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A step-by-step guide to booking tickets on IRCTC (with screenshots!)

Booking a ticket online from the comfort of your house definitely trumps going to a reservation office and waiting in a queue to book the same ticket.  The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation is in charge of the main website to book train tickets in India - irctc.co.in - and while other websites also allow train ticket bookings (such as Cleartrip, Yatra and Makemytrip), IRCTC has certain advantages, which are:

  • It allows you to book tickets between 8 am and noon IST (Which - as any regular ticket booker on the Indian Railway system will tell you - is often the most crucial period when it comes to booking highly-demanded opening-day and tatkal tickets)
  • It is slightly cheaper (The difference is very marginal, though)

Only reserved tickets can be booked online - if you want to buy unreserved tickets, you will have to visit an unreserved booking counter.  Also, if you are trying to book tickets from abroad, please note that IRCTC doesn't accept any non-Indian credit cards except Amex.  You will need to book using Cleartrip if you do not have an Amex card.

IRCTC has recently improved its booking interface, allowing users to book tickets faster, also providing them with more options whilst booking tickets.  

I include a tutorial walking you through the steps of booking a ticket on the IRCTC website with screenshots.  Note that this tutorial assumes you already have an IRCTC account.  If you don't, please click here.

All screenshots below are from the IRCTC website - the designs and booking layouts are the property of IRCTC.

Step 1: Log into your IRCTC account

Login to IRCTC with your username, password and the Captcha code on the screen.

Step 2: Enter your travel details

Enter your origin, destination and date of travel into the box highlighted in the image above.  Alternatively, if you know the number of the train you're taking as well as the class you want to travel by and the quota you want to use, click on the "Quick Book" tab (indicated with a green arrow above).  The quickbook option, however, isn't available between 8 am and noon IST.

The "ticket type" option is a little pointless.  IRCTC now only offers "e-tickets" - tickets that you print directly from your computer (you can also use the confirmation SMS received from IRCTC as a valid ticket).  You can no longer book "i-tickets" - normal counter tickets that IRCTC couriers to your residence - any more.

For the purpose of this article, I am booking a ticket from Bangalore City to Kengeri on the 24th of September, a total distance of 13 km. 

Step 3: Choose a train and class from the list displayed 

IRCTC will now display all the trains that run between your origin and destination on the date you've chosen.  Note that if there is no direct train between the stations you've chosen on your date of travel, IRCTC will not suggest other routes that involve changes of train.  For example, if I search for trains between Kanniyakumari and Chandigarh (there are no direct trains), IRCTC displays this message:

 

In this case, you will need to search for a transit route.  90di is a good website for this.  For more information on this, click here.

In my booking example of a Bangalore City - Kengeri journey, there are as many as 12 different train options (though, in this case, the Karwar and the Kannur Express run combined, making it 11 train options in actuality).  

The list of trains is displayed in the following format:

Columns 1 and 2 Mention the number and name of the train in question

Column 3 xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Mentions the station code of the station the train departs from.  If you're confused about the station code, the "plan my travel" box mentions the name and station codes of your origin and destination stations.  This is mainly to ensure you don't unwittingly book from another station in the city.  In this case, all trains leave from Bangalore City, the station code of which is SBC.
Column 4 Mentions the departure time of the train from your departure station.  All times mentioned are in the 24 hour format.
Column 5 Mentions the station code of the station your train arrives at.
Column 6 Mentions the arrival time of the train at your destination station.
Column 7 Mentions the total distance covered by the train between your origin and destination stations.
Column 8 Mentions the total journey duration between your origin and destination stations by that particular train.
Column 9 Tells you the days of the week the train runs.
Column 10 Mentions the reserved classes of travel the train offers.  The abbreviations used are expanded below:
Abbreviation Full form
1A First AC Sleeper (If the train in question is a Shatabdi Express, then "1A" refers to Executive Class
2A Second AC Sleeper
FC First Class Non-AC
3A Three-tier AC Sleeper
3E AC Sleeper Economy
CC AC Chair Car
SL Sleeper Class Non-AC
2S Second Sitting Non-AC

For an overview of these classes of travel, please click here.

