Lonely Planet Writer

India says goodbye to the IndRail pass for foreign visitors

Travelling by train is a quintessential experience in India. Now that experience is about to get a bit more complicated for foreign travellers who’ve previously enjoyed the flexibility of an IndRail pass.

The IndRail pass took some of the chaos out of travelling by rail. Photo by Tuul & Bruno Morandi

The IndRail pass will be discontinued later this year according to UK agency SD Enterprises which helps passengers book their Indian rail itineraries. The pass was seen as a godsend by some travellers as it allowed people unlimited train travel in their chosen period of time. Instead of pre-booking online or having to arrive at the station early, passengers simply showed up to hop on the train to their chosen destination.

While the pass didn’t necessarily save visitors money from booking direct point-to-point travel, it did allow for a degree of freedom in their travels. Now passengers can either pre-book online or queue at the railway station early to take advantage of the Foreign Tourist Quota available on Indian trains.

Rail travel is still one of the best ways to see India. Photo by Amar Grover

Train website Seat61.com said it was “a quite incredible decision, given the difficulty of booking Indian train tickets”. The online booking system can be quite long, with plenty of steps, and some customers have complained about difficulties validating their payment card or contact number.

However foreign tourists do get some advantages while booking rail travel. Perhaps in preparation of the axing of the rail pass, an announcement in July confirmed that foreign travellers can book their seat up to a year in advance online while India nationals can only do so 120 days in advance.

With the discontinuation of the IndRail pass, visitors seem to have two options; either plan their itinerary ahead of schedule or leave extra time on their trip to get their rail tickets.