How To Get Tatkal Train Tickets In India
There has long been a perception for travellers in India that travelling by train is almost impossible without booking months in advance. We are here to break that misconception and show you just how easy train travel can be! We travelled around India for 6 months by train and only ever booked 1 or 2 trains in advance and here’s how!
Ta Dahhh! This is really going to save your life whilst travelling in India, and a ton of money!
Now, whilst he following description of how to get a Tatkal ticket for an Indian train may seem a bit complicated just bear with us and trust us that once you have done it once its a real breeze!
So what is Tatkal?
Tatkal tickets are available on all Indian trains (accept special services) and are a group of tickets reserved for last minute bookings. They are released country wide at almost every medium to large station (some small stations don’t have it, like Gokarna but we wont get into that now) at 10am and 11am everyday for next day train tickets. Sounds great? For spontaneous, free or just unorganised travellers it most certainly is!
1. Find your train!
Okay, so this step is simple but obviously you need to know which train you want to book when you get to the station. Being in India there is always hundreds of people queuing for tickets so if you get to the front and don’t know what train number you want to book the ticket clerks don’t react well! Trust us…we learnt the hard way and basically got shoved back to the end of a very long line!
Tatkal can be a fiesty affair as everyone (which in India is about 300 people!) wants to book these last minute tickets so its vital to be prepared! We used these sites/apps to check train times on a regular basis:
2. The Tatkal Times
If you’re looking to book a 1st class or AC carriage train ticket the Tatkal tickets will be released at 10am the day before the train departs.
If (like us) you always want Sleeper Class or below the tickets are released at 11am.
So, second step, get to the station at least half an hour before this time – sounds overcautious but you will need the time!
3. Find the right place in the train station
Again, it seems trivial but without signs in English and people pointing all over the place this can sometimes be a bit tricky.
The Tatkal tickets are always released in the advanced reservation booking office which is normally located in a different building to the platforms. If your at a smaller station this can sometimes just be another little window so ask as soon as you get there to save you queuing in the wrong line. Many stations even have a separate Tourist Booking Office which is actually a dream as its a lot less chaotic!
4. Filling in the ticket form
Right, so now you’re in the right place, with all the information you need and plenty of time (hopefully – unless you’ve already got lost!) now comes the point where you have to fill in a form to give to the ticket clerk.
There’s a written English side to every sheet so just fill in the information. Its simple stuff so we don’t need to help you here but we are generous so here you go:
Which Berth you would like (Upper, Middle, Lower) We would advise always going Upper on Sleeper trains.
Which Class (1st, 1AC, 2AC, 3AC, SL, SC)
Destination Station Name
*At some train stations they also insist on seeing your passport so make sure to take it with you each time just incase!
One of the most important parts is that you write in capital letters at the top of the sheet TATKAL.
5. Sit in line or get a number?
This part can be a bit ridiculous but its India and well, anything goes! Once you’ve filled in your form go back to the ticket clerk and ask whether you need a number for the queue or just need to wait. Normally they will just point somewhere and you either go and sit or stand behind the inevitable line of others who have already beaten you to it!
Remember these tickets go on sale across the WHOLE of India so you’re up against a lot of people to get them. Like we said, be cautious and get to the station early to ensure you are somewhere near the front of the queue. Alternatively, if you’re at a big station like Delhi, Jaipur, Mumbai, Varanasi, just go the tourist/foreigner window or room and you will be first in line anyway!
6. 11am madness!
Get ready for it! The 10 or 11am rush for these tickets is crazy. If you have been to India before you know that queuing doesn’t really exist and it’s who can put their money the furthest forward! Don’t let the number at the top of your sheet fool you; watch that clock tick and start hovering waiting for Tatkal to open!
Some stations are stricter than others on queue’s so just get ready to push to the front if they aren’t!!
7. Ticket time
If you have filled the form out fully and get to the front of the line this part should be the easiest part of the whole process. The ticket clerks are insanely quick workers and will put in all your details (sometimes you have to spell out your name) and print off your ticket within a matter of seconds. Have the correct (or as close as possible) amount for money with you and before you know it, you’ve got yourself a ticket on the train for the next day hassle free…well, almost!
Almost forgot! Tatkal is a bit more expensive than the ticket price quoted online/at the station. It’s nothing major, maybe an extra 100-150 rupee but still super cheap!
That’s it! Simple right?
We found out about Tatkal tickets after about 2 weeks of being in India and it saved us! Luckily a very friendly ticket officer in Madurai opened our eyes to it but I don’t think everyone gets so lucky, hence the writing of this post to help you all out!
Trains are so cheap and for long distances over night we would much rather have a bunk (however dirty) than go on a night bus and without the added pressure of having to book trains weeks/months in advance it was a no-brainer for us!
So, breathe, follow the steps, get your elbows out and enjoy the ride!
J & C x