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Blog Posts by Kcgopi Krishnan
Page#    7 Blog Entries  
General Travel
Dec 28 2014 (09:40)  

Kcgopi Krishnan   7 blog posts
Entry# 1322524            Tags   Past Edits
What are "Premium Special" trains?
Recently, the railways introduced a new category of trains known as "Premium Specials". At the moment, there are over 30 such "Specials" running across India.
Premium Special trains were introduced to allow passengers to get accommodation on busy routes at short notice as well as gain the railways more revenue than regular trains. As such, these trains differ from regular trains in many aspects. The major features of Premium Special trains are summarised below:
Reservations for Premium Special trains open only 15 days in advance of the journey (i.e. for a journey on 16th June, you will be able to book from 1st June)
Tickets for Premium Specials can only be booked online. You cannot go to a reservation office and buy a ticket for these trains.
These trains operate on a dynamic fare policy - that is, fares increase as berths are sold and the journey date approaches. If you book as soon as reservations open, you will pay the lowest fare; if you book the last berth on the train, you pay the highest fare, which can often be as much as 300% of the regular fare.
There are no concessions (like senior citizen or child concessions) for travel on a Premium Special Train.
Catering is included in the fares of these trains - that is, you will get food served at your berth a la Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto Expresses, the cost of which is included in your ticket fare.
The minimum fare for any class on a premium train is usually the Duronto/Rajdhani tatkal fare for that sector.
Tickets on Premium Special trains cannot be cancelled unless the railways decide to cancel the train itself.
No waiting list exists for Premium Special trains; only confirmed and RAC tickets are issued.
The ID proof (and number) of all passengers need to be mentioned while booking, and needs to be carried during travel.
While Premium Special trains do often serve as the only way to get confirmed tickets on busy routes at relatively short notice, there are a few points to consider before booking a ticket on one:
Make sure you carefully check the final fare displayed on IRCTC before booking, as there can be massive differences between the base fare and the actual fare. For example, I checked for tickets on the New Delhi - Jammu Premium Special for a 29th May departure (this article was written on 28th May). While the base fare displayed was INR 820, the final fare displayed before booking was INR 2,955 - nearly four times the minimum fare!
Avoid buying RAC tickets on these trains. As cancellations aren't allowed, it is almost impossible for your ticket to get confirmed, and you will have to depend on no-show passengers to get a full berth. As all confirmed berths would have already been sold out for you to get an RAC seat, you will end up paying the highest fare - that too, to end up with just a seat! If you are unaware of what RAC is, do read this overview of the reservation process.
As these trains are "special" trains, they can get very low priority from the traffic controllers and run very late. While the Mumbai - Delhi Premium Special tends to get accorded top priority and run on time, the same cannot be said for many other Premium Specials. Do not plan any tight connections involving a Premium Special.
General Travel
Dec 28 2014 (09:39)  

