Indian railway is an important mode of conveyance of people and goods in the country. Every day the Indian Railway sells millions of tickets for the hundred-fold fleet of trains running across the country. It is affordable, and more importantly one of the most reliant modes of transportation that allows rural places to be connected with urban regions. Trains are consistently voted one of the best ways to travel by travelers, and with good reason.
Trains are efficient and eco-friendly — they’re the most fuel-efficient form of transportation. If you’ve never taken a train ride before, it can seem a little overwhelming, but strap in as we are here to share everything there is to know about the ‘Desi Train Ride’.
Everything from booking, boarding, and traveling is in this post! Plus, we’ve got some insider tips for dealing with rush hours and the answer to the one paramount question, “Where do I get food?”
Immerse yourself in this info-fun journey as we guide you through Indian train travel. We have broken this article into sections to ensure you can easily navigate to the pertinent information.
Key Point: Unlike European trains, Indian railways do not announce the stops or the destination along the journey. If you’re an explorer, like us, we recommend you use the Ixigo Trains mobile application or other online apps for live tracking. But, ensure that the tracking accuracy falls somewhere in the 90 – 100% range. We also recommend that you set an alarm based on the ETA journey.
A Complete Guide To Train Travel In India
Table Of Contents
- Rake Composition And Coaches
- Passes & Offers
- General Quota
- Special Quotas
- How To Book A Train Ticket?
- Mode of payment
- Ticket Types
- Platform Ticket
- How To Identify Your Booking Class In Confirmed Tickets?
- Where Can I Check The Status Of My Ticket?
- How To Board A Train?
- Network Coverage
- The TTE – Traveling Ticket Examiner
- Food Or Catering Services
- Toilet/ Restroom Facilities
- Luggage Allowance & Space
- What If Your Luggage Gets Stolen/Lost/Damaged?
- Are Pets Allowed Inside Coaches?
- Ticket Cancellation
- HelpDesk Or Customer Support Contact
Rake Composition And Coaches
Before booking a ticket, we highly recommend that you become certain of the coach you wish to travel in. The seating and its comfort play an important role in your train journey. It is one of the first and foremost things that decide the pleasantness of the trip because train coaches often determine your accessibility to amenities, your ability to peacefully travel, and how crowded your ride is going to be. Be sure to peruse Finding Your Coach Among The Plethora In The Indian Railway System, where we extensively discuss the different classes or coaches available in the Indian Railway System.
Passes & Offers
Seasonal Tickets are issued at concessional rates. These tickets can be purchased on either monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, or yearly brackets. This is highly recommended for passengers who travel regularly over distances less than 150 Km. These seasonal tickets can be purchased from the UTS mobile application or at any of the booking counters that are present at any railway station. The tickets are only valid for the particular class you chose during purchase.
Foreign tourists/ NRIs can purchase Indrail passes. The validity of it can be from half a day to 90 days, depending on the purchase.
By default, the general quota is selected while booking a ticket in the IRCTC. As the name suggests, this is a common quota for any person without any exclusive fare concessions/discounts.
Wouldn’t you feel thankful if you had a reserved seat among a Billion people?
Special quotas with concessions have been offered by the Indian Railways for the convenience of travelers. Continue to read to know if you come under any of the reserved categories that might save you a confirmed seat on your desired trip.
Foreign Tourist Quota
Foreign Tourists (including NRIs) holding valid passports can avail Foreign Tourist Quota facility to book railway tickets up to 365 days in advance. For bookings done within the current Advance Reservation Period ie.120 days (ARP), berths will be allocated at the time of booking. While for bookings done beyond the current ARP period, berths will be provided at a later stage at the time of opening the ARP.
New users are required to register on the official website (Registration fee – Rs.100 + GST) and verify their email address and international mobile number. All communications will be done through registered email and mobile numbers. For payment of tickets booked under this quota, the User has the option to pay using an international debit/credit card including a convenience fee of Rs.200 + GST per ticket.
You can book tickets offline at International Tourist Bureaus at various locations in India. They assist foreign tourists and NRIs. They remain open from 6 AM to 11 PM. All payments are generally accepted in US Dollars, Pounds, Sterling, Euro, and Indian Rupees. In case of cancellation, 50% of the fare shall be deducted in addition to the cancellation charges for the tickets booked in this quota.
