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Train Stuff in India

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Circular Journey Tickets

If you're planning a long trip with several stops along the way, such as a pilgrimage, or a really intense backpacking trip, a circular journey ticket can save you an incredible amount on your tickets.  However, there is an incredible amount of bureaucracy involved in getting one, and unless you have plenty of time to make many trips to the railway station (and subsequently, to the reservation office), you might want to just buy tickets the normal way instead and buy each ticket separately online or at a reservation office.

What exactly is a circular journey ticket?  As the name suggests, it is for a trip that is roughly circular in nature, where no station (apart from the origin) is touched twice during the journey.  An example of such a trip is one I made recently around India:

 Barring a few short - and unavoidable - sections, I didn't repeat any section on my trip, making this itinerary valid for a circular journey ticket. 

How does a circular journey save money?  It works on the same principle as a through journey ticket; that is, you are charged a single fare for the entire trip, rather than separate fares for each journey.  As I've mentioned elsewhere, the longer your journey, the more economical the fare per kilometre.  For example, a 100 km journey by Second AC Sleeper costs INR 665 (INR 6.65 per kilometre), whereas a 3,000 km journey by the same class costs INR 3,065 (INR 1.02 per kilometre).  For my trip, I paid INR 7,600 for 8,420 km of travel by Second AC Sleeper, which worked out to a very economical INR 0.90 per kilometre and a saving of more than INR 3,000 per passenger over buying regular point-to-point tickets.

Circular Journey Tickets - Basic Rules

  • Circular journey tickets cannot be purchased online.
  • Circular journey tickets can be issued for any class of travel.
  • Railway zones issue both standard as well as non-standard circular journey tickets.  Standard circular journey tickets are pre-decided routes that include popular attractions within and outside the zone, and if any of these itineraries appeal to you, you can apply for one and save out on a lot of the bureaucracy that is involved in applying for a customised route (a non-standard circular journey ticket).
  • A maximum of eight breaks of journey (stopovers) are permitted on a single circular journey ticket.  However, a halt of less than 24 hours at a station to catch a connecting train is not treated as a break of journey, and you can take advantage of this rule by maximising the permissible gap between the arrival of your first train and the departure of your connecting train.  On my trip, I managed to get a whole day in Jaipur through this rule.  Unlike a regular break journey ticket, you do not need the endorsement of the station master at every break of journey.
  • You cannot repeat any section during your trip (for example, you cannot travel Delhi - Kalka, followed by a Kalka - Delhi journey later).  Exceptions are made for branch lines and sections where no alternate route is possible.  If, for example, you wish to travel to Kanyakumari, you will have to traverse the Nagercoil - Kanyakumari stretch, followed by a Kanyakumari - Nagercoil journey, as there is no other route out of Kanyakumari.
  • Every circular journey ticket has a specific validity period, determined by the total distance travelled.  My circular journey ticket of 8,420 km had a validity of 63 days.  There is no restriction on the number of days you spend at each stopover, as long as your entire trip is completed within the validity period of the ticket.
  • As per the instructions laid down by the railway board, you can upgrade your ticket to a higher class for a portion of your journey by paying the difference in fare - see this link.  However, the reservation system cannot do this automatically, which means the reservation clerk has to manually calculate the difference in fares and issue you an Excess Fare Ticket for the same.  Most railway staffers are unaware of this rule, and in many cases, might flat out refuse your request.
  • Some zones allow you to travel on Shatabdi, Rajdhani, Duronto and Jan Shatabdi Expresses with a circular journey ticket on payment of the difference in fares.

Process of applying

Very few reservation offices have the authority to issue circular journey tickets, and you will have to head to the main reservation/booking office at the biggest railway station in your city.  Some stations have a specific counter for issuing circular journey tickets. If yours doesn't, you will need to approach the Booking Supervisor or the Chief Reservation Supervisor with your application.  This application has no specific format, but must contain:

  • Your contact details,
  • The class of travel for your circular ticket,
  • The date of your first journey,
  • The eight (or less) places at which you wish to break journey,
  • The specific route you will take between your break journey points,
  • The total kilometres you will travel.

This application will be scrutinised to check that your route is permissible under circular ticket rules.  It will take a minimum of a day for this to happen, following which you will be issued with a circular journey ticket.  Different zones issue tickets in different formats.  A circular journey ticket issued at Bangalore looks like this:

Keep in mind that this is not a reservation.  After obtaining your circular journey ticket, you will need to go to any reservation office to reserve seats or berths for yourself on the various trains of your trip.  You follow exactly the same process that you would to book a ticket at a reservation office, except that you submit your circular journey ticket along with your reservation form.  You will only be charged the reservation fee for each reservation (from INR 15 to INR 70 per passenger, depending on the class you travel by)

Last updated on 14 November 2013.