Train stopping in a station

What Every Tourist Ought to Know about Transportation in India – Trains (Part 1)

Transportation in India: Getting on the Trains

A mini-train in Darjeeling

The Himalayan “toy train” in Darjeeling, West Bengal

Traveling by train is definitely the best method of transportation in India and an experience in itself. From arriving to the platform, finding your train and then your carriage, delays here and there and you’ve guessed it you haven’t even started your journey. Rail journeys always provide maximum entertainment for the tourist in India. There is always someone who wants to chat with you, people who offer you their home cooked food, plenty of interesting stops on the way and endless scenery that you would never get to enjoy if you traveled by air. The rail network is extensive and you can quite easily travel all corners of India by train. Don’t forget that over 17 million passengers travel by Indian rail on a daily basis. There are a few tips and tricks that you ought to know before booking a ticket. These tips are based on my experiences having travelled all over India on trains. So good luck and get booking:

Booking Tickets

A reservation is required for travelling by train. Bookings for long distance journeys open 90 days in advance.  There are a number of ways you can book tickets but buying online is pretty easy. If you have a route planned then it is a good idea to book in advance because certain routes do get busy. The following sites allow you to purchase online with credit card:

https://www.irctc.co.in/

http://www.cleartrip.com/trains

http://www.makemytrip.com/railways/

http://www.yatra.com/trains.html

However, no need to worry if you do not have train tickets for your next destination you can always buy tickets at train stations around India and many of the busy train lines have a tourist quota. This means that trains that are often fully booked have some seats reserved for tourists which are often available a day or two prior to the journey.

Large train stations such as those in Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Jaipur, Kolkata and Varanasi all have an internal international tourist bureau where you can go to book your tickets. Often touts will stand outside the station telling you the bureau is closed. Ignore them and make your way to the desk and if you cannot find it ask someone who is an official worker in the train station.

The seven classes on Indian trains

Seven classes sounds a lot but there is an option for everyone’s budget (not all the following classes can be found on every train journey). So here goes:

Air conditioned 1st Class (1AC)

2 and 4 berth compartments with bedding, carpeting, locking doors and meals. Only found on some long distance journeys and costs twice as much as 2AC

Air conditioned 2 tier (2AC)

Open plan berths of 2 tiers arranged in groups of 4 and 2. Curtains separate the compartments and bedding is provided. 2AC is found on most long distance train journeys

Air conditioned 3 tier (3AC)

Open plan of 3 tiers arranged in groups of 6. Has less privacy and more crowded than 2AC

AC executive chair

Comfortable, reclining chairs found only on certain journeys such as the Shatabdi Express trains

AC chair

Like the AC executive chair carriage but with less fancy seating. A good option when travelling in the daytime

Sleeper class

The most popular long distance carriage option for the Indian population. Open plan made up of 3 tiers arranged in groups of 6. There is no AC just fans and windows that open.  Bedding is not provided and can get quite noisy, is basic and crowded

Unreserved 2nd class

Made up of wooden or plastic seats if you are lucky enough to grab one.  Carriages are overcrowded and is definitely not recommended for long distance journeys

Train is the most popular method of transportation in India

On the platform, Image from the Daily Telegraph

 

Now we understand how to travel on an Indian train, let’s jump on one and check out Part 2

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Trains: The railway station of Madurai is a 10 minute walk from the temple complex and the hotels. Trains leave  north to the mountains (like Coimbatore, etc.) south to the cities in the tip of India, west to the state of Kerala (Trivandrum, Cochin etc.) and to the east towards the cities of Tamil Nadu (Chennai, Pondicherry etc.). […]

  2. […] Trains: The railway station of Madurai is a 10 minute walk from the temple complex and the hotels. Trains leave  north to the mountains (like Coimbatore, etc.) south to the cities in the tip of India, west to the state of Kerala (Trivandrum, Cochin etc.) and to the east towards the cities of Tamil Nadu (Chennai, Pondicherry etc.). […]

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