Kcgopi Krishnan   7 blog posts
Entry# 1322523            Tags   Past Edits
This section deals with the world of waitlisted tickets in the Indian Railway network. Some of the most basic and frequently-asked questions about waitlists and waitlisted tickets are briefly discussed here, with links to more elaborate articles for passengers who need more information.
I have a ticket which is on the waitlist (WL). What does this mean?
If you are issued a ticket on the waitlist, it means that the train is already full. However, as and when other passengers with confirmed reservations cancel their tickets, your ticket's waitlist position will
decrease until (hopefully!) it becomes a confirmed ticket. For an overview of how this system works, see this article.
I have a ticket on the waitlist. Will it get confirmed?
There is no guarantee that a waitlisted ticket will get confirmed - it depends on whether enough passengers with confirmed tickets (or with tickets that of a lower waitlist position than yours) decide to cancel their tickets as well as a few other factors. If a sufficient number of cancellations don't take place by the time the train's chart is prepared to improve the position of your ticket to at least the RAC list (if not a confirmed berth), you cannot board the train.
How do I check whether my position of my waitlisted ticket has improved?
You can check the status of your ticket online and/or by calling or SMSing the enquiry service. For for more information on checking (and interpreting!) your ticket's status, click here.
Wait, so do I get a refund of my ticket fare if my waitlisted ticket doesn't get confirmed?
Yes. If your ticket is still on the waitlist when the train's chart is prepared, you are eligible for a full refund minus clerkage charges of INR 30 per passenger.
What's the probability that my waitlisted ticket will get confirmed?
Since the chances of a waitlisted ticket getting confirmed depend on a variety of factors that differ from case to case, there is no single formula that works for all waitlisted tickets. On one occasion, I booked a ticket that was position 3 on the waitlist but failed to get confirmed; on another, I booked a ticket for two that started at 113 and 114 on the waitlist, yet got us seats on the train in the end. If you want to calculate your chances with greater accuracy, you can either take the easy way out and post your ticket's status on a few online fora to have experienced travellers predict your chances, or understand the factors that cause a waitlisted ticket to get confirmed (or not) to make a more knowledgeable guess yourself.
I booked a waitisted ticket a long time ago, and there's been no change in its status at all! What do I do?
Usually, most passengers tend to cancel their tickets a few days (or even a few hours) before the train leaves. It is is quite possible to book a waitlisted ticket two months in advance, and see no improvement at all for the first month but a rush of cancellations in the last few days.
The PNR status enquiry says my ticket is confirmed. Do I need to exchange my waitlisted ticket for a new one?
No, the same ticket is perfectly valid. As long as your names appear on the train's chart, you're good to go!
Again, the PNR status enquiry says my ticket is confirmed, but why hasn't it allotted me coach and seat/berth numbers?
When your ticket gets confirmed, the PNR status enquiry will tell you your ticket is confirmed. However, you will only be allotted coach and berth numbers when the train's chart is prepared, roughly about four hours before the departure of the train. See this article to find out why.
So there's one waitlist for the whole train?
There are as many as seven (!) different types of waitlists, actually. No train has all seven, though most trains will have at least two different types of waitlists. If you are placed on a waitlist, the type of waitlist you get depends on:
Whether you've booked through a specific quota (for example, if you book a ticket through the tatkal quota and it is waitlisted, you will be placed on the tatkal waitlist)
If you've booked a waitlisted ticket through the general quota, the type of waitlist you get depends on how far you're travelling down the train's route and where you board and alight from the train.
Different waitlists have different levels of priority in getting confirmed, so the exact waitlist you're on is of more than just academic interest.
If you want to learn more, read this article. If your head is already spinning, you might want to avoid that.
How do I avoid getting a waitlisted ticket?
Book early, though admittedly this is easier said than done. See if other trains on the same route have seats/berths available, or if your train has seats/berths in a higher or lower class. If it is possible to book a backup ticket in a lower class, it's always worth doing. You can also check to see if you can get a confirmed ticket by booking to a station further down the train's route, or by booking from an earlier station and specifying that you're boarding at a later station, when you make your reservation.
General Travel
Dec 28 2014 (09:39)  

