How reliable are the low cost airlines compared to the trains. Should I try and book tickets in advance and how far in advance should I do so?
Hello again Dirkie,
Haha, I'm starting to feel like a stalker. Please don't think I'm being creepy!
My most recent time in India was last February to March so things might be a little bit different now as they have been different each time I have been in India, but I will tell you what I can.
The whole train booking process is more complicated than it should be in my opinion. I'll try to some it up, but again the rules could be different now. The two most common ways to buy train tickets in India as a tourist is to either book them through a travel agent or go to the rail station and buy them yourself. Along popular tourist routes there are a certain number of seats set aside for foreign visitors. Sometimes these can still get booked up a few days before they leave, so if you want to book things yourself at the train station it is good to be a little bit flexible. In most major cities there is a separate counter for foreigners, sometimes in a different room. It's good to know which stations have this counter before going to the train station because I have often run into touts that will try to confuse you and get you to buy tickets at their travel agency instead. Of course their tickets will usually be a little bit more expensive because they will take a commission. Some people think it is worth paying a little more to buy a ticket with an agent to avoid the hassle at the station, but I am usually stubborn and want to to it myself. It's totally a matter of preference though and may depend on the situation.
Compared to all that buying a budget air ticket online is very simple! Other than a couple of delays (which could happen with any airline) I have found flying to be pretty reliable. The airports can be a little disorganized and confusing, but it's all manageable. Just give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and figure everything out. Have a physical print out of your flight itinerary. I have flown with Air India, IndiGo, and SpiceJet with few problems to report.
As far as when to buy your tickets, for the train I would recommend booking 5-7 days in advance if you can. This is not always possible, and you can usually find something available within 3 days of booking. It just depends on Indian holidays and how many people are getting tickets. For airline tickets they say the best deals are bought 6 weeks before the flight leaves as a general rule of thumb, but it is also usually pretty easy to get tickets a the last minute too; it just might be more expensive.
I hope you found this informative! If you need more specific info about different train stations or airlines, just post another question or comment below... You can also check out these websites which has some useful information:
http://wikitravel.org/en/India - Lots of good info here, you can scroll down to the "Get Around" section for more info on flights and trains.
http://wikitravel.org/en/Rail_travel_in_India - LOTS of specific info on rail info.
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/india/essential-information - This is a good source for general India travel at a glance.
http://www.seat61.com/India.htm - Includes a great "how-to" guide for buying tickets.
See you around the forum,
Generally, Flight tickets should be booked as soon as you finalize your travel dates. Airfares keep on increasing as the travel dates come closer.
Train ticket bookings open 3 months prior. However they gets booked very quickly too. If seats are available you can book it a day prior too.
Other then these for last minute bookings indian railways has reserved few seats which you can book under TATKAL quota. It opens a day prior fro the date of journey. Prices are higher than the general booking in Takal Quota.
advice: Book train tickets as early as possible. Later on, even if you have to cancel, you have to pay very less charges( around a dollor or two). Which is better than a non confirmed booking
Low cost airlines in India such as SpiceJet, Indigo etc are very reliable for domestic travel. Better than trains as it would save time. For trains, you need to book tickets at least a month is advance, and make sure to book at least 2AC seats for comfortable travel.
I can't speak to any of the details of ticket buying...but I can say that riding an Indian train is an experience that can't be matched. Being in a train station and taking the train is about as "Indian" of an experience as you can get. I highly recommend it.
Booking of train tickets starts 120 days before the departure date, you can contact some indian based travel agent like www.indijourneys.com they can help you in planning your tour
Hello Dirkie ,
Ya! its been a general question any one would think before they travel. Nevertheless, travelling is fun and easy in India.
If you have sufficient time to travel, i suggest consider the Indian railway, as the travel distance is minimum of 1 day to 1 night journey according to your destination of travel.
The fares can be divided into sleeper class and AC class. The sleeper class will not have AC and the cost will be less.
AC class will have the privacy and a bit high from the sleeper class.
Foreign travelers do not have the access to book the online tickets via irctc.co.in , however you may use it as a purpose of understanding the train nos, train timings, destination etc.
It will be a time consuming process to book from railway counters, instead you may register and try with yatra.com, cleartrip.com .
You may also try booking the flight from these websites or any other cheap websites for flights.
Booking your hotel, flight or train in advance will be recommended for a comfortable journey.
I agree with Crystal about the train booking process being a lot more inconvenient than one might think. It's kindof a hassle, and there are numerous scams running about as well.
Flights can be very reliable and affordable. (And much quicker, too). With relatively new budget airlines around such as Kingfisher and Jet that use a lot of brand new airplanes, it's worth looking into. And like others have said, if you book online the buying experience is much less painful than the trains.
Well it depends when you are booking the tickets. Mostly if you want cheap tickets you will have to book 45 days in advance sometimes you get a good rate for 30 days too.
But it is still expensive compared to the prices of the train tickets.
For example train ticket (General) for Goa from Mumbai (569 km away ) costs INR 400
but the Flight ticket (Indigo airlines) costs INR1800 if you book 30 days before and
if you are booking one day before it will be INR 4,800
So i would advice you to buy the tickets before hand, also travelling by train is safe and fun and not to mention it is budget friendly, i would rather invest a bit more on the place i am staying.