In my one month journey in India, one of the difficult things I had to face often was ticket booking for trains. I wasn’t planning on staying in one city, therefore, learning how to get to Point A to B was vital. Not only is booking the ticket a struggle, but since India doesn’t attract many tourists compared to Thailand, getting lost isn’t on the “thing to-do” list.
Also, if you are a solo traveler like I am, learning the ins and outs of India’s public transportation system is essential. After going through the experience, I knew that I needed to share the “what” and “how” when booking a train ticket.
Did You Know?
Indian Railways is the largest rail network in Asia and the world’s second-largest.
If you are someone who can afford travel agencies, I suggest going with them. Travel agencies take care of everything for you so you don’t have to go through the hassle.
One popular agency is Indian Someday; they find the best routes, purchase a ticket and ensures you know where you are going. Going with a travel agency like Indian Someday, you are most likely guaranteed a train ticket. India is home to over 1.339 billion people and tickets get sold rather quickly. If you wait the last minute you either won’t get a ticket or get stuck in the sleeper class – which occurred to me when I was headed to the Taj Mahal.
However, keep in mind that travel agencies can get expensive. If you are on a tight budget or a backpacker, booking a travel agency might empty your pockets. But, don’t worry, there are other options that might fit you better!
IRCTC Government Website
For the first time around when I tried booking online, I headed over to the official IRCTC Govt. ticketing website (Tatkal). I will not beat around the bush with this one – the website is NOT user-friendly.
Although as of recently, with the new website modifications, there’s been some upgrades, however, booking Tatkal tickets still challenging to go through. You might ask why would someone want to book a ticket on this website, anyway?
Well, first it’s still a popular website, especially since it’s an easy booking system for India’s population. Second, for solo travelers, we feel more secure booking a ticket through an official government website and run less risk of getting scammed. Lastly, it helps those booking train tickets last minute.
If you want to still go through the government ticketing website, be aware of some limitations. The IRCTC website does not accept foreign payment methods, you would either need a local to complete the process for you or you must have a payment option from an Indian bank. The website asks for a mobile number to register, it only accepts an India phone number.
Either way, if you are adamant about using the website but dislike the struggles, just ask a trusted local to book a ticket for you.
I highly recommend using Cleartrip, a third-party site that helps with booking train tickets, flights, and hotels. When in India, Cleartrip is simple to use on the go and super easy to maneuver.
To get started, you must get approved before you can book a train ticket. A month before your trip, I suggest registering with Cleartrip and getting it out of the way. Part of their process includes getting several verification emails and submitting an India mobile number. Since I did not have a sim card yet, I just guessed a fake Indian phone number – it wasn’t hard.
Side Note: Indian mobile numbers are ten digits and start with a number 9. It will ask you to do the same with the zip code. You can use Google Search to find an India Zip Code.
Once approved, you can download the Cleartrip application on your phone. Since the company accepts foreign credit cards, you can add that information via the app.
The methods I mention above is primarily for those looking easy ways to get to one city to another. If you are already in the city or village and need help to know how to get around, click here, as I highlight simple ways you can do so.