The passengers should carry the original passport with a valid visa as identity proof while traveling. The following are the reserved seats in each of the allowed classes on a train:
- Eight Berths (two cabins) in First AC (1A) coach.
- Four berths (one cabin) in First AC cum Second AC coach.
- Eight berths (two inside berth cabins) per Second AC coach.
- Ten seats in Executive Class (EC) coaches
Tip: The general quota is for everyone. It is advised that you search for seats in the general quota first. If the seats are filled in the general quota, then consider opting for a foreign tourist quota as you will be paying extra for this quota.
6 berths are allocated exclusively for female passengers in SL class and 6 seats in 2S class on most trains. You might get lucky sometimes as they are not booked until the very last minute. But more often than not they are all booked.
Lower Berth/Senior Citizen Quota
Only 6 lower berths in each class with a 40% concession in the fare are earmarked for elderly male passengers of age 60 years and above or for female passengers of age 45 years and above, who are traveling alone or with one accompanying passenger (under-mentioned criteria) traveling on one ticket.
For reservation of pregnant women traveling alone under this quota, a booking facility is available only at Indian Railways Booking counters/Reservation Offices. Provision of wheelchairs is also provided to passengers traveling under this quota.
Tatkal means ‘last minute’. For an unplanned or last-minute journey, book a Tatkal ticket one day in advance. Tatkal booking opens at 10 AM every day for air-conditioned (AC) classes and 11 AM for non-AC classes, one day in advance of the actual date of the journey. You can book for up to 4 people in a single ticket.
Premium Tatkal Quota
Premium tatkal is introduced by Indian railways with dynamic pricing. The premium Tatkal opens at the same time as Tatkal, 10 AM for AC classes and at 11 AM for non-AC classes. The fare increases with subsequent bookings and tends to go even twice or thrice the fare of Tatkal during festivals. The bookings under this quota can only be done online. RAC/ Waitlist is not allowed. So you either get a confirmed ticket or your ticket goes unbooked.
For booking tips on Tatkal and premium Tatkal quotes, make sure to infer 10 Secret Tips No One Tells You While Booking A Ticket In Indian Railways.
How To Book A Train Ticket?
You can book train tickets in India either by visiting booking counters/ reservation offices spread across the country or online. Android and iOS apps are user-friendly alternatives. If you find any difficulties in the official app, you can also try with their premium partners – ConfirmTkt, EaseMy Trip, MakeMy Trip, and ixigo which charge a nominal service fee.
Foreigners prefer to book train tickets in ClearTrip due to their easy user experience. Details such as name, age, and concession (if eligible) are required and are recorded on the ticket. The ticket price usually includes the base fare, which depends on the classification of the train (for example: super-fast), and the reservation charges for prior booking.
Important Note: Never accept tickets from touts or agents claiming that they will find you a confirmed seat. IRCTC agents are issued a license and you have the privilege to ask them.
Mode of payment
Indian Railways has improved a lot over the years. They accept all types of payments including international credit/debit cards. You can pay through UPI, internet banking, credit/debit cards while booking tickets online and cash (or cards in some places) in all the Indian Railways booking counters/ reservation offices across the country.
Once your ticket is booked, it is important to know the status of your ticket which is usually denoted in code formats on the purchased ticket. So let’s learn the lingo.
CNF – Confirmed
A confirmed seat indicates that a dedicated seat/ berth has been reserved for you. The confirmed ticket has all the basic details including your name, age, gender, and most importantly – the reserved coach and seat number.
RAC- Reservation Against Cancellations
Although RAC tickets ensure certainty of travel, a berth is not guaranteed. The side lower berth is shared by two RAC ticket holders. If someone cancels after the chart has been prepared or fails to board the train, TTE makes a note of those seats and allocates them to RAC ticket holders. So you might get a berth, but only if you request him.
Note: RAC tickets are issued only for 2A – AC, 3A – AC, and non-AC – SL sleeper classes.
Tip: If you’re a RAC ticket holder, arrive early and approach the TTE. He will allocate a seat for you if someone doesn’t turn up. Remember, this is entirely subject to availability.
