Here’s how you get information about trains in India, including train schedules, fares, and seat availability.
Example: Trains from New Delhi to Mumbai
Go to www.indianrail.gov.in
The home page will open.
Click on “Seat Availability” on the home page.
On the “Seat Availability” page that opens, click next to “Seat Availability if you don’t know the Train Number and Station Codes”
The following page will open:
Type the origin “station” name in the “From” field. A dropdown will appear (pause for a bit after typing as server may be slow). Select the station you want.
You need to type the “station” name and not the “city” name. Get your city’s main station’s name from Wikipedia etc. e.g., Goa’s station is called Vasco da Gama (station code VSG).
Very often, the city’s name is included in the station name – e.g., “New Delhi Railway Station” (station code NDLS). But sometimes it is not – e.g., “Hazrat Nizamuddin” (station code NZM) is a key station in New Delhi, but does not appear in the dropdown on typing “delhi”. However, selecting a big station such as NDLS from the dropdown still shows results for other stations in the city such as NZM or DLI (station code for Old Delhi Railway Station).
Likewise, type and select the destination station. In this example we select “Mumbai Central” (station code BCT).
In the “Class” dropdown, select “All Class”.
For the meaning of different “classes” of Indian Railways, see this.
Next, select the journey date.
You can only book a train seat up to 2 months in advance. So if today is 11 March 2014, the system won’t allow you to inquire availability and schedules beyond 10 May 2014.
Let’s select 19 March.
Click on “Get Details”.
Search results will appear in the form of a table sorted by departure time.
Like I said before, we selected Old Delhi Railway Station (station code DLI) as the origin, but the table still lists trains from other stations in New Delhi, such as New Delhi Railway Station, Hazrat Nizamuddin, Delhi Cantt, and Subzi Mandi. So you need not stress too much over which station name to type, as long as you are selecting any one of the major stations of the city. Same holds true for the destination station – we selected Mumbai Central station (station code BCT), but the table lists trains arriving at other train stations in Mumbai as well, such as Mumbai CST, Bandra Terminus, and Panvel.
Note: Some origin stations are marked blue and are underlined – this means that the train does not “originate” from that station, but will stop at that station so you can board there. If you want, hover on their name to find out where the train originates from.
From the list, select the train that suits you the best, say Mumbai Rajdhani (train number 12952) that departs from New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS) at 4:30pm and arrives at Mumbai Central Railway Station (BCT) at 8:35am, i.e., a journey time of 16 hours and 5 minutes. Also select the class you want to travel in. For the meaning of different “classes” of Indian Railways, see this.
Then click on “Get Availability”. (Leave the “Concession” and “Enter Quota” fields untouched, for now. We will look into these later in this article.)
This will display the seat availability search results:
Seat availability is shown for your selected train and class, for your selected journey date as well as for the subsequent five days. It may also display the availability status in another adjacent class. E.g., we selected class 3A and the results are displayed for class 3A as well as class 2A.
For 19 March, the availability reads “GNWL183/WL98”. This means the following:
GN stands for “general quota” which means seats available for booking by common people. WL stands for Waiting List. This means that the train is already overbooked – all seats have been reserved, and there are 98 people ahead of you in the queue to claim any seat that becomes available due to cancellation. Pretty messy, eh? Well, train seats get sold out weeks in advance in India, especially on important routes such as New Delhi to Mumbai. WL183 here represents the “highest score” of sorts – i.e., the maximum length of the waiting queue till now. It has come down to 98 now on account of cancellations, but still a long way to go before you can get a confirmed seat. If you buy a ticket with a WL98 status, you will still be charged the full ticket price for now, but the money will be refunded to you if the queue ahead of you does not clear out by the journey date due to which you are unable to travel. (Note: You can not board the train if your ticket is still waitlisted.)
You can click on “Get Next 6 Days Availability” to see the availability status for subsequent weeks.
If we look at the availability for the second week of April instead of 19 March, we find that seats are available for booking. e.g., “Available 75” means that 75 seats are still available for booking. “RAC” stands for “Reservation Against Cancellation” and it is the twilight zone between “Available” and “WL”. It means that you can board the train and you will get a place to sit, but you won’t get the full “sleeper” seat where you can lie down. RAC11 means that you are 11 cancellations away from a full, reserved, “sleeper” seat. WL11 means that you are 11 cancellations away from an RAC-type reserved sitting-only seat.
Click on “Get Fare” to see the detailed fare charges of your selected train and class.
The fare page will display. If you book now, you will be charged Rs. 1815 (i.e., the “Total Amount”), irrespective of whether you get an Available, RAC, or a WL ticket. You will get an automatic full refund on your credit card if your ticket is not able to advance to RAC or confirmed status by the journey date.
You can get the schedule of your train on the first search results page by selecting your train from the list and clicking on “Get Schedule”.
The schedule page opens. It lists all the scheduled halts in the journey along with the timing.
In case you are a foreign tourist looking to travel via train in India, there is good news for you – there is a dedicated quota of seats for foreigners! This means that there are high chances that you will get a confirmed, full “sleeper” type seat on your train, even if the “General Quota” waitlist is running in the hundreds.
To check the availability, just select “Foreign Tourist Quota” from the “Enter Quota” dropdown before hitting “Get Availability”.
For example, the General Quota status for 19 March on our selected train and class was “GNWL183/WL98”, remember? But seats are available under the Foreign Tourist Quota for that date:
The Tatkal quota allows you to book confirmed tickets last-minute. See this page for details about the Tatkal system of the Indian Railways.
And if you are an Indian, some other quotas might apply to you – check in the “Enter Quota” dropdown.
Train classes of Indian Railways
Tatkal booking system of Indian Railways
How to book train tickets in India (Regular, Tatkal)
Popular train types in India (Rajdhani, Shatabdi, etc.)