Should I really book all my train tickets way in advance?

#1 Feb 24th, 2010, 20:18
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#1
This thread is now a Sticky. The serious information starts at #3

i'm heading out to india on march 21st for 10 weeks and plan to do a lot of travelling around. only thing is, i don't want to set myself specific dates for travel, as i don't know how much i will enjoy certain areas. is it not possible like it is in england to just turn up, buy a ticket and get on the train?

it seems like i can either plan quite a rigid itinerary or have a lot of trouble moving about....
Last edited by Dave W; Jan 15th, 2014 at 22:22.. Reason: Now a Sticky
#2 Feb 24th, 2010, 20:52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by archaea View Post i'm heading out to india on march 21st for 10 weeks and plan to do a lot of travelling around. only thing is, i don't want to set myself specific dates for travel, as i don't know how much i will enjoy certain areas. is it not possible like it is in england to just turn up, buy a ticket and get on the train?

it seems like i can either plan quite a rigid itinerary or have a lot of trouble moving about....


You can just turn up, if you are prepared to stand or sleep on the floor if necessary.
Lord, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to hide the bodies of those people I had to kill because they pissed me off.
#3 Feb 24th, 2010, 21:29
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#3
archaea, that's a difficult question to answer because it varies a lot between different trains, different parts of India, different times of year etc.

I sympathise with not wanting to be tied down to a fixed itinerary. And if you are in India for a long time, and are fairly flexible then that's good because you won't feel like it's the end of the world if you have to stay say an extra day in a place to get a reservation.

What I generally do is make a few bookings at the beginning of my trip, including the one back to Delhi for my flight home!, and then make other bookings as I go along.

Assuming you are a foreigner - you do know about the foreign tourist quota and special foreign tourist booking offices do you? (for example in Delhi it's upstairs in New Delhi station) This is very useful and makes it much easier for foreigners to get bookings at the last minute than Indians. And so it's a good idea to try and do several bookings when you are in one of the cities which has these special offices.

Foreign Tourist Quota (FTQ) - A Basic Guide

For shorter journeys, such as 3-4 hours in the daytime, I'd say you could just take a chance, especially if you don't mind being squashed in an unreserved compartment. For longer, or overnight journeys that's obviously not so good, so you really should have a reservation.
If you have a degree of flexibility ie if you are prepared to pay a bit extra for the class above your normal one, or if you are prepared to slum it in the (reserved) class below your normal one, or if you are prepared to hang around an extra day or whatever, then I'd say that you probably don't need to book everything way ahead. But you still might as well book as early as possible.

If you haven't already read the 'sticky' threads in this forum I'd suggest you do it, especially to familiarise yourself with the different classes, and the process of booking a train. Also I'd recommend erail, http://www.erail.in/, for searching for trains, it also shows what classes each train has, and the price.

And it might still be an idea to ask here about specific trains, especially long-distance ones that you're thinking of, because some get booked up further ahead than others, even with the foreigners' quota.

Good luck
Last edited by Dave W; Jan 15th, 2014 at 22:31.. Reason: FTQ link added
#4 Feb 24th, 2010, 23:48
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#4
Quote:
Originally Posted by archaea View Post i'm heading out to india on march 21st for 10 weeks and plan to do a lot of travelling around. only thing is, i don't want to set myself specific dates for travel, as i don't know how much i will enjoy certain areas. is it not possible like it is in england to just turn up, buy a ticket and get on the train?

it seems like i can either plan quite a rigid itinerary or have a lot of trouble moving about....
Try looking at some of the trains you would like to travel on.

Look at the availability for a similar day to the day you may like to travel a few weeks or a so ahead of today and then at regular intervals. This will give you an idea of availability and how quick the tickets sell.
Faster, faster, until the thrill of speed overcomes the fear of death... (Hunter S. Thompson)
#5 Apr 11th, 2013, 13:20
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#6 Apr 27th, 2013, 00:46
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Great discussion! I've been going through the same thought process. I have my first hotel stay booked and have been trying to get an overnight train to Varanasi (now have 2 WL tickets) and can only find WL seats for a long stretch of dates. I want to be flexible for a month long trip but this situation almost demands a more rigid scheduling of train travel.

I've know about the FTQ's but really how much can a foreign tourist rely on this as a possibility? I've read the WL ticketing posts and still feeling unsure.

Delhi to Varanasi: Currently WL25 for a May 4th overnighter and WL7 for a May 6th overnighter. Holding back on hotel bookings and further train tickets until WL status drops... Foolish?

