Train’s are the best way to get around India, no doubt about it and one of the best things about Train Travel in India in my opinion is that as a foreigner to India we can book the trains ourselves online on the same website that Indian’s uses, even without an Indian credit card.
There’s no need to wait in huge queues at the train station, or go into a travel agent and pay extra commission, or book on a 3rd party site which will also charge commission.
However the official Indian Railways Booking site- IRCTC eTicketing System which all Indian’s use to book the trains can be a bit tricky to work out how to use initially, but once you’ve got it, I promise it’s easy to book a train in India as a foreigner.
So here is a simple, step by step guide on how to book a train in India as a traveller so you can enjoy the freedom of train travel in India!
Step One – Create an IRCTC Account.
You will need to register and create an account in order to book a train but luckily you can search for trains without an account so if you are still in the planning stages of your trip to India and not yet ready to book trains you can skip this step for now and come back to it when you are ready to register and book.
To read the post on how to register on IRCTC as a foreigner, CLICK HERE! Do that and then come back to this post!
Step Two – Search for Trains.
Now you have your account you can search for trains. Go onto the homepage and type in your ‘From’ and ‘To’ Destinations.
Note – Sometimes the City names can be different to how we know of them on the map and are their Indian names instead. For example Bangalore’s train stations are all named Bengaluru. If you struggle finding the train station name, google it and then type that in. Also some Cities have more than 1 station, for example Varanasi has Varanasi Junction and Varanasi City. Pick one and if no routes come up for it, search the other one, or give it a google.
Pick your date, leave the classes box as ‘All Classes’, and click ‘Find Trains’.
Search results should appear now, if it says there is no route available you have either chosen a wrong station or there is not a direct route, head over to Google and type in where you want to go and Google Maps will help show you if there is a direct train or not and then come back and try again.
When you have your results you’ll more than likely see a few options of trains leaving that day ranging from the most recommended train- aka the quickest, to the longest. You can also see the time it departs, arrives and the duration.
You can now go through them by class to see which class has an available ticket.
Clicking on the blue ‘Check availability and fare’ button will show you the availability for the chosen class. To see all of the options be sure to click on the drop down box, for example this one has ‘AC Chair’ & ‘Second Seating’ option. Click search each time you change this.
Note- When it comes to the classes, the top class that appears is the better class and therefore more expensive and it works it’s way to the lower class and cheaper price.
Once you click on the blue button you’ll see what is available for the day you chose and the next few days (flexibility is often required when booking trains and finding availability.)
Note – This is very important. The Orange words below under the date and above the ‘book now’ button mean that this train is a waitlist train and technically does not have any availability, WL4 means waitlist 4 in the queue for example. Whereas the green Available-0004 means there is availability.
If you book a waitlist train there is a good chance you will get the ticket but you’ll need to keep checking your account beforehand, it may not confirm until 24 hours or less before and may not confirm at all.
I would always recommend getting an AVAILABLE train.
Remember you can change the classes and check all of the trains that are running that day to find availability. In this example you can see on 28th Dec there was no train at 17:25 available in the AC Chair Car Class but I switched the class to Second Seating and there’s availability for 28th and all of the following days. You can also see the price difference, 370Rs vs 110Rs.
If you are searching trains as you’re in the planning stages of your trip to India, this is as far as you’ll need to go, you can see there are trains on the route you wish to go, on the dates and if they are available or not.
Do be warned though that the trains in India book up fast, especially around the Indian holidays and major celebrations (which India has a lot of). If you book a train in advance and cancel it the cancellation fee is very small so it may be worth reserving one just in case.
Remember you need to Register in order to book a train, if you still need to Register, CLICK HERE for our Step by Step Guide on registering.
Step Three – Book the Train.
When you have found the right train with availably click ‘Book Now’, if you aren’t already logged in you’ll need to log in now.
Fill in the Passenger Details including your name, age, gender, bed/seat preference, country and complete that you’ll be using your passport and give your passport number.
Double check the train time and date in the right hand section.
