sounds obvious, but sometimes even this can be tricky. The names of several Indian cities have been changed in the past few years, so you will have to be careful. For instance Bombay is now Mumbai while Madras is Chennai.

(b) Compare prices online

There are several websites mentioned above along with many others you can book tickets with. So, it is advisable to compare prices before you pay. Prices vary quite a bit.

(c) IndRail Pass

IndRail Pass is a permit which allows you unlimited travel for a specific duration; normally not lasting more than three months. This is a cheaper and more convenient option if you plan is to hop from one city to another.

Don’t forget to have your masala tea when you are at New Delhi Railway Station. Here’s a British traveller having a cup of Indian tea. Watch this video to learn more.

Further reading

Travel by Maharaja Express

Travelling alone in India

Auto Rickshaw in India

Are cabs in Delhi safe for tourists?

Train surfing, India’s extremely stupid sport

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55 thoughts on “How to book train tickets in India?

  1. Indeed Michael, when travelling on the Indian railways, one is able to get the real zest of India. India is a big country with a huge mobile population similar to the United States hence booking tickets should be done properly.
    Twitter:

  2. Hi Shalu,
    Another great post!

    I doubt there is another resource online that answers more practical questions about visiting India online.

    Reading your blog, I feel competent to serve as a tour guide for to a first time visitor to India, despite the fact that I have never been there myself.
    Twitter:

  3. Very useful advice. I also liked Cleartrip and booked most of my tickets through their site. They do charge a commission, but it is very low, much lower than any travel agent or hotel would charge. Most importantly for me: they accept foreign credit cards. The Indian Railway site does not (unless they’ve changed that policy since I was there), making their site pretty useless as a booking site for foreign tourists.
    Twitter:

    • Hi Daniel
      Some of the online sites are good and they do give you a lot of options. Its unfortunate that the Indian Railways site do no accept all credit cards. They are potentially loosing out on revenue. I personally like to go the railway station because there are separate cues for ladies and the staff are more courteous.
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  4. Hi Shalu ji,

    Whenever i visit your blog it give me a nice refreshment as u always talk about our country.

    When talking about ticket booking online for railways than i have really a good or bad also.I always travel from Mumbai to Delhi many times.I book my ticket from online only.

    Thank YOU
    Shorya Bist
    From Youthofest

  5. First of all thanks for sharing all these information. I’ve traveled to India before 6 months and seriously I’ve found very helpful people out there. Hats off to them. but one thing I notice that there are too much rush while booking train tickets. That was wonderful experience I had it. Thanks for sharing!!

  6. Hi Shalu Madam

    Whenever we plan a journey, ticket booking has been the most difficult part. At times it take a hell out to get a train of our choice.
    But thanks for the valuable information your have shared.

    Thanks

    Sapna

  7. Hello Shalu! First of all, India never fails to amaze me, from the culture, the people, the food, the country all in all. SO thank you so much for making a post on how to book a train trip within the city.

  8. Train tickets to India and within India? Well this is fantastic! I absolutely think that going from one place to another in the heart of India through train is a rewarding adventure.

  9. Hello Madam,

    Being I am regular traveler, I am visiting everyday one place to another. So i have seen many people’s in india they are try to close with you for friendship in train. So that they can easily time pass in their journey.

    Thanks

  10. The Worst thing in Indian Railway is that if you are travelling on some Big Route,Then Forget about an Confirm ticket if you have not booked the ticket before 2 month of the travelling date,and forget about Online Booking in Tatkal.

  11. Great post! This is very useful information to everyone bcz nowadays peoples most are travelling in train only so its easy way to book tickets through online itself. Thanks for sharing this nice information with us.

  12. I like to use IRCTC website for train tickets and YATRA for internal flight bookings whenever I visit India (mostly once or twice a year).

    Land in Delhi – travel to Ranchi, Patna, Bangalore,Mumbai etc. These are my usual places and I need a combination of rail and air travel and these two websites really are great tool for me to plan my trip effectively.

    Thank you for sharing these tools with your readers. I am sure a lot of people will benefit from this.
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  13. very useful.continue ur gud work towards the development of india.i wish u could mention them about the tatkal scheme because mostly the travelers book ticket just before a day or two!!!

  14. his is really helpful for anyone travelling to India for the first time. Though I would prefer online booking any day. visit- Indian railway online visit my site

  15. I always find difficulty in booking the train ticket from irctc website. Your article is very helpful and gave new ways for booking the train ticket from travel websites. I will try those. Thanks for sharing this.

  16. I have figured out some ways (proved & tested) which will definitely help out the users to book tickets faster on Indian railway website during tatkal hours as well.

    Hope this would help.

  17. Hello Friends, Recently i found a new way to book tatkal tickets faster than any other users. No need to waste time while filling the form during tatkal mins.

  18. Thanks for sharing. It is high time that IRCTC improve their website. It is such a shame with so many technology companies in India, we cannot get this done.

  19. Hi Shalu,

    Online ticket booking getting popular these days because it is quick and tickets can be booked from anywhere where internet is available. Also people don’t have to wait in long ques. Your guide very helpful for these people.
    Twitter:

  20. Hi Shalu Ji,
    Good to see your tutorial ranked on google actually this is helpful for me because irctc is best option to book online train ticket in india and here you have already mentioned all steps here to book.
    many people face this problem finally your solved out.
    THANKS 🙂

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