Kcgopi Krishnan   7 blog posts
Entry# 1322522            Tags   Past Edits
This section talks you through the process of booking tickets. What are the different ways you can book tickets? What are the possible discounts and concessions you can get whilst booking tickets? Can you book multi-city tickets on a single itinerary? What are the various quotas you can take advantage of to book your ticket? Also, does a railpass make more economic sense than buying point-to-point tickets?
When do bookings open for a particular train?
The Advance Reservation Period (ARP) for most trains opens at 8 am, 60
days before the train leaves its originating station. As quite a few long distance take two days or more to complete their journey, you might be able to reserve tickets for a particular train more than 60 days in advance if the train leaves its origin a day (or two) before reaching your boarding station. For example, the Sampark Kranti Express from Yesvantpur (Bangalore) to Nizamuddin (Delhi) has the following schedule (as of November 2013):
Let's assume we're looking at the train leaving Yesvantpur on Monday, the 20th of January 2014.
Station name Train arrives Train leaves Day Distance
Yesvantpur (Bangalore) N/A 22:10 1 (Monday) 0
Dharmavaram 00:40 00:45 2 (Tuesday) 175
Kacheguda 08:25 08:35 2 (Tuesday) 610
Nagpur 17:05 17:15 2 (Tuesday) 1195
Bhopal 22:55 23:05 2 (Tuesday) 1584
Jhansi 02:50 03:00 3 (Wednesday) 1875
Nizamuddin (Delhi) 09:15 N/A 3 (Wednesday) 2277 (km)
As mentioned earlier, reservations for all stations open 60 days before the train leaves its origin (excluding that date), which means that you can start booking from any station on the 22nd of November 2013. Thus, if you're boarding at Yesvantpur, you can book 60 days in advance; if you're boarding at any station between Dharmavaram and Bhopal, you can 61 days in advance (as this is the second day of the train's run); if you're boarding at Jhansi, you can book 62 days in advance.
Some short-distance intercity trains in North India have a reduced Advance Reservation Period of 30 days. I will upload a list of these trains soon.
If you can't plan your travels this far in advance and all trains are full by the time you decide to book, there is a quota known as the tatkal quota. This is a set of seats/berths in most trains for which bookings open at 10 am, one day before the train leaves its originating station.
Should I book early?
Definitely! Trains can get full very early - especially around festivals and weekends - and I'm sure you'd prefer to avoid buying a waitlisted ticket. I always book tickets as soon as I'm sure of my travel dates. If you're not sure exactly which date you plan to leave, you can buy tickets for two or three different dates and cancel the ones you don't want - cancellation fees are still fairly low. Alternatively, there's always the tatkal scheme.
How do I buy tickets?
There are three different ways you can buy train tickets; at a reservation office, online, or by SMS. Of these three, the last is - surprisingly enough - the most complicated process and not really worth the effort involved.
If you want to book online, you need to create an account on the Railways' official booking website (www.irctc.co.in). While other websites (notably Cleartrip) offer a simpler booking experience, you need to sync your official account on IRCTC with these websites before you can book tickets.
For an introduction to the process of booking tickets, click here. If you'd like to know how to book tickets through the Indian Railways' official website (IRCTC), read this article instead.
What are the different types of tickets?
There are three different types of tickets:
PRS or counter-bought tickets are rectangular card tickets that you book at a reservation office,
i-tickets are the same PRS tickets booked online on IRCTC, which are then are couriered to your residence (in India only).
e-tickets are electronic tickets that you book online on IRCTC and other ticket-booking websites, which you can print and carry to the train. However, you can also just show the Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) a screenshot of your ticket if you're carrying a laptop or tablet. You can also show the TTE the confirmation SMS that you receive when you book the ticket - they are also valid tickets as long as you carry a valid ID, and your name appears on the train's reservation chart.
If you want to see what different tickets look like, read this article.
Do tickets become more expensive as the journey date approaches?
No. Tickets cost the same irrespective of when they're booked. However, if you you book tickets under the tatkal scheme, you will have to pay a surcharge on each ticket.
Are there any discounts or concessions I can get on my ticket?
The railways offer a very wide range of concessions - there are fifty different types of concessions mentioned at this link. However, most of these concessions are for specific travellers (artisans, students on educational trips, and leprosy patients, to pick three examples at random) and can't be availed by a general traveller. The two major concessions accessible to general travellers - and the only two concessions that can be availed online - are:
Concessions for children between the ages of 5 and 12: 50% of the train's fare.
Concessions for male senior citizens (above the age of 60): 40% of the base fare.
Concessions for female senior citizens (above the age of 58): 50% of the base fare.
Children under the age of 5 travel free, but aren't given a separate seat or berth. However, they are provided food on trains where food is included in the cost of the ticket - Shatabdi, Rajdhani and Duronto Expresses.
If you're planning a stopover on your journey or a multi-city trip, a through-ticket, break-journey ticket or Circular Journey Ticket could also save you a lot over the regular fares.
There are quite a few quotas in the reservation system. Which quota do I use?
Usually, you'd book under the General Quota, which is seen in all trains and open to any passenger. Tickets under the General Quota can be booked online, which makes it very convenient. The result of this is that the General Quota is always the first quota to get sold out. If this happens, you can try a few other quotas (if you qualify for them):
The tatkal quota: A set of seats/berths on most trains that opens at 10 am the day before the train leaves it originating station. While this allows last-minute passengers to get seats or berths on trains, demand for tatkal seats and berths is incredibly heavy and in many cases, all tickets under the tatkal quota get sold out minutes after bookings open.
The Ladies Quota: As the name suggests, this quota is only open to ladies. However, male children under the age of 12 can also be booked under this quota. This quota can be booked online. However, in most trains, the Ladies Quota is six seats or berths in the lowest reserved class, and these six seats or berths might well be in the middle of many other berths occupied by men. Only a handful of trains have a Ladies Quota in their AC classes; I'm working on a list of these trains.
The Lower Berth Quota: This quota is for (a) men over 60 travelling alone, (b) women over 45 travelling alone , (c) pregnant women, though pregnant women need to show a certificate stating so to avail this quota. The Lower Berth Quota can also be booked online on IRCTC, though this option only appears at the final stage before payment.
The Foreign Tourist Quota: If you are a foreigner or an NRI on a tourist visa, this quota can help you greatly on your travels around India. Read this article for more information on the quota, not to mention the process of getting a ticket under the quota.
I've bought a ticket. How do I track its status?
The status of a ticket can be checked (a) online (b) by calling the IVRS (c) by SMSing the enquiry service or (d) looking at the train's chart when it is pasted on the coach and at stations.
Read this article for more information on how to check and understand the status of your ticket (PNR).
My ticket is full of information. What's important? How do I understand the information on my ticket? What are my coach and seat numbers?
Tickets can be quite difficult to understand, given the amount of information that's printed on them. Read this tutorial to learn how to read your ticket, focussing on only the information that's important for your journey.
Can I book a multi-city ticket?
In some cases, this might be possible. However, this cannot be done online. The railways allow passengers to break journey (i.e. make a stopover) en-route if their tickets are for a distance of over 500 km. There are several rules to such a ticket, known as a break journey ticket. However, the savings from such a ticket can be quite high.
The railways also allow you to book more than one train on a single fare, if the route you're taking is reasonably direct, or if there isn't any direct train on the route. Such tickets are known as through journey tickets, also known as tickets with telescopic fare benefit.
Lastly, if you are planning a long trip with several stopovers, and your route is such that you don't repeat any section twice, you might be eligible for a Circular Journey Ticket - which works out significantly cheaper than regular point-to-point tickets.
I've lost my ticket!! What do I do?
If your ticket was purchased online, this isn't too much of a problem, as long as you're carrying a valid ID and your name appears on the train's reservation chart (which it will if it is a valid ticket). In this case, just tell the Travelling Ticket Examiner that you don't have your ticket, but you're carrying your ID. You will be issued an Excess Fare Ticket see picture on payment on INR 50. If, on the other hand, you have your ticket but don't have a valid ID, the penalties are far more severe - you will be treated as a ticketless passenger.
If you've lost a ticket that you bought at a counter, it is slightly more problematic. You will need to get a duplicate ticket from a reservation office by submitting an application stating you've lost your ticket, specifying as many details about your ticket as you can remember, apart from proving your identity. You will be charged INR 50 per passenger if your ticket was for Second Sitting or Sleeper Class and INR 100 if your ticket was for any higher class.
No duplicate tatkal tickets are issued.
Can I cancel a ticket I've bought? How much do I lose?
Yes. Cancellation charges are still fairly nominal, unless you have a confirmed tatkal ticket, which is non refundable.
Here are the current cancellation charges per passenger for each class (as of November 2013):
Class of travel

