Is it possible these days to book Indian buses and trains in advance without an Indian phone number? When I look online, all sites and apps require an Indian phone number, which as a non-Indian, I do not have. I’d like to book in advance because of possible limited availability. There used to be work arounds involving spoofed SIMs, but I understand those loopholes have closed.
To book online in IRCTC, you can use a foreign mobile number. It can cost a bit more, but works. You will also get a special Quota for foreigners, so higher chances of booking confirmation on busy routes.
For Bus, Redbus is most popular application. It should accept a foreign mobile number.
By the way, you can take an Indian SIM by providing your passport as ID proof from any mobile service provider official shop.
I haven't bought Indian train tickets for a while, but previously when the IRCTC asks for the verification number then you can email them personally explaining the situation, attach a scanned passport image and they'll activate the account for you without an Indian phone number
However AFAIK in the recent years when signing up for a new account you're allowed to enter your foreign phone number and verify after paying a small fee. Don't check on Login & Booking with OTP but select "Make Payment" and proceed to the next step. After that click on “Verify Mobile with OTP” to have the OTP sent to your real phone number, then click “Verify Email Id with OTP” to get them verify the email address
This popup happens when there is no tickets availabile in the train or the train tickets are waiting list, as of our booking time. The popup will show 2 options, either you can click "Continue with Previous Booking" or else check the availability of alternate trains on the route which will be shown on the down side of the popup window. Then the page will return to the Passenger details page.