Box 11 (above the list of trains) allows you to choose which quota you'd like the ticket to be booked from.  You have three options:

  1. The General Quota (GN), which is usually the largest quota and is found on every train.  In most cases, you will be booking from this quota, which is in any case the pre-selected option.
  2. The Ladies Quota (LD), a set of six to twelve seats/berths found in the lowest reservable class (i.e. SL or 2S) of most trains.  This quota can be booked if all passengers on the ticket are female, though male children under 12 can also be booked under this quota if accompanied by a female.
  3. The Tatkal Quota (CK), a set of tickets in all classes (except 1A and FC) of most trains that opens for booking at 10 am the day before the train leaves its origin station. In this booking example, the tatkal option will not appear as it is too early to book tatkal tickets for a journey on September 24 (this article was written on August 29).
  4. IRCTC can also book berths using the Lower Berth Quota (SS), a set of two lower berths in every 2A, 3A and SL coach of a train intended for men above 60, women above 45 and pregnant women travelling alone.  However, you cannot select this option whilst booking on IRCTC - use the general quota (GN).  While the availability will reflect only the General Quota through the booking process, the system will automatically detect that you are eligible for this quota and you will be allotted berths from the Lower Berth Quota if those berths are still available at the time of booking.

Step 4: Checking for availability

Once you have decided on a particular train and class, click on the abbreviation for the particular class of that train.  Let us assume I want to book on the Chamundi Express (#16216, the ninth train in the list) and my preferred class is Second Sitting (2S).  In that case, I click on the "2S" link in the Chamundi Express row (see arrow):

On doing so, a set of boxes will open up above the train list with the latest availability position.  The first box will display the availability position for your selected journey date, and the following five boxes will display the availability position for the train's subsequent five departures.  In this case, there are 182 seats available for a departure on the 24th of September.  

A further set of boxes below the availability box will tell you the total fare (per passenger) for your journey.

 

If seats/berths are available, it's fairly simple - it will say "AVAILABLE" followed by the number of seats available (here, it is AVAILABLE-0182).  However, you might find availability positions such as:

GNWL43/WL41

REGRET/PQWL100

RLWL/AVAILABLE

GNWL13/RAC100

For an explanation of what these availability figures mean and how to understand them, click here.

You might also encounter error messages like the following:

NOT AVAILABLE

RT CLS SUSPENDED

ISL STN DELETED

For an explanation of these messages, click here.

If the availability position is encouraging enough for you to want to book the ticket, click on the "Book Now" link just below the availability position.

Step 5: Enter passenger details and preferences

You will now be directed to a page where you fill in passenger details.  The following details need to be entered:

 

  • The name(s), age(s) and gender(s) of the passengers
  • The seat/berth preferences of the passenger(s)
  • Meal preference(s) (veg/non-veg) of the passenger(s) if the train is a Shatabdi, Rajdhani or Duronto Express
  • Whether a bedroll is required (on applicable on Garib Rath Expresses and Sleeper Class Non-AC of Duronto Expresses)
  • Whether the passenger wants a senior citizen concession - applicable for all men above 60 and women above 58.

The following seat/berth preferences can be requested:

Class of Travel Seat/Berth Preferences Possible

First AC Sleeper

First Class Non-AC

  • Lower Berth (LB)
  • Upper Berth (UB)
  • Cabin Preference (CB)
  • Coupe Preference (CP)
Second AC Sleeper
  • Lower Berth (LB)
  • Upper Berth (UB)
  • Side-Lower Berth (SL)
  • Side-Upper Berth (SU)

Three-tier AC Sleeper

Sleeper Class Non-AC

  • Lower Berth (LB)
  • Middle Berth (MB)
  • Upper Berth (UB)
  • Side-Lower Berth (SL)
  • Side-Upper Berth (SU)
AC Sleeper Economy
  • Lower Berth (LB)
  • Middle Berth (MB)
  • Upper Berth (UB)
  • Side-Lower Berth (SL)
  • Side-Middle Berth (SM)
  • Side-Upper Berth (SU)

Executive Class

AC Chair Car

Second Sitting Non-AC

  • Window Seat (WS)
  • No Choice 

If any children under the age of five are travelling, fill in their names in the "Children Below 5 Years" box.  While they will not be charged any fare or allotted seats/berths of their own, the railways need the details of all reserved passengers travelling.