Time of cancellation
More than 48 hours before departure

Between 48 and 6 hours before departure

6 hours before departure to 2 hours after departure
First AC Sleeper

INR 120

25% of ticket fare
(All classes)

50% of ticket fare
(All classes)
Executive Class

INR 120
Second AC Sleeper

INR 100
First Class Non-AC

INR 100
Three-tier AC Sleeper

INR 90
AC Sleeper Economy

INR 90
AC Chair Car

INR 90
Sleeper Class

INR 60
Second Sitting

INR 30
For a more detailed account of refund rules, click here.
How do I cancel a ticket I've bought?
If you've booked your ticket at a reservation office, you can cancel it at any reservation office across the country. The procedure is exactly the same you use to book a ticket at a reservation counter - you fill up the reservation form with the same details you did to book the ticket, but when you hand the clerk your reservation form, make sure to hand him/her your ticket as well. You will then be issued with a cancellation ticket (!) which tells you that you've cancelled your ticket, and also specifies the refund amount.
If you've booked an e-ticket through IRCTC, you need to log into your account and click on the "Cancellation" icon on the main page of your account. You will then be shown the list of active tickets in your account, where you can cancel the ticket(s) you don't want. Refunds are credited to the same credit card/debit card/bank account used to book the ticket in three to four working days. You cannot cancel e-tickets at a counter and vice versa.
If you've booked through a different website, follow the cancellation procedures described on that website. If your ticket was booked through an agent, you will need to go back to the same agent for cancellations, which is why I never recommend booking through travel agents.
If the train's chart is already prepared by the time you decide to cancel, you need to file a Ticket Deposit Receipt to claim your refund.
I've bought a ticket for five people. Now one person doesn't want to travel. Can I part-cancel a ticket; cancel only a few passengers from the ticket?
Yes, you can. If you're cancelling your ticket through IRCTC, choose only the names of the passengers whose tickets you wish to cancel. If you're cancelling your ticket at a reservation counter, fill only the names of the passengers whose tickets need to be cancelled on the form, and when handing your ticket and form to the clerk, make sure to mention that you don't want the whole ticket cancelled.
I decided not to travel. Can someone else travel on my ticket?
No, you cannot transfer your ticket to anybody else. If caught during the journey, they will be treated as ticketless travellers and fined accordingly. However, you can transfer your ticket to blood relatives, but this has to be done at least a day earlier by meeting the Chief Reservation Supervisor at your nearest reservation office - you cannot just get on the train and explain the situation to the Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE).
Are there any passes for rail travel in India?
Unfortunately, there are no railpasses that can be bought by regular Indians.
If you are a foreigner or an NRI, you can buy an Indrail pass, though it doesn't really save you money over buying regular tickets unless you plan to travel very frequently during the validity of the pass. See this article on Indrail passes if you're interested in buying one.
General Travel
Dec 28 2014 (09:38)  

