This is the second post on helping tourists/travellers to use the Indian railways system. In my first post I detailed Indian Train Classes, how to identify them and pick the one your want to use. In this post, it guides you on buying train tickets and using the Tatkal system for buying emergency or last minute train rides.
When buying a train ticket in India it can be a real hassle. Especially if you buy directly from the train station. Most of the time the people serving, are either not in the least bit interested in helping or they just cannot understand you and half the time there is a ridiculously long cue of annoyed or moaning Indian people just itching to push you out of the way so they can get their tickets.
The easiest thing to do is ask your guesthouse or hotel to book it for you and most of them will normally have no problem doing this for you for a nominal fee of 200 – 300 Rs. It saves you the bother of paying for a Tuk Tuk to the station and back as well as dealing with the person at the counter and it would probably cost you the same money or more to go and do it yourself!
Cleartrip.com is like the Holy Grail of train travel for western tourists in India. This website is the online information service for booking tickets via the internet. It has a list of all the trains available for certain dates and the route for that journey including which stops are on each train line. If you really are not happy about going to the train station or having someone else booking your ticket, you can book it online and print off your ticket which makes things alot easier and leaves you without the worry of actually obtaining the ticket although you will pay a little more for the privelege. This was a lifesaver sometimes for me as it also allows you to check what station the train ends at and how much time you have to get off the train when it stops at each station. Be warned sometimes trains stop for ages and sometimes you have a matter of a couple of minutes so be careful or you might end up some place in the middle of nowhere!
Another useful tip is to look at for the train station signs. There should always be a sign in English with a few having Hindi on them. Usually station stops anouncements were in Hindi and when they were in English it was very hard to understand so make sure you look out for your stop if it isnt at the end of the line!
The Tatkal System
When deciding which places to visit you should consider trains and buses beforehand and how easy it is to get from one place to the next. If you can pre-book your travel it will save alot of hassle but if you are like me and dont like having too many plans there is a way to book emergency tickets. The Indian Railways has a quota for tourists. Tatkal is a system introduced by Indian Railways for obtaining emergency tickets or people requiring to make a journey at short notice. Usually Tatkal Booking starts one day in advance but they sell out very fast. Tatkal can be seen on Cleartrip.com as well so take a look on here if you need to do this but even if it says there is no space dont worry! There is one Golden rule (pun intended) in India that will almost always get you a ticket and that is money! If it says there is no ticket, go and speak to someone in a travel agency (Always usually an Indian name followed by “Travels” on the street e.g. Ganesh Travels) and ask. If they say no, go and ask another one. Usually they will be able to get a Tatkal ticket from someone they know who knows somebody else if you are willing to pay more. You might have to wait until 3 hours before your journey but more often than not you will get your ticket!
So there you have it! I hope that this guide was helpful and if you have any further questions just drop me an email!
Have you had any hassle get train tickets? Any tips you would like to share? Please leave a comment and help would be travellers around India…