While booking train tickets in Indian Railway it is necessary to mention the class of travel. What are the travel classes available in Indian railways and which one you should choose, we will discuss here.

Let us list all the travel classes (with their code) in which individuals can do accommodation booking in Indian Railways passenger trains:

Indian Railway Travel Class Details

Travel Class NameTravel Class CodeExplanation
Anubhuti Class

EAThe best among all classes and expensive too. Super luxury with amenities like personalized pantry, LED screens, Wi-fi , and everything else you can hope for in best train coach. Only problem is that these coaches are available in very few trains of type rajdhani, shatabdi, two of India's fastest and premiere train types. Travel if you want more than a comfort and don't mind spending bit more than you normally do in train travel.
anubhuti travel class in Indian Railway inside view
AC First Class1AThe air conditioned first class provide best of comfort and privacy. Each compartment has either 2 or 4 berths (it varies from train to train) which are stacked vertically. With 4 berths 2 berths face each other. Compartment door can be locked. For security there is a door at a place from where compartments start, and that can be locked too. Passengers are provided pillows, bed sheets, blankets, towels, water bottles, and even room fresheners. It is Spacious with wider gallery than other AC classes. Bathroom and Toilets are clean. Only problem is seat allocation. You don't know if you will be allotted a seat in 2 berth compartment or 4 berth compartment (couples may not want strangers sleeping alongside). Usually railway reservation system does a good job in identifying couples and individuals and allocate seats accordingly. You can also request TTE (Travelling Ticket Examiner) to allot you seat in separate cabin.
Ac first class from inside
Executive Chair CarECFully air conditioned, nice and comfortable, similar to business class in an Airline. 4 seats are arranged in a row with 2 seats each side and gallery in between. There are well maintained coaches with nice room to spread your legs, clean toilets, no big crowd. Good quality food is served. Only problem is that this travel class is available in Shatabdi, Double Decker, and Tejas express trains (India's premier train) only. Given the fare you will definitely scratch your head and think wouldn't it have been better had I spent bit more money and took a flight?
Executive chair car in Shatabdi express
AC 2 Tier2AA toned down version of AC first class discussed above. There are no doors, but still railway has provided curtains to respect your privacy. Pillows, blankets etc are provided. It is quiet because of limited number of passengers traveling. Shower cubicle and bathrooms are kept clean by railway staff. It is good for long journey where you want quietness and not many people disturbing you.
AC 2 tier Indian Railways
First ClassFCThe coaches are not air conditioned. Once these were at the top of the pile when it comes to comfort travelling in trains in India. Barely available for booking, these coaches have 4 seat coupes, with doors, and a gallery aside. It will be better for you to travel in 3A class (discussed below) rather than these.
First class non ac coach of Indian Railway
AC 3 Tier3AAir conditioned compartments having 8 seats. 6 seats on one side, and 2 on other side of gallery. 3-3 seats are stacked up vertically, and 2 seats one at bottom and other at top on other side. Among 3 seats middle one is required to be folded down during day time (decided by passengers themselves in compartment). This is because once middle berth is opened up, it is almost impossible to sit straight comfortably at the bottom seat. There is heavy rush in these compartments due to lesser fare compared to other AC classes. Gallery is narrower, and two seats aside also are less wider and less lengthier than other 6 seats at other side. So select seats at the side while booking tickets only if you are an adult of average height and aren't too wide. These two seats are good for kids. Given the greater number of passengers choosing this travel class, getting confirmed seats is a problem. Other problem is toilets are occupied at most times. While both western and Indian type toilets are attached at two ends of coach, cleanliness cannot be guaranteed. There is no door and no curtains. Because of this security of luggage can be a problem. However, attendants and railway police do keep an eye to ensure thieves are kept away. Usually people can be seen forming groups and laughing and talking around to pass the journey time. Not quiet at all. Bedding is provided to the passengers, who are known to steal it away as well.
AC 3 tier coach Indian Railway inside view
Ac 3 Economy3ESimilar to AC 3 tier class, this is more economical since no bedding is provided by default. You can however opt for bedding by paying extra charges at the time of booking train ticket. Only Garib Rath Express and Duronto Express train has coaches with 3E compartments.
AC 3 economy class of travel in train in India
AC Chair CarCCAir conditioned coaches with 5 seats arranged in arrow. 3 on one side of galley and other 2 at other side. Good for day time travel, this travel class was especially introduced for intercity trains. No food is provided, but can be made available on demand like in Double Decker trains.No separate compartments.
AC chair car Indian Railways
SleeperSLPerhaps the most widely used travel class in India. In train in India, you will find more coaches of Sleeper class than any other travelling class. There are non air conditioned coaches, having 8 seats. Arrangement is similar to what discussed in AC 3 tier class above. Big rush, very insecure. You need to keep hang of your luggage and belongings. There is no attendant. Also toilets usually found to be dirty. Most people prefer to travel in 3A rather than in Sleeper. Only when seat availability in 3A runs out do people opt to travel in sleeper. There isn't much difference in fare between sleeper and AC 3 tier. In fact fare difference between 2A and 3A is much higher. But if you want to do research on India, you must travel once in these coaches. You will have amazing experiences.
Sleeper class Indian Railways
Second Sitting2SNon AC version of CC (AC chair car).Again good for short distance journey especially in winters where you don't really need coolness of AC. The fans on the roof do a good job. Sometimes these get stuck. People use pens to give them a push. This class is preferred mostly by people doing up-down journey for jobs. Since there is lack of ticket checking staff in Indian railway, and these compartments don't have attendants as well, you will find people without reservation occupying seats. This causes some fighting too sometimes.
second sitting Indian Railway 2s
Unreserved ClassUR/GenNo reservation is required. One who gets on the train first will occupy the seat. There is mad rush in front of these coaches as soon as train arrived at the station, this is because this is the cheapest travel class you will find in a train to travel in India. Mostly poor, who can't afford air conditioned luxury, and their main purpose is just to reach their destination travel in this class. It is also the most insecure and most uncomfortable travel class. Not recommended at all if you are foreigner touring India. Even windows can be opened up easily in these coaches which makes you vulnerable to outsiders snatching your purse or chain and running away. While there no reservation in to travel in this class, you can book tickets online using unreserved ticketing system or UTS app.
general class Indian Railways
SaloonSaloonIR (Indian Railways) The coaches are like hotel rooms having a a master bedroom, one normal bedroom, one kitchen and window trailing. Up to six extra beds are given to accommodate more people. Jammu Mail train is perhaps the first Indian train to have this travel class. Indian Railway is working on revamping saloons used by kings and queens during their journeys in past. Plan is to operate these coaches on charter basis. To travel in this class you will have to go to irctc tourism website irctctourism.com.
Saloons of Indian Railways
Vistadome-Not applicable-These coaches having glass roof can be found in heritage trains of India. Most popular trains having this type of accommodation available are Araku Valley, Konkan railway, Kalka-Shimla Railway, Kashmir Valley, Kangra Valley and Neral-Matheran trains. Fare is similar to that of EC class. Railway is also has planning to attach these coaches to Nilgiri mountain railway.
vistadome coaches in train In Indian railway