Below the passenger details form, a set of additional options are also available:

 

These options include the following:

(a) Consider for Auto Upgradation:  Check this box if you want to be considered for a (free) upgrade to a higher class.  The railways automatically upgrade passengers from lower to higher classes if there are vacancies in the higher class and a waitlist in the lower class when the train's chart is prepared.  It is very rare to get upgraded free of charge.  Also consider the fact that your seat/berth preferences might not be met in the higher class and if you're travelling in a group, you might not get compact accommodation in the upgraded class.

(b) Book only if confirm(ed) berths are allotted:  Fairly self-explanatory, in this case your ticket will be booked only if the entire group can be given confirmed seats/berths.  This might seem redundant, but can be useful during opening-hour and tatkal bookings, where hundreds of seats can be sold in seconds.

(c) Book only if one/two lower berths are allotted: Again, fairly self explanatory and only applicable to bookings in Second AC Sleeper (2A), Three-tier AC Sleeper (3A), AC Sleeper Economy (3E) and Sleeper Class (SL).  In this case, your ticket will not be booked if one (or two) lower berths cannot be allotted.  Keep in mind that lower berths tend to get sold out very early, so a high availability figure does not guarantee that you will indeed get lower berths.  In the case of this Bangalore - Kengeri booking, these options have no value as I am booking on a class that does not have berths (Second Sitting Non-AC, 2S)

(d) Preferred Coach ID:  Fill this field if you prefer to be allotted seats/berths in a specific coach number.  Keep in mind that entering a coach number in this box will not guarantee accommodation in that coach - seats might not be available, or the quota for your journey leg might be allotted in other coach(es).  Also, if your coach preferences clash with your berth preference options (for example, if you ask for two lower berths in coach S6 and no lower berths are available in that coach) or the possibility of compact accommodation (for example, if you ask for six berths in coach S6, but it is possible to seat you together in another coach but not S6), the system will override your coach preference request.  In this example, just for fun, I'm asking for coach D2.

After filling in all these details, the Captcha code and your mobile number, click on "next".

Step 6: Verify details and pay

After clicking on next, you will be shown a verification page where you can verify whether you've entered the correct journey details (passenger details, date of journey, class of travel, train etc).  This page will also show you the final consolidated fare.

Once satisfied that the details are correct, choose your preferred mode of payment and pay.  IRCTC accepts Netbanking from most major Indian banks, credit cards issued within India (as well as foreign Amex cards), Indian debit cards authorised for online transactions and cash cards such as the ITZ cash card.

If your debit card isn't listed under the debit card category, use any one of the payment gateways for credit cards.

Step 7: Confirmation

Upon payment, you will be shown a confirmation page with the details of your ticket.

The "ticket details" section provides you with important information about your ticket, the most being the PNR number which you will need to quote if you need to check the status of your ticket.  The "passenger" details section tells you the exact coach and seat/berth numbers of each passenger (or, if the ticket is waitlisted, the waitlist position of each passenger). 

The "Status" column after the "Concession" column tells you the status of the ticket at the time of booking.  If the ticket is confirmed (as this one is) it will say CNF; if waitlisted, it will state WL.

The "Coach" column states your coach number - if the ticket is waitlisted OR if you've booked in First AC Sleeper (1A)/First Class Non-AC (FC), this column will remain blank.  

The "Seat/Berth/WL No" column will state your specific seat or berth number along with its seat/berth type.  The abbreviations are as follows:

Abbreviation Full form
WS Window Seat
LB Lower Berth
MB Middle Berth
UB Upper Berth
SL Side-lower Berth
SM Side-middle Berth
SU Side-upper Berth

If the ticket is waitlisted, this column will indicate the passenger's serial waitlist number - read this article for a better understanding of serial and running waitlist numbers.  If the ticket has been booked in First AC Sleeper or First Class Non-AC, this column will either be blank or just display "0000"

The "Current Status" column and the other columns to its right will display the same information as the previously mentioned columns if the ticket was confirmed at booking.  If the ticket is waitlisted, these columns will display the passenger's running waitlist number.  Click on the link in the previous paragraph to understand what serial and running waitlist numbers are.

You can now print out your ticket (or just use the SMS IRCTC sends you as a ticket).  That's it!

To check the location of your seats in the coach visit this page.

If your ticket is waitlisted, visit this section for more information on waitlists.

Read this article to better understand your ticket.

Last updated 30 August 2014.