WL – Waitlist
A waitlist ticket means that your seat/ berth is not confirmed yet. If any confirmed ticket has been canceled until charts are prepared, which is done usually before 3 hours of departure, the waitlisted passengers are allocated seats. If your seat is below 200 (WL200) before 90 days of departure, you might get lucky even on the last day. So, don’t lose hope, and check frequently.
GNWL – General Waitlist
The passengers boarding at the train’s origin station and traveling to the destination station, or at least most of the routes are given high priority and are called general quota (GN). When all the general quota tickets are sold, a general waitlist is initiated.
RLWL – Remote Location Waitlist
Along the train’s route, a few important stations will have their quota reserved on a train. These stations are known as remote locations and tickets reserved in these locations are known as remote location quota (RL). If all the seats are reserved in these stations, then the waitlist initiated is called RLWL.
PQWL – Pooled Quota Waitlist
People boarding at intermediate stations who do not belong to the general quota and remote location quota are categorized under the Pooled Quota (PQ). When these few tickets are sold, a Pooled Quota Waitlist is initiated.
Note: GNWL has higher chances of getting confirmed tickets when compared to RLWL and PQWL as there will be only a few tickets allocated in those stations.
How Do RAC And WL Work?
When all the available seats/berths are filled in each class or coach, RAC tickets are issued. Once RAC tickets are sold, you will be issued a waitlisted ticket. When passengers with confirmed tickets cancel their tickets, waitlisted and RAC tickets move closer to confirmed status.
Generally, RAC and WL tickets have two numbers – WL120/WL19 or RAC8/RAC2 or WL20/RAC3. The number before the slash (/) indicates the status of the ticket at the time of booking and the number after the slash (/) denotes the current status of the ticket. i.e. WL20/RAC3 is a RAC ticket. So you can board the train. But GNWL17/WL8 is still a waitlisted ticket and thus, you are not allowed to board the train.
The seat number of the confirmed tickets will be published online only after the chart is prepared. Which is done three hours prior to the departure of the train.
Only passengers holding valid Train Tickets can enter the platforms. People wishing admittance to the platform to greet or wish for a safe journey will not be admitted to the platform without a valid Platform Ticket. The platform ticket price is Rs. 50 per person and is valid for 2 hours.
How To Identify Your Booking Class In Confirmed Tickets?
The codes mentioned below are displayed on the ticket and on the carriages of the train, next to the door. Eg: S3 indicates Sleeper class carriage number 3
|Class Notation On Ticket & Carriages
|1A – AC First Class
|EA/EC – Executive Anubhuti, AC Chair Car
|2A – AC Two Tier
|3A – AC Three Tier
|CC – AC Chair Car
|FC – First Class Non- AC
|FC or F
|SL – Sleeper Class
|2S – Second Class Seat (Bookable)
Unreserved or General (UR/GEN), pantry car (PC), locomotive (LOCO), and luggage or parcel van (SLR), are the other non-bookable coaches available on a train.
Where Can I Check The Status Of My Ticket?
You can check the status of your ticket online by entering the unique PNR (Passenger Name Record) number provided to you, which consists of 10 digits. The PNR inquiry waitlisted service is available from 4:00 AM – 11:30 PM IST (9:30 – 5:00 GMT). You can also check the status through the IRCTC app. Alternatively, you can dial the helpline number 139 from your mobile for all train travel-related queries.
You can also check the status of your RAC or WL status on the large board placed at the entrance of the platform on which the reserved train arrives.
How To Board A Train?
On reaching the railway station, you should find out which platform your reserved train will arrive at. The station has boards near the ticket counter with train information including the time of departure & arrival, train number, and name. Near the waiting area of each station, there are boards with coach positions for each train.
Before the estimated time of arrival, walk over to the place where your coach will arrive by getting help from the overhead indicators which display coach numbers. This reduces the last-minute rush through crowds to reach your compartment, a process that gets incrementally tedious if you have baggage. After stepping inside your coach, it will be easy for you to locate your seat since they are numbered.
It is highly recommended that you make sure to arrive at least 30-40 mins early to find your platform and carriage. Large railway stations have huge crowds and are busy throughout the day.
