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Tatkal booking, an emergency train ticket booking system in India, is a much needed service for those who are travelling on emergency situations. Indian railways allow booking of Tatkal tickets 2 days before the travelling date. Tickets can be booked from the reservation centers spread across the country and also from the Indian railways website (IRCTC), which is one of the most widely used online service from Indian Govt.

Getting one such Tatkal ticket is really a tough nut to crack. If you got to get tickets from the reservation centers, you got to be there standing at the queue from 3:30 A.M. before the travel agents do. Booking Tatkal tickets online is still worse, you might never be able to login during the time Tatkal booking opens (8 A.M. in the morning). Its tough to fool the validation layer of this service as well. I too had many failure and successful attempts in booking Tatkal tickets. From my experience, here are some quick tips to increase your chances:

1. Log on to the website well in advance. Tatkal booking starts at 8 A.M. The server will be loaded around 7:45 A.M itself. Its better to log on to the site around 7:30 A.M. Now, you need to maintain your session alive till 8 A.M. for you to book tickets. To do that, you can make use of my GreaseMonkey script, which refreshes the page every 2 mins (Check out Update-1). There are other sophisticated solutions for keeping the session alive like this Firefox plug-in. But, the script I have written is simple and it works well.

2. Keep your information ready. Make yourself ready with all the information needed for booking the ticket. Train number, Train name, boarding station code, destination station code and also the debit / credit card details.

3. Use Quick booking form. IRCTC added the quick booking feature few months back. This feature takes the information about the trip on a single form when compared to the normal booking which spans across multiple pages.

4. Auto-complete input form. All the modern day browsers include Auto-complete feature – Auto completing the form fields based on the previously entered values. Do a dummy transaction before the Tatkal booking opens. That way, you can save some valuable time by auto-completing the form fields during the actual booking.

5. Use the faster payment gateway. Many times, the transaction fails during the payment process. Whenever you make any transaction, the service will transfer to the banking site and then back to the IRCTC page. Avoid gateways which takes you through more than 2 pages in the name of security. Some of the banking sites use virtual keyword for security PIN to safeguard from any key tappers. Prefer not to use them as it will take more time than typing the PIN. Of course, we are relaxing on security here.

Plan your travel well in advance and let those who are really in need of Tatkal tickets get them.

Update: IRCTC has released its beta site today (23-Jan-2010). Check it out here.

Update-1: IRCTC site is killing the session on refreshing the page. Hence, the above script has stopped working. I have updated the script to hit the ‘Quick Book’ link every minute and keep the session alive

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