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6 Steps on How to Take an Indian Train

There are a few things that distinguish India the way the Indian Railways do. You will get a completely different experience from the occidental train rides. The hawkers screaming ‘chai, coffee’ in the mornings, a never-ending sleeping person of the upper berth who only snores throughout the journey, the signature smell of the overused jute blankets, and the trademark recipes of the IRCTC - your first ever train journey in India should certainly make way to a journal! 

Despite the increasing popularity of flights in India now, a massive part of the community still travels by train.

As an international tourists, this blog will help you find out how to take an Indian train and embark on the journey.

For Reservations Over-the-Counter

The first thing you need to do while booking over the counter is to print out the reservation form. Fill up and take it to a reservation office. Alternatively, you can purchase a reservation form from the office and finish filling it there. The International Tourist Bureaus in major cities can help the visitors. These places are much more dynamic and customer-friendly than the local railway station. For the International Tourist Bureaus, you have to pay with UK pounds, US dollars, Euros, or Indian rupees. You will be given an Encashment Certificate if you purchase any ticket from there.

Agra Train
Indian Train

Booking Tickets India
Booking Tickets over the Counter

  Tips for making the reservations over the counter

1. All reservations, be it online or over the counter, are assigned a 10 digit PNR number. This number helps you look for the status of the ticket - where confirmed, in RAC or WL. Click on the "Check PNR Status" under "Enquiries" of the IRCTC website and enter the PNR number.

2. Cancellations often happen, especially in the 24 hours up to departure. If you're waitlisted in the top 20 or fifty, getting a bed in sleeper class is possible as the majority of beds (and therefore cancellations) are in this class.

3. One of the most important things you should know about how to take an Indian train is that the bookings should be made in advance as possible. The reservation opens 120 days before departure; so if you have planned to travel during the busiest days, get your tickets sooner. 

4. Another important thing about how to take an Indian train is that the railway station name might not be the same as the place. For instance, the central railway station in Kolkata / Calcutta is called Howrah, and there is also a Kolkata station in the middle of the city. It might be difficult for the first time visitors, and you need to get your research ready before filling up the reservation form.

5. Look out for the quota schemes from the railway offices. Last-minute bookings are allowed through a "Tatkal", and you can book your seat a day in advance of your journey. Foreigners can avail of a special Foreign Tourist Quota and are particularly helpful while travelling during peak times. Online or offline, the Taktal bookings open at 10 a.m.

6. As you fill up the form, be aware that there can be long queues before you actually get the ticket.

How to Take an Indian Train with Online Booking?

If you are planning to book the tickets on your own, the official website of Indian Railways, IRCTC website is the best option. In fact, there is a new segment in the website which says "Plan My Journey". All you need to do is click on the link, and you can see the details.

  This is how it works:

1. Enter your details like point of departure, destination station and date of the journey.

2. If no direct trains connecting the destination station are available, then you will receive an error message. This is when you have to choose a different name closest to the one you want to go. You can choose from the assigned train list presented and select accordingly.

3. Select the desired train name, class (first or sleeper) and also enter the detail of the quota (if relevant). This is where you can see the tickets rates as well.

4. If no seats are available on the selected train, then Reservation against Cancellation (RAC) or Waitlist (WL) will reflect on your ticket. With RAC, you can get a seat and you might have to share it with someone else who also has the same RAC, unless there not enough cancellations. It is up to you whether you get Waitlisted ticket, however, you won’t be sanctioned to board the train if not there are sufficient cancellations.

5. Once you've found the right train for your journey, you will be directed to the reservation page, upon clicking ‘book now’. The page will have all the details automatically of the train and need to fill the details, and make the payment.

6. You can carry on with the similar method without logging in on the Indian Railways’ official Passenger Reservation Inquiry web portal. Find the option called "Seat Availability" option at the top of the page where you can get the glance of the timetable. Using this, choose the right train to travel. Make sure you have the correct name and number of the train correctly.

Pro Tips from Travel Experts

While you have got your ticket and a basic idea of how to take an Indian train, you must also be aware of the real-life situations that happens too often. For a smoother experience of the train travel, follow these simple tips:

Get a Map Guide
Get a Map Guide at Train Station

• Book much ahead of time

• Get to the station early

• Decide which class is right for you

• Check the close by stations if your actual route is sold out

• Be prepared for long delays (so make sure to carry snacks)

• Pay attention and have a proper downloaded map on your phone

• Opt for overnight trains wherever possible

• Bring hand sanitizer and toilet paper

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