If you have arrived too early, you can make use of the waiting rooms. They are available at major stations free of cost. They can be availed by making a registration upon entry with a valid PNR number (3 hours before departure). Passengers can only enter the respective waiting room for the class of travel. i.e. SL and 2S can use a non-AC waiting room while other more expensive classes can use an AC waiting room. You cannot spend time in the waiting room at the destination stations. Seating in the waiting room is done on a first-come first-serve basis.
Note: For e-ticket registrations, it is mandatory to show valid identity proof (Aadhar, PAN, Driving License, or Visa in case of foreign nationals) upon the request of the TTE.
As the train moves through rural parts of the country, the signal reception fluctuates and is not always available throughout the entire journey.
While BSNL does provide an uninterrupted signal, even in the rural parts of India, the internet speed is poor. Jio and Airtel provide better connectivity speed when compared to BSNL, but fall short of BSNL when it comes to uninterrupted signal strength on a moving train. Regardless, Jio & Airtel have excellent internet 4G connectivity across the country. For any doubts, you might have regarding which network SIM Card to purchase, make sure you read our other piece, How to get a local SIM card in India as a foreigner.
Tip: IRCTC has partnered with RAILWIRE to offer free WIFI in all major railway stations across the country. However, you need an Indian SIM card to make use of this feature for 30 minutes.
The TTE – Traveling Ticket Examiner
A TTE is an employee of Indian Railways who onboard each train and checks the tickets of the passengers of all coaches. He has the right to be penalized if passengers are found with an invalid ticket or are traveling without a ticket. If you are confused with the seating, coaches, or any travel queries, they will guide you. You can also request a change of berth or class upgrade from him, but the granting of the request is subject to availability.
TTEs are usually very busy during the first 30 minutes of the journey, clarifying all the queries of the waitlist/ RAC passengers since they have the entire list. Apart from the TTE, Security guards are always posted on all trains.
Food Or Catering Services
The meals for 1A – FC (AC First Class) cater to an exclusive menu are prepared with greater care and are served at additional charges. Food served in the second AC and third AC are the same. The rest of the compartment shares a similar food menu. Usually, consider that your fare doesn’t include meals unless otherwise mentioned in the ticket. If meals are included in the fare, then while booking tickets, you have the option to choose either Vegetarian or Non-Vegetarian food.
A pantry car is a separate compartment where the railway staff prepares food for the passengers on the train. They are found in the middle of almost all long-distance trains. Railway staff (dressed in uniform) frequently bring these foods to all the coaches of the train. Tea, coffee, samosas, bajjis, tiffins, water bottles, packed snacks (biscuits, etc.), cool drinks, and meals are served hot to the people. You can avail of these items at an extra cost. Alternatively, you can also walk up to the pantry and order your food directly.
Ordering Food Online
You have the incredible option to order food online an hour before traveling and get it delivered to your seat while arriving at the desired station. Apart from Dominos, Subway, and Haldiram’s, train food vendors such as Comesum, Zoop, RailRestro, Relfood, and Yatri are some of the authorized partners of IRCTC- E-catering services.
Two toilets or restrooms are attached at the end of every coach, facing each other. One is of Western type with flush and the other one is a squat/ Indian type toilet. Natural light is enough during the day. Electrical lamps are turned on during the night. A cup is attached to a chain to prevent it from falling. Outside the toilets, a washing sink is attached with a mirror, providing you with the option of using it as a powder room.
Please close the doors of the toilets before and after and of course when in use. This is a public toilet, so if you leave the doors open, the waft of stench can be felt throughout the train. 1A coaches even have a bathing area for the passengers to refresh. As the cabin jingles on a moving train, don’t carry wallets, keys, mobile phones, or any objects that might fall.
Pro-tip: We have been on multiple train journeys across India and personally found that during train journeys, squat toilets are best as they reduce infections and touch. But if you are uncomfortable using squat toilets, you can use the western toilets.
Luggage Allowance & Space
Just like the airways, railways have limitations on the number of luggage each passenger can carry, and the criteria are based on the class you have booked. The luggage is not weighed during the check-in. While the adherence to this rule is lax in India, if unfortunately you’re found to have extra baggage than the allowed capacity, you will be charged extra. If the luggage dimensions exceed 100 kgs or 100*60*25 cm (l*b*h), you should not load it in the passenger’s compartment, but only in the luggage/brake van. The maximum size of the trunks/suitcase that can be carried in the AC-3 tier and AC chair Car compartment is 55*45*22.5 cm.
