The train is India’s favorite way to get around, preferred by millions of travelers across the country for its wide network, reliability and affordability. Every year, Indian Railways helps over eight billion passengers get around on its 67,000-kilometer network, which is the fourth-largest in the world by length. However, buying train tickets in India on long-distance routes has typically been a tricky task, considering the sheer demand for seats on trains.
For the last few years though, ticketing in India for the railways has become a lot easier, thanks to the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation’s (IRCTC) online ticketing website. The IRCTC is a subsidiary of the Indian Railways that handles catering, tourism and online ticketing for the country’s trains, and the website – irctc.co.in – is one of the biggest e-commerce portals in India, helping travelers book lakhs of train tickets every day. There is also an app available to help you book tickets on a smartphones. Here are some key pointers to keep in mind, in order to help you quickly, easily and safely book tickets for your train travel online.
Before you book your train ticket
You need to register on the IRCTC portal at irctc.co.in and create an account. You will need this account everytime you need to book a train ticket on the IRCTC platform. The sign up process is simple, and you will need to provide your personal information, including your name, address, mobile number. Once this is done and you have logged in, you can book train tickets using either the IRCTC website or app.
Passengers using the IRCTC website to book tickets can book for up to six passengers in a single booking. Additionally, this limit also applies per month, so registered users cannot book more than six tickets per month. However, if you’ve verified your account with your Aadhaar number and one of the traveling passengers has a verified Aadhaar ID, the limit is raised to 12 bookings per month.
Book tickets up to four months in advance
The IRCTC system allows travelers to book train tickets up to four months in advance, thereby reserving their travel and ensuring that they get their dates well ahead of their travel dates. Furthermore, all classes of tickets for all trains on the route are available to book on the platform, subject to availability.
Reservation charges, GST and catering charges apply
Bookings on the IRCTC platform are usually subject to reservation charges and GST, which are charged separately above the regular fare. Furthermore, a ‘Superfast’ charge may also apply to certain trains that get you to your destination quicker by making fewer stops on the way. Reservation charges vary according to the class of ticket booked, from Rs 15 per booking (up to six passengers) on Second Class Sitting tickets to Rs 60 per booking on AC First Class tickets.
Apart from that, a catering charge is also applied. This is optional on some trains, and can be opted out of which will bring down the fare accordingly. If you opt for catering, you will be served certain meals on your journey by the catering team on the train. Not all trains and travel classes offer catering, though.
When can you book?
Online bookings are active seven days a week, 365 days a year. However, there is a daily ‘break’ of 35 minutes from 11:45PM to 12:20AM the next day. During this period, you won’t be able to book any tickets. From 12:20AM to 11:45 PM, the platform is active and booking tickets is possible.
What if there are no trains from my origin station to my destination?
The IRCTC platform allows you to choose any stations in India as your origin and destination. The system will then provide options in order of how accurately they match your travel plans, taking into consideration the stations as well as the date of travel. In case there are no immediate matches, the system will then choose stations that are close to both your origin and destination, and also provide alternative dates if needed. Thus, the system is geared to find the closest match to your travel plans, and will offer you the best available option.
You will also get detailed information on the status of your ticket, including whether you have a confirmed reservation or if you are on a wait list. All of this information is presented to you at the time of your booking, and you can then complete your payment and book your ticket.