After trying unsuccessfully for a couple of hours to book a train ticket online, I finally decided to head down to the New Delhi station to do it in person. Not the Tourist Bureau, as I’m not on a Tourist Visa.
No, I went to the regular booking counter where incredible crowds of locals come to book their tickets. That took another two hours! And the Ladies’ Queue was pretty short compared to the others, most of which had more than 30 people in them. There was a Danish tourist in line behind me who said that the lines at the Tourist Bureau were much, much longer! And she also came there partly because she wanted to experience how the aam aadmi (common person) does it.
So what should I have done instead?
Of course, there are travel agents, but most of the ones around the station seem to be set up to scam unsuspecting tourists and I hate dealing with people like that. There are, of course, plenty of honest travel agents around, but I doubt that many of them are located right around the station. One giveaway is the misleading signs meant to convince people that they are official government offices, which of course they aren’t. That said, an extremely impatient friend recently went to one of these agents to get his ticket and ended up paying several hundred rupees more than he should have. But it was worth it to him not to have to stand in a line. Not for me, though.
A much better solution would have been to go to one of the smaller booking centers such as the one in Sarojini Nagar, which has much, much shorter queues. I’ve never had a really long wait in Sarojini Nagar, so the time spent getting there would have been well worth the trouble.
However, even going at 8AM would have meant much shorter queues and would have been a much better move than going at midday. Even if you go to the Tourist Bureau for your ticket, try to go before 9 or 10AM. It’s worth getting up early so you don’t waste half the day there.
Tip: if you are a woman, you can often go to the head of the queue even if there is no Ladies’ Queue (but this varies from place to place). Older travelers should make a beeline for the Senior Citizen’s queue. A senior citizen is defined as 58 for women and 60 for men. Men get a 40% discount while women get 50%!

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