Want to know how to book train tickets in India? There are several ways that you can book train tickets in India. Both online and offline. But before we tell you about how to book the tickets. It is important to understand the procedure of how the complete Indian Railway reservation system works.
Note: The figures mentioned in the examples are indicative. This is just to give you an idea of the lifecyle of the reservation process. For exact fares and quotas read our guide on how to find availability in trains
Seats and quotas
Location based Quotas:
When the booking starts a train of 1000 seats would be first divided in quotas based of location
- 80% seats for Source station travelers – MAIN QUOTA
- 20% seats for remote location travelers – REMOTE LOCATION QUOTA
Remote locations are important halts on the train’s route. There is a separate quota of seats for these stations to benefit passengers from that location.
Example: Pashchim Express
Runs between Mumbai – Vapi – Baroda -Ahmedabad – Kota – Delhi
- Let’s say that this train has 1000 seats.
- 200 seats (20%) might be reserved for passengers from Ahmedabad as remote location quota.
- 800 seats (80%) are kept for source station travelers (Mumbai)
- Not all stations in a route get remote location quotas.
- Each train has different set of quotas on every different stations. One train can have none, one, two and even more remote location quotas. So you must check each train separately.
- For now its sufficient to know that there are some seats reserved for remote location station passengers
Why it’s important to know about train quotas?
This information will later help you in getting confirmed tickets and predicting waitlist confirmations
It will also help you in making “last minute travel” possible in Indian Railways.
Main quotas and Remote locations quotas are further divided into:
- This is for common people
- Almost 500 seats out of 800 will be available under this quota.
- You can cancel this ticket anytime before the departure of the train to get refund after some minor deductions.
Tatkal (Urgent Quota)
- Is a newly introduced quota for last minute traveling needs.
- This opens only one day before the actual train departure.
- Almost 100 seats out of 800 will be under this quota.
- There is an additional fee apart from base fare to book this ticket.
- There is no refund if you cancel this ticket.
- This is reserved for important government officers, politicians etc.
- This quota will typically get around 60 seats out of 800 in a train.
- Forget about getting this quota seat if you are a common man!
Foreign Tourist Quota
- This is to encourage tourism
- Almost 10 seats are reserved in each train under this quota.
- There is no additional fee to book tickets under this quota.
- But this available only for foreign tourists with valid visa and passport.
- Only for ladies who are traveling alone
- 6-10 seats in each train for them!
- There are several other quotas for handicapped, politicians, senior citizens lower birth etc. They all might take 50 seats together.
The booking chronology
Booking starts – 120 days before the schedule date of travel
Yes,booking starts 4 months in advance.You might not believe but in most cases the tickets are sold out within a week and excess tickers get a waiting lists number. It is advisable to book the ticket as early as possible, especially if you plan to travel during the months of March-June.
Meet the good old wait list number
After all seats are booked, the new tickets get a wait list number. This happens because tickets are usually booked well in advance and many tickets get cancelled.
Wait list numbers
Current wait list number
If you check for availability in a train you will see a waiting list status.It might look like : WL 89/45WL means Waiting List. But why two numbers you ask? Because the left 89, tells the maximum number of wait list tickets reached. 45 tells that if you book a ticket now you’ll be 46th.
In other words 45 people are waiting for a seat.
Wait list number on the ticket
Suppose you go ahead and book the ticket.Your ticket’s waiting list will see something like : Booking status WL 45This means when you booked the ticket you had 45 people ahead of you.
Current status AKA – PNR Status
PNR number is your ticket’s unique number. Using it , you can check the latest status of your ticket on railway website.It may look something like WL 45/24Why two numbers again? 45 reminds you of how many people were ahead of you when you had just bought the ticket. 24 tells you how many are right now.
Tatkal quota opens one day before the scheduled travel
- Tatkal quota can be booked one day before the actual departure date of the train.
- It opens at 10:00 am in the morning.
- Example: A train running on Wednesday evening will have its tatkal opened on Tuesday morning 10 o clock
Reservation chart preparation
This chart contains all the names of passengers and their seat number.
- A reservation chart is usually prepared 4 hours before the departure of the train for day and evening trains.
- For trains that run between 00:00 to 12:00 hours, chart is prepared at 20:00 hours on previous day.
- At this stage all the unused quotas like Tatkal, Ladies, VIP etc are pooled up for general waiting list passengers
- This is the time when magically even large waiting list tickets get confirmed because of less booking in special quotas.
- During high season time, even after chart preparation there is not much shift in general waiting list numbers.
Current reservation window
Sometimes, when there are less reservations and seats remain empty a current reservation window is opened 1 hour before the departure of the train. Here the ticket vendor keeps the reservation chart on the desk and writes your name as you buy the ticket.
This window is comparatively less known amongst general public. But you can take advantage of it and check if your train and station has this facility.
How to book the tickets
Two step process:
- Search for train and availability for your date
Book the ticket
There are two ways to book ticket:
- Railway station ticket counter
- Online on railways website of other sites like yatra.com/cleartrip.com etc.
Step 1. Search for train and availability of seat
You can ask availability at railway station inquiry counter. But the best way to search know availability is to use online websites that tell you current wait list or availability status.
These are the three sites we recommend:
- Indian railway official site train fare search tool
This is not an official website, but very popular amongst users to search for trains quickly. See the routes, check fares and even check availability after installing an extension.
This is another site much like erail.in has some extra features
Step 2. Book the ticket
Once you decide which ticket you want to buy you can then buy the ticket in two ways:
- Railway station booking window (available at almost all major railway stations)
- Through a agent shop
- Tatkal tickets can be booked only through IRCTC website or railway booking counter. Third party sites like yatra.com are not allowed to sell tatkal tickets.
- Concessional tickets, circular journey tickets cannot be bought online. For this you will have to make a trip plan and contact the station master of your nearest railway station.
- You do not need to pre-book tickets for unreserved coach travel. You can buy unreserved tickets even 1 minute before the train departure.
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