Passengers who wish to travel in Indian Railway trains must reserve their seat in advance for all classes of travel except for General/Unreserved coaches. The railway reservation facility allows you to travel in the train and travel class of your choice with a berth/seat allotted against your name. Here’s everything you must know about the railway reservation in India.
Railway Reservation through PRS Counters
Every major railway station in India has a reservation office attached to it. Many metro cities may also have satellite reservation offices located in other parts of the city. To book tickets through PRS counters, you must fill up a reservation form with your personal and journey details. Based on the availability of tickets, the ticketing staff at the counter will issue the ticket. Indian Railways reservation counters are open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm (Monday to Saturday) and 8:00 am to 2:00 pm on Sundays.
Railway Reservation Online through IRCTC
Tickets can also be reserved online through IRCTC, the official online ticketing partner of Indian Railways. Online train ticket reservation can be done through IRCTC Next Generation e-Ticketing System (official website) and IRCTC Rail Connect (official app). The ticket issued is called an e-Ticket or Electronic Reservation Slip (ERS). You must register with IRCTC to enjoy the reservation services which are available all through the day except from 11:45 pm to 12:20 am (IST), every night.
Tatkal and Premium Tatkal Ticket Reservation
Tatkal is a ticket reservation scheme that allows passengers to book tickets one day before the date of journey by paying additional charges. Premium Tatkal (PT) reservation is a variant of Tatkal, but it follows a dynamic pricing system where tickets prices may vary based on demand. Tatkal tickets can be booked online and at PRS counters while PT tickets can only be booked online. Tatkal reservation starts from 10:00 am onwards for AC classes and 11:00 am onwards for non-AC classes. Learn more about Tatkal ticket reservation.
Advance Reservation Period (ARP)
For General Quota bookings, the ARP is 120 days prior to the date of journey excluding the date of journey. For Tatkal and Premium Tatkal reservation, the ARP is one day before the date of journey excluding the date of journey. A few trains, such as the mountain trains and special trains, have ARPs lesser than 120 days. Foreign travelers and NRIs can book tickets under the Foreign Tourist Quota 365 days prior to the journey.
Reserved Classes of Travel
Reservation is allowed for all classes of travel except the General or Unreserved class. The reserved travel classes include AC First Class, AC 2 Tier, AC 3 Tier, AC Chair Car, Executive Chair Car, Sleeper, First Class, and Second Seating. A confirmed train reservation will always contain a seat number and coach number for all classes except the 1 AC class. For 1 AC bookings, the seats will be allotted only when the chart is prepared. To know more about Indian Railways travel classes, click here.
Railway Reservation Quotas
The seats in Indian Railway trains are allotted under different reservation quotas, some of which are open to the general public without restrictions while others are reserved for specific groups of passengers. For instance, anyone can book tickets under the General Quota while only senior citizens/pregnant women/women who are 45+ years can reserve tickets under the Lower Berth Quota. To know more about Indian Railways reservation quotas, click here.
Auto Upgradation in Railway Reservation
Auto upgradation is a scheme that allows waitlisted passengers who have paid full fare to travel in a higher class without any extra charges. You have to opt for auto upgradation at the time of reservation and you will be upgraded to a higher class only if seats are vacant in that class. Auto upgradation is done only to one class above your original travel class. That is, if you have a waitlisted ticket for sleeper class, you will be upgraded to 3 AC. Passengers with waitlisted tickets for 3 AC or 2 AC classes will be upgraded to 2 AC and 1 AC classes, respectively.
VIKALP Scheme in Railway Reservation
VIKALP is reservation scheme where waitlisted passengers can opt for confirmed seats in alternate trains running on the same route, on the same day. This facility is subject to seat and train availability and doesn’t attract any additional charges. You can opt for VIKALP at the time of ticket reservation and mark your preferred optional trains. Your boarding point and destination point might change to a nearby station under this scheme. Once you have been allotted a seat in an alternate train, you lose the right to board your original train.
Railway Reservation for Foreigners
Foreigners and NRIs can also use the IRCTC platform to book train tickets in 2 AC, 1 AC, and Executive travel classes. The reservation process is the same as followed by Indian citizens, but foreigners and NRIs are allowed to book only under the Foreign Tourist Quota. A registration charge of ₹ 100 + GST and a service fee of ₹ 200 + GST per booking are also levied them. Payment can be done using international debit and credit cards.
Railway Reservation Rules
- For General Quota reservation, you can book 6 passengers on a ticket. For Tatkal reservation, only 4 passengers per ticket are allowed.
