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Train Travel in India

"About train travel in India, how to
book tickets through IRCTC and Cleartrip"

"Train travel in India" was last updated on April 23, 2012
All information below is subject to change

Considering train travel in India?

There's no doubt that taking the train in India is the best way of seeing the country and getting to know locals.

It's often the cheapest and in many cases, the most efficient way of traveling long-distance in India.

Taking the train can also be more efficient than taking a flight, by choosing overnight trains rather than waiting for a flight departure.

Trains ply all the major (tourist) routes in India, for instance; Varanasi-Delhi, Delhi-Jaipur or Goa-Kochi.

Trains in India are not just for budget backpackers, but also luxury backpackers. Trains in India offer different classes; from sleeper class to AC 1 coaches.

Almost 20 million people travel by rail in India each day.

The rail network is extensive, and covers more than 60 000 km of tracks linking between 7000 and 8000 stations.

More about Indian Railway and its history:

India History: Indian Railway (opens in a new window)

I will talk about online booking in general, then about which channels you can use to purchase very cheap train tickets.

First I want to introduce you to the travel classes on trains in India and other helpful information about train travel in India:

Useful Information about Online Booking

  • Advance reservation period: 90 days

  • When can you book: The reservation system of Indian Railway is closed between 23.30 and 05.00 (Indian time).

    Updated on April 23, 2012: IRCTC has now extended its booking/cancellation time, to 23 hours. The system of Indian railway is now closed between 23.30 and 00.30. They shut down the system for one hour due to maintenance.

    World Time Zones

    Between 08.00 (more like 07.45) and 09.00 am is the busiest booking time on Indian Railway because to Tatkal bookings. So during this time period, you have to expect failouts at IRCTC and Cleartrip.

  • Before booking: There are four things you need to know before you start booking train tickets online, and those are:

    Train route, date, travel class and which berth you prefer (upper, middle, lower, side upper and side lower).

  • Railway maps: I found Samits railway maps to be very useful Samit Maps

  • Travel classes on Indian trains:

    These are the abbreviations Indian Railway use for their online booking:

    1A = First Class air-conditioned
    2A = 2 Tier air-conditioned
    3A = 3 Tier air-conditioned
    FC = First Class NOT air-conditioned
    EC = Executive chair class, air-conditioned
    CC = Chair class, air-conditioned
    SL = Sleeper Class, NOT air-conditioned
    2S = Bookable second class seat, NOT air-conditioned
    II = Unreserved 2nd class, NOT air-conditioned

    "Travel Classes" are picked up from Indiamike

  • Useful station codes:

    New Delhi: NDLS/DLI
    Delhi S Rohilla: DEE
    Jaipur: JP
    Jaisalmer: JMS
    Varanasi: BSB
    Bikaner: BKN
    Kolkata: CP/KOAA
    Chennai: MSB/MAS/MS
    Mumbai: BCT/CSTM

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How to find available trains between two stations:

Visit this site: Indian Railway


  • Go to "Train between stations"

  • Fill in the information (departure and arrival city/town, date, number of people and class)

  • Click on "Get details"

  • To get availability, click on the circle next to train number and name.

  • Enter quota: General

  • Click on the button on the top of the table: "Get availability"

  • On the next page, you'll see how many seats or berths that are available in the class you picked. Here you can click on "Get fare" to check out the price for this particular route.

  • To book the tickets, click on Internet Reservation at the top on the right side of the page. You'll then be redirected to IRCTC.

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    Ticket to safe backpacking ebook

    Map Your adventure and Asia Planners FAQ

    How to book train tickets India

    These are the most convenient ways of booking online:

    • IRCTC (= Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited) - offers cheap railway tickets.

    • Cleartrip - slightly more 'expensive' than IRCTC, but you still get very cheap train tickets.

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    Train Travel in India Articles

    cleartrip ste-by-step guide


    Need help on how to book tickets through Cleartrip?

    Here's a detailed step-by-step guide.


    IRCTC booking step-by-step guide


    Decided to book tickets via IRCTC?

    A step-by-step guide on how to book tickets through IRCTC.

    Welcome to IRCTC

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    Sleeper class on Indian trains

    How to choose berths on Indian trains

    An introduction to how to choose berths on trains in India, and other useful tips.

    Welcome to Rail Travel in India

    Return to top of Train travel in India

    Recommendations and Stories

    Train Travel Stories and Recommendations

    What do you think about taking the train in India? What is your side of the story? ;-)

    Share your story, tip or review right here! We'd love to hear about it!

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