Kcgopi Krishnan   7 blog posts
Entry# 1322521            Tags   Past Edits
Let's start with some of the most basic questions about the Indian Railways. It must be said, though, that elementary questions are often the most difficult to answer...
What is the Indian Railways like?
Erm, it's complex. And large. Really, really massive. With a total route length of 64,600 km and over 80,000 stations (as of March 2012), it is the fourth largest rail network in the world, and one of the busiest. On an average day, over 11,000 passenger trains criss-cross the country, carrying over
13 million passengers. There are several different types of trains, and ten different classes of travel. I'm not sure this totally answers the question, but I doubt any answer could...
There's a well-written and long introduction (not by me) to the Indian Railway system on the Indiamike website - access it here.
I want to travel from x to y, do you think there's a train connection?
If you're travelling between important cities and towns, there will - in all probability - be a direct train connecting the two. In most cases, it is possible to travel between a pair of stations in the country - even if they're distant or isolated - with two or less changes of train. With luck, the train connections and travel times will also suit your needs.
If you want to search for trains between two places in India, this article should help you.
Are the trains popular?
Yes! Trains are, by and large, the most preferred mode of travel between cities. Flying can be prohibitively expensive, and buses are far less safe and comfortable than trains, often at higher prices, which means that people gravitate to trains. The flip side of this is that trains tend to get booked out fast, sometimes filling up even a couple of months in advance. How early trains get filled up depend on the route in question, the time and duration of journey, and the class of travel, not to mention the train itself.
How fast are trains?
Well, different types of trains have different average speeds; the slowest Passenger trains usually averaging less than 40 kmph, with the country's fastest trains averaging between 85 and 90 kmph. A typical Express train averages around 50 kmph - while hardly stellar, often still much faster than buses and road transport. Keep in mind that a large number of trains are overnight - you get onto the train, find your sleeping-berth, fall asleep and wake up at your destination, also saving on hotel bills.
There are many long distance trains covering over 2,000 km, and travelling from one end of the country to another can take a few days. The longest journey you can make without changing trains is from Kanyakumari in the south to Dibrugarh in the Northeast, a journey of around 4,300 km taking approximately 85(!) hours.
How comfortable are trains?
Well, remember that there are ten different classes of travel, each offering a different level of privacy and comfort at a specific price range. You could relax in a roomy cabin with an attendant on call, or be squished up in an overcrowded carriage with hundreds of other passengers - both on the same train! In short, the amount you're willing to spend on a train journey decides the class you will travel by, which in turn determines how comfortable your journey will be.
Aren't trains extremely overcrowded?
If you're travelling by any reserved class of travel, you will have a specific seat or berth number allotted to you. Pictures like this that occasionally surface are highly dated and exaggerated - in fact, this picture, though frequently circulated, is quite obviously not of an Indian train. The system of advance reservations makes train travel a fairly comfortable and civilised process. You will find your name(s) on the reservation chart pasted near the door of the train. On the off chance that you find another person in your seat or berth, politely show him/her your ticket and tell him/her that you have the seat or berth, and the interloper will slink away.
If you decide to travel unreserved, you might find your coach extremely crowded..
Do I need a reservation to board a train?
Absolutely, unless you plan to travel in the crowded unreserved coach of the train. Reservations for trains open 60 days before the train leaves its originating station, and you will need to buy a ticket for the class and train to be able to travel peacefully. It is important to remember that merely buying a ticket for a particular class on a train doesn't necessarily get you on the train, unless your reservation is confirmed. The railway reservation system is complex, and when all confirmed seats or berths for a particular train/class combination have been sold out, you can still buy tickets, but you might be placed on an "RAC" (Reservation Against Cancellation) list, which guarantees you a seat on the train but not a sleeping-berth. Once the RAC list is filled up as well, you will be placed on a waitlist, which guarantees you nothing unless enough passengers with confirmed reservations cancel their tickets. For an overview of this process, read this article. Popular trains can have all their confirmed seats or berths sold out weeks or even months in advance, so you need to book early.
How do I book tickets/make reservations?
If you're booking a regular point-to-point ticket, your ticket includes the reservation - you do not need to make reservations separately after buying your ticket.
For more information on booking tickets, head to the section on tickets.
What if I can't plan my travels early? Is it possible to just hop on the train and buy a ticket on board?
Well, if you can't plan your travels early and all confirmed seats/berths have already been sold out, you could just buy a waitlisted ticket, thought there is no guarantee that it will get confirmed. See the section on waitlists for more information.
If you do not want to deal with the worries of waitlisted tickets, you have a couple of options:
You can buy tickets under the tatkal ("immediate") quota. The tatkal quota is a set of seats/berths that opens for booking at 10 am the day before the train leaves its originating station. There is a surcharge for tickets booked under this scheme, and these tickets are non-refundable. For more information on the tatkal scheme, see this article.
You might be eligible for tickets under a special quota. See the section on booking tickets for more information about this.
Sometimes, after the reservation chart of a train has been prepared, a few vacant seats or berths may remain on the train. If this is the case, you can catch the train without a prior reservation. However, you cannot simply get on the train and pay the Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE), unless you want to be fined for travelling without proper tickets. The procedure to get on a train without a prior reservation (and not get fined) is detailed in this article.
Are trains reliable?
In terms of punctuality, you mean? That's a tricky question - some trains are extremely reliable; others so erratic that you would never want to plan any event close to your journey.
For the most part - at least, in my travelling experience - trains are reliable to arriving within fifteen minutes of their scheduled arrival time. In the last twenty train journeys I've made over the past six months;
six trains reached my destination early,
three trains reached my destination exactly on time,
seven trains reached my destination marginally late (less than 15 minutes behind schedule),
three trains reached my destination rather late (1 - 2 hours behind schedule)
one train reached my destination horribly late (5 hours 37 minutes behind schedule, but that was due to a disruption on the line)
To a large extent, the punctuality of trains depends on the priority they're accorded.
General Travel
Dec 28 2014 (09:37)  

