This was a nightmare for my friend Irfa and I. Yes, we did our research, we read guidebooks and articles online. The thing is, everything was so confusing and there are a lot to digest! We can’t possibly remember every single detail. Back in Singapore, we even tried to book the first train…to no avail. Too frustrating.
When we were in India, we remembered nothing we read! So this post will highlight our experiences – the pros and cons of buying them online and at the counter.
Buying Tickets Online
Pros: You don’t need to squeeze and queue (if there’s any in the first place, they just don’t queue). You get instant results, after rounds of clicks. There is also no language barrier. Tickets are definitely cheaper; you are booking as a local would.
Cons: You need to have an Indian number. Seat61.com has a way of doing it, but when you’re travelling and/or pressed for time, you won’t remember all the 8 steps! Luckily, our friend Shailja was there to help us. Even for a local, she has difficulties booking! I’m not talking about technical error, it’s just the whole system. It was frustrating, I swear. You have to make reservations, weeks or even months in advance, and because Shailja is a local, there’s a quota. What a system. Sometimes, the departure time is not confirmed (look at our ticket below), so you have to check again by entering the PNR code.
Buying Tickets at the Counter
Pros: You are entitled for the Foreign Tourist quota which is not available online. You can also clarify any doubts.
Cons: Tickets are more expensive. You might not understand their accent well and the noisy ambience doesn’t help either. Even the locals queue (more like…crowding) in the tourist lane! You just have to elbow your way through. If you’re a difficult traveller who requires certain standards, you might not get the class you want and that means you have to wait, not minutes or hours, but days, I heard. The form-filling sucks. This was what happened to us:
The man at the counter asked for our form. We knew nothing about it! He handed us the forms and to my horror, it asks for the train, timing, etc. “How do we get these info?” we asked. The man at the counter replied, “There,” pointing to a board which looks like it survived the first World War. What. The. Hell. We left the queue (yes, after all that queueing!) and looked for a spot to fill that pathetic piece of paper. I approached a local man in the queue, who was accompanying a white woman (American, if I remember correctly), thinking that he is friendly to visitors. He dismissed us with a smirk. What a prick! That holiday romance won’t last long, you jerk. She will leave you soon! Thanks for not helping! We approached someone else and he said to just fill in our particulars. Yup, that was all they wanted. When we got to the counter again, we asked for the train and preferred timing. Easier that way, since the screen is in front of them. Oh, and their PC looks like a brick, which works, slowly but surely.
After experiencing these, we got smarter. As soon as we arrived at our destination, we booked for the next train. That is, if you know when you’re leaving the current place and moving on to the next. Would we do this again? Hell yeah, baby!