As you scroll down this page, click No to Travel Insurance, add your mobile number in on the left if you have an Indian Sim Card already, remember to fill in the Captcha and click ‘Continue Booking’.
The next page gives you a second chance to review the booking and cost, and most importantly see that big green ‘AVAILABLE’ sign.
Click ‘Continue Booking’.
Step Four – Pay for the Train.
As a foreigner to India without an Indian Bank card we need to click on ‘Multiple Payment Service’ on the left hand side and click the top left option for ‘International cards’.
You’ll be taken to a new page powered by Atom and in here you’ll see the train price plus a small extra amount as an international processing fee which is always a really minimal and small fee. Complete your card and billing details and click ‘Pay Now’.
Note – If you are using a bank card like Monzo it will alert you in the app and ask you to confirm the payment. This may happen with other prepaid travel cards too. If you’re using a bank debit or credit card you may be asked for authorisation from them too depending on how this is set up. If you have any issues paying take a look into this as this will probably be why.
In your bank statement you see payments as ‘Indian Railway Catering & Tourism Corporation’ which is good so you’ll know exactly what the international payment on your statement is for.
Step Five – Confirmation
The below screen is what you want to see, lots of green saying it has been confirmed. You’ll also get an email in your inbox with the confirmation, it may not come through straight away but if your email address is correct it will. Keep hold of this email.
Note – You do not need to print the ticket, in fact the ticket inspectors never ask to see tickets, as they go around they have a board with names on, they ask to see passports to confirm the passport name against the name they have but obviously keep it in your emails to re-check the date and time yourself.
You have now successfully booked a train, but the tip’s have not finished yet! India By Backpack wants you to be fully prepared when catching your train..
Step Six – Checking the Status of the Train.
If you have booked the ticket in advance you will not need to do anything else yet.
However on the day of your train or the day before I would recommend logging onto a website called Trainman.in or downloading an app called Indian Railways or Ixigo Trains which checks the status of your train, reconfirms your carriage and seat and usually gives you the platform number and the position of where your carriage will be on the track.. which is all very helpful useful information.
You’ll need your PNR which will be on your confirmation, type this into the ‘Search PNR’ section and it will bring up your details and the PNR status.
A Few Extra Things To Note:
- You can only make up to 6 bookings per month so if you are travelling in a couple that’s only 3 journeys in total so you’ll probably need to set up a second account if you are travelling around a lot in one month in India.
- If you’re having trouble finding availability there is a foreign tourist booking section on the IRCTC site. Go to the homepage, hover over ‘TRAINS’ and go to Foreign Tourist Booking, you can then search under this quota which may give you some more options, but it also may not.
- Waitlist trains are also a possibility if you are struggling for availability too, get one that is WL > Lowest Number as possible and keep checking the status of your booking on your account on the IRCTC website.
- You can book meals online too and they will be delivered to your carriage which is great and normally needed on long overnight trains. I’ve detailed in another post how to order meals online for the trains.
If you have any issues, feel free to comment below with the problem you are having and we’ll try our best to assist you, we know the IRCTC it’s not an easy site to use at first but it does get easier and once you know how to use it it’s really good!
Final Note – It is also easier to use and book trains on IRCTC on desktop rather than mobile but it is possible to book trains on IRCTC on mobile too.
Now you know how to book a train in India, do you need to know which are the Best Places in Northern India to visit?
Local Buses are a popular method of transport in India too, especially in the South, read how to take a local bus in India.
Need to book accommodation in India? We recommend using Booking.com as we love the huge range of accommodation and flexible booking options.
Need to check out Flights to India? Kiwi.com is a great site to compare prices and routes to get the best deal!
Remember that you’ll need travel insurance when you travel to India. There are a lot of companies out there we know, but World Nomad’s is a travel insurance provider designed by travellers, for travellers and includes lots of unique benefits like not needing a return flight home booked, which many providers need proof of if you claim. Whilst you’re thinking about it, get a quote for them here!
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