Kcgopi Krishnan   7 blog posts
Entry# 1322520            Tags   Past Edits
If you plan to take a train on your next trip, you need to first find out which train best serves your needs, not to mention whether seats are available on your travel date. While travel guides might list a few trains, do their suggestions match your needs?
How do I find out whether there's a train connecting my origin and destination?
You could either refer to the printed timetable, or use one of numerous websites specialising in train routes and timings. Each website has its own format for displaying train
schedules and routing; some have additional features such as suggesting multi-train combinations if no direct train is available, some display unreserved trains as well. Different people are comfortable using different websites. See this article for an elaborate guide to the various websites.
Okay, so I've found a train, but is it available on my travel date?
The websites mentioned in the above article - apart from telling you the timings of trains on your route - can also fetch you the availability position of your train for your particular travel date. Again, refer the guide to searching for trains and checking whether they're available.
I checked for availability on a particular date, and the status says something like "GNWL78/WL44". What does this mean?
Yes, the way in which the railways tell you whether your train is available (or not) can be quite bewildering. This article demystifies the various figures you will see when checking for availability.
I checked for availability, but got a totally different set of messages from those mentioned in the previous article...
If the messages you saw when you checked for tickets differ from any of the messages you see in this guide, it's probably an error message. Worry not, I have an article that explains error messages while booking tickets too!
Okay, I've found a train for my journey and it's available. What now?
Excellent! Head to the section on booking tickets for more information.
General Travel
Dec 28 2014 (09:36)  

Kcgopi Krishnan   7 blog posts
Entry# 1322519            Tags   Past Edits
A guide to the various classes of travel
There is probably little that will shape your travelling experience on the Indian Railways as the class you decide to travel by. The railways are a good example of the heterogeneity that exists in Indian society, especially the difference in income levels. I could travel from Delhi to Mumbai for as little as INR 275 in the unreserved coaches of the Firozpur Janata Express, as well as pay fifteen times that amount (INR 4,135) travelling by First AC Sleeper in the Mumbai Rajdhani Express. There is, of course, a massive qualitative difference in the level of comfort between the two.
are as many as ten different classes of travel that the Indian Railways has to offer, but no train offers all ten classes. I follow with a very brief guide of each class, from the most expensive to the cheapest. Also, do note that the Indian Railways operates newer LHB coaches on some trains and routes, offering passengers a vastly improved travel experience. While the fare for a particular class is the same irrespective of whether the train uses these newer coaches or the older-design ICF coaches, your journey might be quite different...
First AC Sleeper (1A)
This is the highest class of travel the Indian Railways has to offer, and unsurprisingly, the most expensive as well. First AC Sleeper consists of four-berth cabins and two-berth coupes with doors that can be bolted from the inside. Not every train has a First AC Sleeper coach - this class is restricted to the more popular trains with high demand across all classes.
First AC Sleeper is spacious and comfortable - a full First AC coach carries only 18-24 passengers (depending on the specific coach being used). The next highest class, Second AC Sleeper, has 46-54 passengers to a coach - significantly more crowded! Bedding is provided, and an attendant is available on call to attend to requests of the passenger. Each berth has a reading light. Toilets in this class are far better maintained than all other classes. As First AC Sleeper costs as much as a flight for longer journeys, it is not the most popular class for long distances. However, for shorter journeys, it can be quite difficult to get reservations on short notice..

Above, L - R: The exterior of a typical First AC coach; the corridor of the First AC coach of the Bangalore Rajdhani Express; a four-berth cabin on the Karnataka Express; a nicer two-berth coupe on the Udyan Express.
First AC - approximate berth measurements (when berths have been put down for sleeping)
Berth Length Width
Lower Berth (LB) 200 cm* 89 cm
Upper Berth (UB) 190 cm 73 cm
* Includes the handrests, as they're at the same level of the lower berth when it's made up for sleeping.
Executive Class (1A)
Executive Class is the railways' version of business class in an aircraft, and is only found on Shatabdi Express trains and a few day Duronto Expresses. It is a sitting class with 2 x 2 seating and a generous amount of legroom. As Shatabdi Expresses include catering in their ticket fares, passengers travelling by this class do not need to bother about buying food on the journey. Food served in Executive Class is of better quality (and quantity) than food served to passengers of other classes in the train. Most Executive Class coaches are extremely well maintained, and short to long day journeys by this class are very comfortable. If you can afford it, it definitely makes for a pleasant travel experience.