Which Class/Berth You should Book

The travel class you choose depends upon many things, like availability of seats, comfort, journey distance etc.

But we have some recommendations for you:

  1. For long distance journey, which includes travel during night as well, go for 2A or 1A class over 3A or Sleeper. Recommended for family travel.
  2. For day journey go for CC (Air Conditioned Chair Car) cabin. Those who can spend more can book seats in EC class if available.
  3. While travelling in 3 tier classes ( AC and NON AC)  opt for upper berth always. Booking upper berth in 3 tier coach has few advantages over booking lower berth. There is more availability (since few people choose it), your belongings is much safer (as thieves usually run away with things lying at bottom), less disturbance, you can also go and sleep during day time. 
  4. If you are going to spend most of journey during night time, than go for middle seat in 3 tier coach. It is easier to climb up and get down. And you get advantages mentioned in point 3 above. Avoid it during day time.
  5. In Chair Cars try to reserve seat near gallery, rather than near window, unless you like a window seat. It will be easier for you to access toilets, and when your station is about to arrive you will find it easier to maneuver with your luggage through the crowd.
  6. In general compartment or unreserved coaches, again look for upper berth during night time. Also don't sleep with your head towards window for two reasons. First if window is open someone may snatch away your valuables. Secondly, train wheels are on window side which will make sounds and you won't be able to sleep properly. But in such compartments you have to be always in alert mode. 
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