We recently had the opportunity to travel to Jaipur, India and wanted to take the opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal with kids in Agra. Agra is a 4 and a half hour drive from Jaipur but I was determined to visit my very first 7 Modern Wonders of the World while I was there. We decided that we would make it an experience to remember so we booked seats via the IRCTC e ticket booking system. Here are our tips for booking the train in India.
After I started looking at going to India I got to the stage were I was second guessing my decision and worried that it would be too much of a culture shock for my family. At the same time a family started interacting with us on Instagram and it turned out that @Travelynnfamily, Jenny, her husband and 2 young boys were British expats living in India. Strange how people come into your life right when you need them! I had started to talk myself out of the decision as I had heard so many horror stories about travel to India. I emailed Jenny and asked a heap of questions that were concerning me and she was able to put my mind at ease.
I was soon confident that this would be a great experience for us and I was very keen to continue. This was when we decided to book the local train from Jaipur to Agra so that we could experience the Taj Mahal. No visit to India is complete without visiting the Taj Mahal so it had to be done.
You need to book your train tickets as early as possible, the seats book out quickly as train travel is very popular for the middle classes of the Indian population. The first thing you need to do is create an account on the IRCTC Website (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited). I hadn’t even left for India and I could already tell that nothing was going to be straight forward, the booking system was no different!
You will find the log in widget on the left hand side underneath the menu bar. Here you will also find the sign up link, click on this to create your account. Follow the bouncing ball and complete your personal details as requested. At the bottom it will ask you to pay a small fee to send SMS’s to your foreign cell phone. The fee is only a couple of dollars and if you don’t pay it you will be unable to go any further and will not be able to book any tickets. The SMS provided a code that then completed your registration to the online booking system.
Now you can log in and search for the route that you want to take. It registers that you are a foreign tourist and highlights that in red for easy booking. It does cost a little bit extra and it’s not enough to worry about, I’m talking an extra couple of dollars nothing more. This is also the screen that you can manage your bookings if you have more than 1. The system’s a bit clunky but be patient as it does work.
There are a number of different classes to choose from when booking the train in India. I was unsure of what would be suitable for westerners. I asked Jenny again and she said that 1A and 2A would be the best choice and comfortable enough by Indian standards. I took that on board and booked 2A as we were only 3 weeks out from our travel date and there wasn’t a lot of options left. There are much cheaper options for travelling by train in India, these are definitely not recommended for people travelling with kids. If you are travelling as a solo female, I suggest you attempt to purchase a females only carriage if you are not able to pay for the 1A or 2A.
|1A||AC First class||This is the most expensive class, where the fares are almost on par with airfare. There are eight cabins (including two coupes) in the full AC First Class coach and bedding is included with the fare.|
|2A||AC 2-tier||Air-conditioned coaches that have sleeping berths across eight bays. Berths are usually arranged in two tiers in bays of six, four across the width of the coach and two berths longways on the other side of the corridor, with curtains along the gangway or corridor. Bedding is included with the fare.|
|3A||AC 3-tier||Air-conditioned coaches with berths arranged as in 2A but with three tiers across the width and two longways as before giving eight bays of eight. They are slightly less appointed, usually no reading lights or curtained off gangways. Bedding is included with fare.|
|3E||AC 3-tier economy||Air-conditioned coaches with berths arranged as in 3A but with three tiers across the width and three longways. They are slightly less appointed, usually no reading lights or curtained off gangways. Bedding is not included with fare.|
|CC||AC Chair car||An air-conditioned seater coach with a total of five seats in a row used for day travel between cities.|
|SL||Sleeper class||The sleeper class is the most common coach in the Indian Railways with ten or more coaches of this type attached to the train. These are regular sleeping coaches with three berths across the width and two longways, without air-conditioning.|
|2S||Second Sitting||Similar to CC, without the air-conditioning.|
|UR/GEN||Unreserved/General||This is the cheapest accommodation. These coaches are usually over-crowded and seats are not guaranteed. Tickets issued are valid on any train on the same route if boarded within 24 hours of buying the ticket.|
As it turned out, only 2 of the kids fares had been confirmed by the time we had to cancel. The rest of us were on a wait list. Craig had to do a bit of searching to find out what that meant exactly. Not that it mattered but what it meant was that as the kids had two berths we could all board the the train but we would have to share them. If you download the IRCT app you are able to keep an eye on where you are on the wait list as others cancel. This isn’t too much of an issue because the confirmed seats are sleeper berths and we will be able to sit together across the bed. Luckily for us its only a 4 hour ride.
There was another train doing the same route but it was much slower nearly 6.5 hour trip, it wasn’t a sleeper train. They had seating available and if it wasn’t a longer trip I probably would have gone with that option and purchased an EC (executive class seat). That was also suggested as a viable option by Jenny, my go-to expert.
Be mindful when booking your seats/sleeper that often you will be joining the train part way into a trip. Our booking was from Jaipur to Agra, a 4 hour trip yet the entire train journey was 29 hours from start to finish. You might find people on the train that were doing the full journey.
Unfortunately I am unable to cast my opinion! We had a 13 hour flight delay from Melbourne which meant that we missed our connecting flight to Jaipur and our train ride to Agra. I was hoping to add my opinion and a few photos of us on the train here but that’s not an option so once again I called in my go-to expert for a few photos of what to expect in 2AC. Check out Jenny’s blog, TraveLynn Family, for all information on travelling with kids in India.
Here’s some photos that Jenny provided to me from their travels with the boys on trains, remember these are 2AC:
We ended up having to get a private transfer from Jaipur to Agra. All airlines experience delays and its unavoidable and not something to harp on about. Safety comes first and as a regular traveller you learn to brush this sort of thing off and get better at having a back up plan. I will post the details of our private driver soon. Send me an email if you need the details before I finish the post. While in Agra we stayed at the Four Points by Sheraton. We spent most of our time in Jaipur, Rajasthan, it’s a really lovely part of India, here’s a list of the top 5 colour themed places to visit in Rajasthan.
Have you travelled by train in India? Would love to hear your comments below.
Sal & Co