Above, L - R: The interiors of the Executive Class coach of the Mysore - Chennai Shatabdi; another Executive Class coach on the New Delhi - Bhopal Shatabdi; the food menu for Executive Class passengers (click to enlarge); the first course of breakfast on the Bhopal Shatabdi.
Second AC Sleeper (2A)
Second AC Sleeper is the second highest sleeping class offered by the Indian Railways, and is found on most overnight trains. It offers passengers a fair amount of space, and is perfectly comfortable for short to long journeys, as long as you get berths together.
Second AC Sleeper offers less privacy than First AC Sleeper as it lacks the lockable doors of the latter. It consists of eight bays of berths that are divided into four "inner" (or transverse) berths and two "side" berths. While the former are arranged perpendicular to the direction of the train, the latter are parallel to its movement. Each set of four inner berths has a privacy curtain that can be drawn across to cut off views of the corridor, as does each set of side berths. Each berth has a reading light (though whether it will work is another story). Like in First AC Sleeper, bedding is provided.

Above, L - R: The corridor of a Second AC Sleeper coach - inner berths on the left, side berths on the right; a set of four inner berths; the side berths folded down in the sleeping position; a nice two-berth cabin on the Rajdhani Express.
Second AC - approximate berth measurements (when berths have been put down for sleeping)
Berth Length Width
Lower Berth (LB) 185 cm* 67 cm
Upper Berth (UB) 180 cm 60 cm
Side Lower Berth (SL) 181 cm# 58 cm
Side Upper Berth (SU) 178 cm# 58 cm
* includes the handrests, as they're at the same level as the lower berth when it's made up for sleeping.
# as side berths are bound by walls on both sides, there's no scope to stretch any farther than the berth's length.
First Class Non-AC (FC)
This is a rather rare class of travel - the railways are phasing it out in favour of Three-tier AC Sleeper as it is rather unremunerative. Today, First Class Non-AC is found in a few trains in South India (mostly Tamil Nadu) and a handful of trains in the north.
The arrangement in First Class Non-AC is fairly similar to that of First AC Sleeper; the coach is divided into four-berth cabins and two-berth coupes with sliding doors that can be bolted from the inside. First Class Non-AC is relatively unpopulated - there are only 26 passengers to a coach. The huge advantage of First Class Non-AC is that it doesn't insulate from the environment like the AC classes do - your interaction with the outside environment is not disrupted by a heavily-tinted glass window. However, unlike other non-AC classes, First Class Non-AC also gives you a significant amount of privacy, as if you have a whole cabin or coupe to yourself, shutting and bolting the door totally cuts off any contact with other passengers, vendors and beggars.
The disadvantages of First Class Non-AC are that (a) since it's not AC, it gets extremely hot in summer and very cold in winter (b) all First Class coaches are extremely old, and some extremely rundown, (c) bedding is not automatically provided as in the AC classes, and while it can be obtained from the attendant on payment of a nominal fee of INR 25, finding the attendant can be difficult at times, not to mention the fact that bedding is very limited, (d) since coaches aren't insulated from the outside environment, they're usually far dustier than their AC equivalents.

Above, L - R: Corridor of a First Class Non-AC coach; a four-berth cabin; a two-berth coupe; ready to sleep!
First Class Non-AC - approximate berth lengths (when berths have been put down for sleeping)
Berth Length Width
Lower Berth (LB) 200 cm* 78 cm
Upper Berth (UB) 190 cm 61 cm
* includes the handrests, as they're at the same level as the lower berth when it's made up for sleeping.
Three-tier AC Sleeper (3A)
Also known as Third AC, Three-tier AC Sleeper is one of the most popular AC classes in the Indian Railways; it is the cheapest AC class offering sleeping accommodation barring the relatively rare AC Sleeper Economy class. It makes for a fairly comfortable journey.
Three-tier AC Sleeper has a similar layout when compared with Second AC Sleeper - the coach is divided into eight bays that have six "inner" berths and two "side" berths in each bay respectively. Unlike in Second AC Sleeper where the inner bay has just two lower and two upper berths, the inner bay in Three-tier has three sets of berths; lower, middle and upper (hence the name, "three-tier"). The backrest of the lower berth rotates upward to form the middle berth, which when up prevents any of the three passengers - lower, middle, and upper - from sitting upright. There is almost no difference between side berths in Second AC Sleeper and Three-tier AC Sleeper; except that the latter do not have reading lamps. Till fairly recently, Three-tier AC Sleeper coaches used to have privacy curtains like Second AC Sleeper, but a recent Railway Board directive has seen them removed. Currently, Three-tier AC Sleeper coaches do not have privacy curtains in the aisles as seen in the images below.
Bedding is provided in Three-tier AC Sleeper.