The luggage that is required to travel on the same train as the owner should be securely packed and handed over at the luggage office of the booking station at least 30 minutes before the departure time of the train. Offensive articles, explosive, dangerous, inflammable articles, acids, and other corrosive substances are strictly not permitted.
There is a space overhead and below your seat for chair car seats to keep luggage and it is safe since it is in your line of sight at all times. For sleeper coaches, you can keep the luggage beside your sleeping area or below the lower berth.
|Free Luggage Allowance (Kgs)
|Extra Permitted – Paid (Kgs)
|Maximum Quantity Permitted – Including Free+Paid Allowance(Kgs)
|1A- First Class AC
|2A- AC 2-tier Sleeper /First Class
|3A – AC 3-tier Sleeper / Chair Car
|SL- Sleeper Class
|2S- Second Class
The minimum charge for loading in a luggage van is Rs.30. Passengers are allowed to book and carry excess baggage beyond the free allowance with them in the compartment up to the maximum limit (refer above) on payment of charge at 1.5 times of luggage rate. A passenger can be penalized up to 6 times of luggage scale rate if caught either en route or at the destination.
Tip: Children aged 5 and below 12 years are allowed half of the free allowance subject to the maximum of 50 Kgs.
Key Point: Make sure to book your excess luggage in the luggage office. Pay the prescribed charges and get your tickets endorsed by cross-referencing the luggage ticket details, before commencing your journey.
What If Your Luggage Gets Stolen/Lost/Damaged?
In case of theft in the running train, you can approach TTE or guards. They will give you the First Information Report (FIR) Forms to fill out. The complaint will then be forwarded to the Police Station for necessary action. You need not break your journey or wait for the destination to lodge a Police complaint. Make sure to use the option of doing it ASAP.
In case of lost or damaged luggage, where the value of the luggage booked has not been declared beforehand by the Consignor and charges have not been paid, the monetary liability of the railways has been limited to Rs. 100/- per Kg. However, on the other hand, where the consignor has declared the value of the consignment and has also paid percentage charges, he/ she will be entitled to get the claimed amount which will not exceed the value of the luggage, declared at the time of booking. The procedure of payment of percentage charge can be enquired from the luggage booking office.
Are Pets Allowed Inside Coaches?
Dogs are allowed inside the First Class AC (1A) compartment with the concurrence of the fellow passenger on payment of charges, paid at the booking counter before boarding the train. If they refuse, the dog will be moved to the guard’s van. Dogs are not allowed in any of the other compartments.
Other live pet animals and birds are not permitted inside any of the coaches, but only in the luggage van.
Always keep in mind that the Railways can not be held accountable for the loss, destruction, damage, deterioration, or non-delivery of animals after the termination of transit. This is true irrespective of whether the sender has engaged to pay the percentage charged on value or not.
Here are a few things to be mindful of, while considering the cancellation of your train ticket
- If the ticket was purchased online, then the amount will be refunded to the same account/ Digi wallet from which the payment was made within 3 -14 working days.
- If you purchased the ticket at any authorized ticket counter, then you can produce the same ticket and get a refund from the same or any other similarly authorized ticket counter.
- A cancellation charge is applied to any ticket that is being canceled. The charge is contingent on the number of days left for the departure of the train.
- The fares for the ticket booked under the Tatkal quota will not be refunded unless the train fails to depart three hours before its scheduled time. However, you can cancel the ticket making way for the other waitlisted tickets to get confirmed.
Helpdesk Or Customer Support Contact
For train queries and assistance, please email email@example.com or call at 0755-6610661, 0755-4090600 (language: English or Hindi)
This comprehensive post covers all the essential details concerning train travel. Traveling via train is always a special experience, one that everyone must experience at least once. However, the Desi Train’s travel experience is beyond comparison. The surreality of immersing yourself in passing sights as you are lulled to a trance through the rhythms of the tracks enables you with the best opportunities to connect with nature. The entire journey no matter the cause for it awakens the traveler in you. We hope you find this informative albeit wordy post beneficial.
Do comment on your tips or any relevant information you might have on Indian Train Travel below. As always for more content on travel and anything travel-related stick with us, the Wandering Twins.