Delhi Central and CST (Mumbai) have FT quota offices. At Delhi the service is rather well-organized and efficient.
Tourist quota is more common in North India than in South India. I've never been able to find the beast in Chennai. However, the South Indian railway system is less crowded, so it's easier to get tickets from the general quota.
I definitely recommend FT tickets for North India, and booking as much of your itinerary in one go as you can.
It is New Delhi station - the foreign tourists bureau on the First Floor of the building. Use a staircase near the gate to platform 1. Ignore the touts, regardless of what they say. The station is NOT Delhi "Central".
Indizen is right. I just always thought of it as "Delhi Central." Anyway, it's the one nearest Paharganj. I had to wait about 40 minutes last time, but then the railway rep sat down with us and we slowly, rationally worked out our entire itinerary and got all the tickets we needed for the next three months. I think we ended up using all but one of them. This probably saved us money, in the long run, as well.
There isn't a list, and I do mean there ISN'T a list.
Tell us where you will be visiting in India and we'll list the foreign tourist windows.
I went to the Foreign Tourist reservation office on the first floor of New Delhi station, this is the main foreign tourist reservation office in India and has all the main staff.
I asked for a list of reservation offices that have a foreign tourist window, the manager looked at me as if I was mad, a few moments later I wasn't mad, I was bloody furious:mad: , here's how the conversation went.
"we don't have a list"
"We don't need a list"
"I do, do you have a list"
"I've just paid $530 for a 90 day Indrail pass, I want a list of the places I can book a ticket on the forein tourist quota"
"We don't have a list"
"Do you have the telephone numbers of the places with a foreign tourist window in case you get a complaint from a tourist who was given bad service from a FT window?"
"no, I can tell you all the places with a FT window"
"OK, I'm listening"
"Delhi, Jaipur, Jodhpur, (and a dozen more)"
"Is that the full list?"
"are you sure?"
"I can tell you at least 2 places that you forgot, Vasko (Goa) and Dehra Dun"
"yes, those as well"
"will you make a list?"
"we don't need a list"
"tourists would find it useful"
"do you have a list of trains that have foreign tourist quota seats/berths reserved on them?"
"is this office run for the sake of the staff or to help foreign tourists?"
"I've helped you all I can, can you please leave?"
"thank you for all the info you've not given me, have a nice day, goodbye" -----------------------------
You'd also be amazed to find that just because a place has a foreign tourist window, it doesn't mean they can book tickets on the FT quota.
I went to Bhubaneshwar and queued at the FT window, when I tried to book on the FT quota they said they didn't have the authority to book FT quota tickets, so I went to see the reservations manager, I was astonished to find that he didn't have the authority either, but because I insisted (and had an Indrail pass) I got him to telephone the area manager in Kolkata and get the authority, he did and I got my ticket.
Geez. I knew there was something awfully fishy about the Indrail Pass. :) Harrowing tale, there.
I've been able to book most of my tickets through the regular quota, in South India, but up north it often seems you can't get anywhere unless you can weasel into some special category or other. Like Steve-ber, I have usually found it impossible to find the FT stations, and when I do I often end up in conversations very similar to the one described above. The good news, though, is that I was almost always able to get something sorted out. Sometimes what I had to do, after being rejected by one guy, was go have a cup of tea, wait for him to leave, and then come back and deal with someone else. Insane, but true.
The sole exception was Agra, but I firmly believe that city to be cursed. ;)
nice one wanderer looks like the list... it says northern railways but includes Bangalore. No sign of Dehra Dun though?...
FACILITIES FOR INTERNATIONAL TOURIST The International Tourist Bureaus are located at various important cities all over India. In Northern Railway these are at the following locations :-
KOLKATA CHENNAI BANGALORE AHMEDABAD SECUNDERABAD JAIPUR JODHPUR VARANASI NEW DELHI AGRA-CANTT. AURANGABAD MUMBAI RAMESHWARAM VADODARA VASCO-DA-GAMA
New Delhi, Varanasi and Jodhpur offices are known as International Tourist Bureau. International Tourist Bureau at New Delhi functions from 08:00hrs to 20:00hrs from Monday to Saturday and on Sunday from 08:00hrs to 14:00hrs.Foreign Tourist Rail Reservation Counter at Delhi Tourism & Transport Development Corporation situated at Indra Gandhi International Airport at Arrival Lounge. These provide assistance to the foreign tourists and NRIs regarding enquiries, booking, reservation and travel planning etc. International Tourist Bureaus issue reserved tickets to the Foreign Tourists and NRIs holding valid passport against payment in US dollars, Pounds, Sterling and in Rupees against Encashment Certificate.
Dehra Dun does have a FT window, Ive used it, though many other people can use it and it was a long queue.
Also add Bhubaneshwar, though the staff dont have the authority to issue FT quota tickets, but be polite and ask the reservation supervisor to ring his head office and get the authority, it worked for me.
Mangalore doesnt have a FT window, but I persuaded the reservation supervisor to get me on the quota, and he did, and without having to get authority.
Jaisalmer......oh bloody Jaisalmer,
"I can't book you on the FT quota, but if you come back in the morning there's a man who can" (so I'm thinking of the reservation supervisor)
08:00 - "No, we can't do it", 14:00, "yes we can, but you need to cancel your waitlisted ticket and re-book",
"NO, I don't, there's a way you can change the status of the ticket on your computer" (I watched the man do it in Mangalore)
"No, you need to cancel your waitlisted ticket and re-book",
"Can I come around and show you how to do it on your computer"
I've been leeching off this thread for a while so I thought I'd share what I learnt over the past few days.
At CHENNAI the FT cell was easy to find following Jean Phillipe's instructions. The lady arrived after I'd been waiting for 20 minutes and was incredibly rude. I was only able to pay in dollars, pounds or rupees with the encashment certificate. The exchange rate was $1 = rs. 45 and I was given a receipt.
At HYDERABAD Foreign Tourist Quota can be reserved at counter 121 of the reservation office. It seemed to be a very simple process but I didn't actually book any tickets there so I don't know whether they take rupees.
At SECUNDERABAD FT Quota can be reserved at counter 34 (FT Window) or 36 (Chief Reservation Inspector) of the reservation complex. The complex is a 5 minute walk from the main station entrance, past the Rathfile bus station. The trick is to ignore all signs that say "booking office" or "ticket office" (there are several) and follow only the signs to "reservation office" or "reservation complex". Be prepared to ask for directions if you lose track of the signs. Again the foreign currency rule was enforced, and the exchange rate offered was $1 = rs.42. I was able to negotiate this to rs.43 and a handwritten receipt on the back of a torn piece of paper. He allowed me to pay the last rs.30 or so in rupees so this is clearly a negotiable rule.
As an aside, In Chennai I didn't have my passport so I booked a ticket using my friend's passport. She's 21 F USA, I'm 21 M AUS, the conductor didn't ask any questions and all was fine.