Above, L - R: The corridor of a Three-tier AC Sleeper coach - inner berths are on the left and side berths on the right; the lower berth rotates up to form the middle berth; the side-lower berth; ready to fall asleep in the upper berth of a 3A coach on the Goa - Bangalore Link Express.
Approximate berth measurements - Three-tier AC Sleeper (when berths have been put down for sleeping)
Berth Length Width
Lower Berth (LB) 180 cm 62 cm
Middle Berth (MB) 178 cm 58 cm
Upper Berth (UB) 178 cm 58 cm
Side Lower Berth (SL) 179 cm# 56 cm
Side Upper Berth (SU) 176 cm# 56 cm
# as side berths are bound by walls on both sides, there's no scope to stretch any farther than the berth's length.
AC Sleeper Economy (3E)
AC Sleeper Economy is a rather rare class of travel found on a handful of Duronto Expresses. The same type of accommodation is found in all Garib Rath Expresses, though rather oddly, it's classified regular Three-tier AC Sleeper (3A) there.
AC Sleeper Economy lacks the privacy curtains seen in Second AC; the layout is open-plan. A major difference between Three-tier AC Sleeper and this class is that there are three side berths per bay in AC Sleeper Economy rather than two. Thus, each inner bay has two lower berths, two middle berths and two upper berths, while each side bay has a side-lower berth, a side-middle berth and a side-upper berth. This class is fine for short overnight journeys, but for longer journeys it can start to feel slightly cramped.
In Garib Rath trains, bedding is not provided automatically - it can be rented by paying an additional INR 25 - either at the time of booking tickets, or to the attendant on the train.

Above, L - R: AC Sleeper Economy coaches from the outside; the corridor of an AC Sleeper Economy coach; an inner bay with one middle berth up; the side middle berth
AC Chair Car (CC)
AC Chair Car is a good class of travel for short day journeys. A slightly more crowded class than Executive Class, it is nevertheless fairly comfortable. It is airconditioned with 3 x 2 seating. AC Chair Car is found on regular trains as well as Shatabdi and day Duronto Expresses.

Above, L - R: The exterior of an old AC Chair Car coach (also the header image for this page); the interiors of the same coach; a newer AC Chair Car coach; AC Chair Car on the Mysore - Chennai Shatabdi Express.
Sleeper Class Non-AC (SL)
Sleeper Class is the class the majority of reserved passengers travel, and the majority of the coaches in a regular overnight train are likely to be Sleeper Class coaches. It's an extremely inexpensive way to travel, and a 3,000 km journey by Sleeper Class can cost as little as INR 800. There is far more "life" in the Sleeper Class coaches when compared with the average AC coach.
Think of Sleeper as Three-tier AC Sleeper without the AC and the free bedding. Sleeper Class coaches are designed to carry 72 passengers in an arrangement of 9 bays - each with six inner berths and two side berths. There are no privacy curtains or reading lights, and as the coaches aren't insulated from the outside environment, they can get dusty, not to mention hot or cold depending on the outside temperature. Sleeper Class coaches can sometimes get slightly crowded during the day with short-distance passengers. Then again, it's so cheap...

Above, L - R: The exterior of a Sleeper Class coach; the corridor of another Sleeper Class coach; the inner bay of the same coach with one middle berth up; the side berths - the side upper berth can just about be discerned in the image.
Approximate berth measurements - Sleeper Class Non-AC (when berths have been put down for sleeping)
Berth Length Width
Lower Berth (LB) 176 cm 60 cm
Middle Berth (MB) 176 cm 60 cm
Upper Berth (UB) 176 cm 60 cm
Side Lower Berth (SL) 174 cm# 60 cm
Side Upper Berth (SU) 174 cm# 60 cm
# as side berths are bound by walls on both sides, there's no scope to stretch any farther than the berth's length.
Second Class Sitting (2S)
Found on most daytime intercity trains, Second Sitting is a very cheap way of travelling by train - the cheapest reserved class, to be precise. It consists of 3 x 3 seating, and seats do not recline. Some of the newer Second Sitting coaches have individual seats for each passenger, though the majority of the Second Sitting coaches have bus-like bench type seats, each bench seating 3 passengers. This class often gets full with short-distance passengers without proper reservations. Second Sitting is a fun class for short (<4 hour) journeys, though for long journeys, it can get rather uncomfortable...

Above, L - R: The Second Sitting coaches of the Tippu Express; the interiors of the Second Sitting coach on the Trivandrum - Kozhikkode Janshatabdi Express.
Unreserved (UR)
This is the cheapest class of travel. As the name suggests, you do not need a reservation to board this coach - you just buy a ticket and hop on. Being as cheap as it is, it is often the only way the poorest of the country can travel between cities. Unfortunately, most important Express trains have just two unreserved coaches in their formation, leading to massive overcrowding in those coaches. Unreserved coaches are designed to carry 90 passengers, but on important trains, you might well find over 300 passengers in them ...
Train Tip
Mar 03 2014 (03:14)   12680/Coimbatore - Chennai Central InterCity SF Express

Kcgopi Krishnan   7 blog posts
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window seat amazing...
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