Tickets can be booked as early as 90 days before the journey date. But even when fully booked, one can still buy seats as wait-listed passengers. Waitlisted passengers can check their PNR status online, or from the ticket collector (TC) at the train station within two hours before the departure time.
Train travel immerses visitors in daily Indian life
Buying tickets in train stations can be horrendous, if not time-consuming, especially in big cities. In Kolkata, my travel companion and I attempted to book tickets to Siliguri, en route to Darjeeling, at Sealdah train station. And it was stressful to say the least, figuring out the schedule from the time tables, filling up the reservation forms and finding the right queues, while keeping watch over our belongings. We ended up taking the bus instead.
Tip – If you book your Gangtok tour packages through a reputed provider, it is fairly easy as your train tickets would be included in the deal. You don’t have to worry about booking/ rebooking or any other process of reservations.
The most convenient way is to purchase tickets from booking agents (for a commission) or online at ClearTrip. Credit card payments for wait-listed tickets that eventually did not get confirmed will be refunded (My reservations, which were waitlisted because I just made them during my trip, were all refunded).
Platform at New Jaipalguri Train Station
What happens if your waitlisted ticket doesn’t get confirmed, and you really have to get on that train? No need to worry! Approach the ticket collector (TC) or tourism assistance officer. They can help you get an “open ticket” which will get you on your desired train without reserved seating. On board, the ticket examiner can assign you a seat, or transfer you to another class, if seats are available. You’ll have to pay the corresponding price difference on top of your “open ticket”.
For more information on train travel in India, visit http://www.seat61.com/India.htm