Navigating India railways

India gives the impression of being a tech savvy country, but you wouldn’t know it if you used the India Rail web site. Given that it represents a huge government organisation it is definitely one of the most difficult sites to use; it has too many ads (since when does a government business site have google ads?), parts of it don’t work, parts of it are confusing, parts of it are pointless…it sucks.

I spent about 8 hours trying to book some train tickets, constantly hitting a wall “foreign cards not accepted” with any card I tried. Doing some research I found 12go who will book for you, but R500 ($10) worth of tickets cost an additional R800 ($16) booking fee.

India’s railways carry 23 million people per day

Then I remembered cleartrip who I have used successfully in the past but they took money without delivering a ticket. I have previously had refunds from them so am not worried, but it was frustrating trying to get it to work.

There had to be a way around this and a few sites had mentioned that IRCTC now takes Atom payments which work with foreign cards.

This is what the payment screen looks like – errr…well, I would show you a screenshot but…

which proves my point.

So if you do manage to connect and choose your India train trip and want to pay with a foreign card, there is a way to do it. I am posting this as a test blog post and also so that people wanting to buy India rail tickets with foreign international cards don’t have as hard a time figuring it out.

Once you get to the review trip page, instead of choosing Debit Card with PIN – which seems the most obvious, choose Multiple Payment Service – here’s a screenshot I prepared earlier.

India Rail payment page

No, I have no idea what they would hide it in there except T.I.I. (This Is India). Once in there the International Cards using Atom payment thingy is obvious

IRCTS Atom payment for foreign cards

Obviously your results may vary, but the first ticket literally took me most of a day – but it is best to not get too frustrated or you won’t survive being in India. Once I discovered the Multiple Payment Service, 4 more tickets took about 30 minutes.

I have downloaded the tickets to show the officious conductors, all I need now is for them to show up in my list of purchased tickets on the IRCTC site…sigh…

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