Travelling on a pass in India - the Indrail pass
Unlike several foreign railways, railpasses for general travel in India have never been actively experimented with by the railways. While high-ranking politicians, bureaucrats, railway officials and so on are provided passes for travel by train in India, these aren't facilities that can be availed by the average traveller. In fact, if you are an Indian traveller looking to save money by purchasing a pass, there is nothing in this section that will help you; you might be better off looking at the articles on through journey and break journey tickets, as well as the article on circular journey tickets. However, foreigners and NRIs have the option of buying an Indrail pass, which allows unlimited travel on the Indian Railways network during the validity of the pass.
What is an Indrail pass?
Simply put, it is a pass that allows the holder unlimited travel on the rail network during its validity period. Indrail passes are sold with the following validity periods:
- 1/2 day (12 hours)
- 1 day
- 2 days
- 4 days
- 7 days
- 15 days
- 21 days
- 30 days
- 60 days
- 90 days
..you can thus choose the pass that fits best with your duration of your stay and travel in India.
Indrail passes come in three different class variants:
- First AC, which allows you to travel by First AC Sleeper and any lower class,
- AC Sleeper, which allows you to travel by Second AC Sleeper and any lower class,
- Non-AC, which allows you to travel by Sleeper Class Non-AC and Second Class Sitting.
To simplify, here is a table that shows you which classes you can travel on with each respective pass:
|Pass Type||First AC Sleeper||Executive Class||Second AC Sleeper||First Class Non-AC||Three-tier AC Sleeper||AC Sleeper Economy||AC Chair Car||Sleeper Class Non-AC||Second Class Sitting|
Indrail passes are valid on premier trains like the Shatabdi, Rajdhani, Duronto, Jan Shatabdi and Garib Rath Expresses. However, the 1/2 day and 1 day Indrail passes are downgraded by one class when travelling by Rajdhani and Duronto Express trains.
You will still need to make reservations on trains after buying the pass, which can be done by the agent selling the pass (if you've decided your route and trains at the time of buying the pass, or before you leave for India), or at any computerised reservation office or International Tourist Bureau in India. You do not have to pay any surcharges or fees when you make your reservations. Indrail passholders are also permitted to book tickets under the Foreign Tourist Quota and the Headquarters Quota (though you might need a good reason for travel to be booked against the latter). This makes it significantly easier for passholders to get seats on trains that would otherwise be full, and is one of the major advantages of the pass. If there are empty seats on a train, you can hop on board and travel on showing the Travelling Ticket Examiner your pass. However, this is not something I would bank on, especially for overnight journeys.
Where do I buy an Indrail pass, and what are the fares?
Indrail passes can be bought at various General Sales Agents (GSAs) across the world, as well as at specific authorised travel agencies in India. Fares for Indrail passes vary based on the validity period and class of travel the pass for which the pass is purchased. For the fare structure of Indrail passes as well as the list of GSAs that issue them, scroll to the bottom of this page.
Is buying a pass worth it?
In terms of saving money, unlikely, unless you really plan to travel intensively by train during your stay. The pass is useful in occasionally being able to get you onto trains you otherwise wouldn't be able to board. However, with online reservations becoming more popular these days, being forced to visit a reservation office each time you want to make a reservation can be a little trying.
Do the benefits outweigh the disadvantages? You decide!
Last updated on 14 November 2013.