Hopefully this adds to the discussion. Cheers
#7 Apr 27th, 2013, 02:41
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#7
Indiaamigo

Take a look at the FTQ sticky in the Railways section. I can't check indiarailinfo at the moment but I seem to recall that there is a decent chance of FTQ for this trip, especially if you can be flexible for a day or two
#8 Apr 27th, 2013, 03:12
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Indiaamigo: The price of flexibility is uncomfortable journey. You can always arrive and buy an unreserved ticket. It will be non-airconditioned and you would have to muscle your way in. Or pay a porter/fixer to secure a seat if the train originates/starts in Delhi. May is extremely hot - As in, Death Valley hot !

Unfortunately, there are no walkup full fares in Indian trains.
#9 Apr 29th, 2013, 03:26
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#9
Thanks for the replies. No changes to the WL status for either dates over the last two days. If I understand the system, the WL changes would most likely occur closer to the travel date rather than a week before. Also, regarding the FTQ ticketing, would it be wise to arrive in Delhi and head directly to the Intl Tourist Bureau (train station - upstairs) and attempt to book FTQ tickets? It seems, the FTQ tickets could be snatched up quickly as well. All my other train ticketing and lodging are on hold. As an experienced traveler I'm feeling like a newbie with India. Maybe the universe is sending me a message.

Regarding the heat - I spent summers in a fairly warm Arizona - 110F to 120F - Death Valley hot.

Watching BBC History of India while packing. Amazing.
#10 Apr 29th, 2013, 04:09
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#10
The site that I use to check availability including FTQ is Indiarailinfo. They have done some kind of 'upgrade' today and it no longer works for me. The alternative site, erail.in doesn't want to work either.

Go to the International Bureau at NDLS at the first opportunity. There is no gain in delay.

EDIT - Indiarailinfo is now showing info about General Quota availability but not FTQ .

EDIT - Now back to normal.
Last edited by Dave W; May 1st, 2013 at 03:35..
#11 Oct 20th, 2013, 01:10
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#11

Train reservations - in advance vs. on the ground?

Hey,

I'm going to India in January. My trip will involve several overnight train journeys and I'm wondering if I should be attempting to reserve some of them online. The process for booking online seems very convoluted though. I'm wondering if it would be easiest to make reservations for the long trips immediately after I arrive. I fly into Trivandrum, and the first long train trip I will make is three weeks later from Goa to Mumbai.

Would three weeks be adequate advance time for booking this route, among others, or should I attempt to make online reservations?
#12 Oct 20th, 2013, 02:20
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#12
I think that Julia's post in #3 of this thread is a great summary on this subject. I have one caveat which is that I find it easier to use this site for my research A User's Guide to Indiarailinfo
#13 Oct 20th, 2013, 16:53
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#13
I had the same question before my first visit February this year, and now again for my next visit in March. It remains difficult.

Last time I had my host in Delhi book some of my trains for me, some of them I cancelled, some of them I took. Like other members already said, for shorter journey's it's no problem just turning up at the station before travel, if you dont mind having to stand. I had to stand once for 8 hours, wich wasn't alot of fun at the moment, but quite rememberable at the end Busses are also an option if trains are booked, however trains are much more comfort.

What you could do is just book some, or all, at first, and then cancel them if needed. If you travel sleeper class it's not a big lost, but you even get your money back.

I plan to travel the route Mumbai - Pushkar (Holi) - Bundi - Orchha - Kolkata, and what I think I'll do is just book the journey from Mumbai to Pushkar, and from Jhansi (orccha) to Kolkata. This becouse I alreasy know when I have to be in Pushkar for Holi, and I have a certain time I like to travel in India, wich ends in Kolkata. From here I trave on to Banglaesh. Also this are the 2 longes rides on my journey so I would like to have a reserved berth in sleeper class.
#14 Nov 20th, 2013, 01:00
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#14

How far in advice should I book trains on ClearTrip?

Looking at booking a train from Mumbai to Goa on a sleeper (link here) on ClearTrip, it appears all the trains up until January have a waiting list!

How far in advice should I realistically be booking trains, especially long hauls?

Thanks,
C.
#15 Nov 20th, 2013, 01:33
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#15
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Originally Posted by c3n9 View Post How far in advice should I realistically be booking trains, especially long hauls?
Bookings start 60 days before travel date on most trains. If you know definite dates book as soon as you can after that.
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