The Tatkal booking system of the Indian Railways enables you to get confirmed train tickets just one day before your journey date, by paying a small premium over the regular ticket fare.
Train tickets in India tend to sell out weeks in advance. Waiting lists run in the hundreds. This makes it impossible for people with last-minute (read last-day or last-week) travel plans to get a confirmed seat on trains via the regular booking route. Under the Tatkal system (which means “right now” or “last-minute” in Hindi), Indian Railways blocks a few seats on each train that are opened for booking only one day before the journey date.
For example, say today is 14 March and I want to travel by the Mumbai Rajdhani train from New Delhi to Mumbai on 19 March (departing from Delhi at 4:30pm on 19 March), in its 3A-type coach (Hyperlink: Train coaches/classes in India). The current availability reads WL92, meaning that there are 92 people ahead of me in the queue to claim any seat that gets vacated due to cancellation till 19 March. Clearly, my chances of getting a confirmed seat by 19 March are pretty thin.
Hence I use the Tatkal system. 160 seats in the 3A class on this train for the 19 March journey will be opened for booking on 18 March at 10am. I can book my desired ticket by using the online booking system at 10am on 18 March.
However, as you can expect, the competition for booking Tatkal tickets is insanely intense. Hundreds of thousands of eager last-minute travelers descend upon the Indian Railways online booking website (www.irctc.co.in) at 10am sharp, reducing the server speed to a crawl. Tatkal quota seats are usually sold out within half-an-hour, by 10:30am. Hence the window of opportunity is quite small.
In fact, to speed up the login process during Tatkal hours, IRCTC’s website features a stripped-down, ‘lite’ version of the login page.
Some tips for Tatkal booking:
- Log in sharp at 10am on the Indian Railways ticket booking website www.irctc.co.in
- Do not use multiple log-ins as it only slows things down further.
- Keep all information such as passenger names and their ID card numbers typed in a Notepad file on the computer so you can quickly copy-paste. Also keep the credit card information handy. Click here for a step-by-step guide on the Indian Railways online ticket booking process.
- Be SURE of the train and coach you want to book beforehand. See this page on how to get train information for your planned journey.
- Be VERY patient on the booking site. Items load very slowly – do not click Back or Submit etc. buttons over and over again. Also do not get anxious on the payment processing page – it’s a snail but it does arrive.
- You can only book for 4 passengers at a time. If your group is bigger, you may not have time to book for 4 first and then start over for the others. So have another person book simultaneously for the others – Divide and conquer.
- Lastly, if getting the tatkal ticket is absolutely necessary and you don’t want to take chances with the online booking, then personally go to the Indian Railways’ ticket booking centers (located at all train stations and some other spots in larger cities). The queues can be daunting but once you reach the ticket window, it takes just one minute to get your ticket. Needless to say, queue-up at the ticket booking center by 9am.
That’s it, you are ready to experience the Tatkal booking adventure! Good luck!
- How to get train information in India (Seat availability, train schedules, fares)
- How to book train tickets in India (Regular, Tatkal)
- Types of coaches/classes in Indian Railways
- Popular train types in India (Rajdhani, Shatabdi, etc.)