For most citizens traveling to outstation destinations, booking a ticket can be quite an onerous task involving waiting in long queues with even longer waiting hours. Luckily tourists who wish to commence their journey from the city don’t have to suffer the same fate due to exclusive counters called ‘tourist cells’ dedicated to serving them.
Thanks to a special quota for tourists on every long distance train, it is possible for any foreigner to book tickets to the destination of their choice just a day in advance. Depending on the availability of these tickets, tourists can avail special privileges at CST’s counter No 52 or Churchgate’s counter No 28, both of which are located on the first floor of their respective buildings.
And what are the requirements to avail this service? Payments at this counter are accepted only in US dollars, Pound Sterlings or a credit card, which effectively prevents residential Indians from taking undue advantage of this privilege. Indian currency is also accepted but only after an encashment or exchange certificate issued by any nationalised bank is produced. Along with foreign currency, other details such as a passport number, tourist visa, country of origin, name, age, and gender of the individual are also mandatory.
However such tourist reservation counters are not available at all major stations like Bandra, Mumbai Central etc, since a majority of the tourists prefer to book their tickets from Churchgate or CST. “If, in case, other stations do not have any tourist reservation counters, they are directed to meet the station superintendent, the deputy superintendent, the chief reservation supervisor or the station master for further dealing as they can get tickets from those earmarked as tourist quota, emergency quota or VIP quota,” informs AD Fernandes, chief station master, Bandra Terminus.
Flanking the reservation counters are railway employees who willingly help tourists in filling the form which is printed in four languages i.e. English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati. These railway staff not just book tickets, but also help tourists in planning their journey and advise them of the best possible options available to them. For an average foreigner to get done with the booking process, it takes a mere 20 minutes. These reservation counters are also air conditioned, thus adding to the relief of the tourists while at the same time keeping railway employees cool while dealing with them.