- IRCTC users can book only 6 tickets per ID in a month. Users who have completed the Aadhaar verification of their accounts can book 12 tickets per ID in a month.
- Reservation is allowed until the first chart is prepared, which is usually 4 hours prior to the scheduled departure of the train.
- Current reservation is allowed for some trains where you can book vacant seats after the first chart preparation.
Abbreviations Used in Railway Reservation
In railway reservation, certain abbreviations are used to indicate the status of your booking. These include:
- CNF (Confirmed): This means you have a confirmed reservation and a seat/berth has been allotted exclusively to you.
- RAC (Reservation against Cancellation): This means you have a berth, but you will be sharing it with another passenger. When passengers with confirmed reservation cancel their tickets, RAC tickets get the highest priority. If the status of your RAC ticket remains the same even after the chart preparation, you can board the train.
- GNWL (General Waitlist): This means you don’t have a confirmed berth/seat. You will be allotted a confirmed berth/seat based on cancellations. General Waitlist is the most common waitlist type and typically, passengers who board the train from the originating station or a station that is close to the originating station are included in this list. GNWL has the highest chances of confirmation.
- CKWL/TQWL (Tatkal Waitlist): This means you have booked your tickets under the Tatkal quota and you don’t have a confirmed berth/seat. During the chart preparation, GNWL is given priority over CKWL. However, CKWL tickets get confirmed directly without going through the RAC phase.
- RLWL (Remote Location Waitlist): Typically, passengers boarding from intermediate stations are included in this waitlist type. Chances of confirmation are less for RLWL as compared to GNWL.
- PQWL (Pooled Quota Waitlist): This is a kind of Waitlist that is shared by many small railways stations en route. The entire run has only one PQWL which typically operates only from the station where the train originates. PQWL tickets are issued when you are boarding and de-boarding at two intermediate stations. The chances of confirmation are relatively less for PQWL tickets.
- RSWL (Roadside Waitlist): This is a kind of waitlist typically issued to passengers who board the trains from the station of origin to a roadside station en route. The chances of confirmation are relatively less for RSWL tickets.
- RLGN (Remote Location General Waiting List): This refers to the waitlisted tickets booked by passengers under the RLWL quota. In other words, once the booking is done, RLWL becomes RLGN.
- RQWL (Request Waitlist): Tickets under this waitlist type are usually issued to passengers who travel from an intermediate station and to an intermediate station, and when their booking is not covered by any other waitlist quotas like GNWL, PQWL, etc.
- REGRET: The upper limit allowed for reservation has been reached. You will not be allowed to book tickets even on the waitlist.
Railway Reservation FAQs:
Q: Do I get any concession on railway reservation?
A: Concessions are allowed to senior citizens and also to journalists and differently-abled passengers who possess a valid ID card issued by the Indian Railways.
Q: How do I know the status of my reservation?
A: The booking status with seat and coach numbers will be on your ticket or ERS. RAC and waitlisted passengers can check PNR status to see whether they have moved up in the list and the current status of their reservation.
Q: Are there any transaction charges for online reservation?
A: Yes. For e-Tickets booked online through IRCTC, you must pay a transaction charge based on the payment method. For net banking, the fee of transaction is typically ₹ 10 + GST. You can find the complete list of transaction charges for online railway reservation here.
Q: Is auto upgradation available for all passengers and for all travel classes?
A: No. It is available only to waitlisted passengers who are traveling without any concession, including senior citizen concession. Likewise, the facility is not available for trains that only have sitting accommodation (chair car, second seating, and executive chair car).
Q: Do I have to pay the fare difference between my original train/class and the alternate train/class if I opt for VIKALP reservation?
A: No. However, if the fare of the alternate train is lesser than what you have already paid, you won’t get any refund either.
Q: Can I make reservations in the night?
A: Yes. IRCTC’s reservation facility is available in the night except from 11:45 pm to 12:20 am, every night. Reservation through counters stops at 8:00 pm on all days except on Sundays; PRS counters closes at 2 pm on Sundays.
Q: How can I ensure that I get the berth/seat of my preference?
A: Seats/berths are allotted based on the availability at the time of booking. So there’s no way to ensure that you will get the berth/seat of your choice. However, you can choose the option ‘book only if two lower berths are allotted/ book only if one lower berth is allotted’ at the time of reservation.
Q: What happens when I choose options like ‘book only if two lower berths are allotted/ book only if one lower berth is allotted/ book only if passengers are allotted seats in the same coach’ etc.?
A: You will not be allotted seats if your booking criteria are not met. The ticket fare will be debited from your account and will be refunded to you in a couple of days.