Train Journey Guide

Transportation

Steps to booking your ticket:

1. Find your departure station and click on the track beside the station, take note of the route numbers.

2. Find your arrival station and click on the track beside the station, compare route numbers.

3. Check the common routes numbers for your train that you fits your schedule.

4. Use the search engine and check the availability for your required date.

5. Book your ticket with an agent, online or at the tourist booking office.

Indian Railways Interactive Map

Down load your own copy of the Trains at a Glance PDF

How to pick a train and understand the schedule

Thanks to the useful search engine we don't need to use the Trains at a Glance method. But you may want to look over the schedule in print or on your laptop. You can look up any station and connect it with your destination and come up with a number of different trains going that route. You can compare each trains schedule, things to take note of:

1) Departure time. Guest houses check out time is usually 12:00 noon but maybe as early as 8am . If your train leaves later in the day ask the manager if he'll give you a 'half day charge', this is usually until 6:00pm but they may require you to pay for another day or leave your pack behind the reception and wander about until your train. I like departures in morning so i arrive before dark and can find a room easier. But you can pick you own preference depending on your schedule.

2) Time the journey takes. Some trains vary greatly in overall speed not to mention comfort. Express and special trains are the fastest. I always check them first:

The RAJDHANI EXPRESS - India's superfast, fully air conditioned, deluxe trains give you the unique opportunity of experiencing Indian Railways at its' best. Complimentary snacks and tea are offered after the trains begin its' journey, follow by meals, all included in the ticket fare. Indian and continental cuisine, soft music as the trains rhythmic movements lulles you to sleep on your generous sleeper berth. The Rajdhani trains link New Delhi to India's major cities.

Superfast, Intercity trains known as the SHATABDI EXPRESS links major cities and offer facilities for quick and comfortable travel. While you relax, the Shatabdi hospitality treats you to meals and snacks. Before you are through, your destination has arrived. These train are all Chair Car (CC) not sleepers. Two or three carriages are AC Chair cars and cost three times the price

also Special tourist trains!

3) Arrival time. Personally I avoid arriving in the middle of the night, 1-4am.  Not to worry though your rickshaw driver can help you wake the night manager and find you a room if you do. In this case it would be better to call ahead to the guest house.

4) Day of departure or arrival. Some trains only run certain days of the week. Keep in mind the day of departure may not be the same day it arrives to your station. The train leaves Delhi on Mondays, but leaves arrives in Kota on Tuesdays.

Booking your ticket in India and outside of India

Tourist don't need to book in advance as much as they think. For example Delhi to Agra or Delhi to Jaipur or Delhi to Ajmer/Pushkar there are so many train along this major route that getting a seat will not be a problem same day. Often people will book well advance only to have to change or rebook their tickets, costing more money using more time.xxx

My advice: Wait till your in India to book your ticket. 1-3 Days in advance is usually sufficient. However on busy routes and on busy times of the year (such as Divali, Christmas and other festivals) the train can be completely book for weeks in advance so you must book in advance. Don't worry there is always another way in India and there are a plethora of trains to mix and match. There are some Tourist Quotas available, these are reserved seats for foreigners.

 

I remember on time arriving in Mumbai airport at around 4:00am on a Friday. It was early December and the first day of school holidays, and all the trains to Goa would be booked. So i was told and told all the way to Dadar station i was told again (good luck) with the 5:45 express to Goa. Well guess what, i went to the station manager and asked about the Tourist quota, sure enough I had a seat. Goes to show Tourist quotas are an important feature for tourist to take advantage of. No all trains have tourist quota unfortunately.

 

TIP: Agents are in every tourist location can book your ticket for 50-150Rs. service fee. This will save you the hassle of going to the train station.

In major cities (such as Delhi or Mumbai) they have are International railway tourist offices that are excellent and easy to book tickets at. Also you need to go in person to book the tourist quotas.

Booking should be straight forward the Indian railways site, if that doesn't work clear trip is even simpler. Both services charge a service fee however.


If my train is book up what else can i do?

You can split the route up and take the day sleeper train. You can sit in the sleeper berth during the day and get out in the evening and spend the night in that town. Next day catch another train for the days hours. So the point is that there are many different trains if you are flexible you can always find an alternate route. Or take the bus, or better fly!

W/L 140 what does that mean?

Often if booking at the last minute or on a quota you will get WAIT LIST SEAT. Every train in India is mandated a number of reserved seats for military and government official who need to travel at the last minute. All these seat become available in the hour before departure. So even if you are 50 or 140 on the wait list you are likely to get a berth. The Indian Railways can actually add a whole carriage to the train if there is enough demand.
 
When you have W/L ticket and arrive to your train check the notice on the train. Your W/L seat may have already been allocated. Otherwise find the Ticket collector (aka the man in Black and a clip board) Show him your ticket and he will direct you to your berth. FYI: I've never had a W/L ticket and not gotten a seat.

Which class to book?

Budget travelers will probably want the regular 2nd sleeper class. The 3-AC is the next class up and is roughly 3x the price, but certainly worth it.

Class PRO
CON
Recommend?
2/3rd dirt cheap
dirt no
2nd Sleeper
Interesting cultural experiences, cheap
Noisy, Less security, dirty, smog from train, hot. mosquito
yes
1st Sleeper
Cheaper than AC, quiet, privacy you can lock the door of the berth expensive Yes, you don't see them too often anymore

3-AC,

2-AC,

1-AC

AC, clean and almost no smog, cool, more security, cool at night, less mosquito
Expensive, close to the price of flying! Crowded yes, also for solo females
Rajdhani Express
Very nice train and service, fast! doesn't stop at many stations uber expensive

Why  not?

Shatabdi Fast, chair cars only used for shorter day journeys AC or non AC. Can booked last minute These have chairs only, if your tired you may prefer a sleeper
yes, highly

What about last minute?

Often you can just jump on, but don't do it with out a platform ticket. Really this is serious offence boarding a train in India without any ticket. So, at the very least you need a platform ticket, which means you are allow to be on the platform at all. The next thing is to have a regular ticket from A-B, that station to your destination. But the regular ticket is not a sleeper class. Actually you can travel during the day all over India and then just get off around 7:00pm before they break open the sleepers. But you still pay the sleeper class premium to the Ticket Collector.
 

There is still a fee(fine) for not having a ticket. The thing to do (and i have done this many many times) is you meet the train and look for the TC (man in black) find this guy and ask him for a sleeper berth or AC chair and he will check his chart and say yes or no, usually yes and tell you go on to say C4 carriage and wait. Then after some time, the train will have departed, he will find you and issue a new ticket and receipt, this will end up costing more than booking advance but who cares it's convenient.

 

Study the train map on the top of the page. There are all sort of different ways to get from A-Z in India if you don't mind stopping over night can be interesting and very flexible, is how i like to travel on the train.

Surviving the journey: a good thing to do is make friends with a group of people in your berth or carriage.  They will make they journey go by with conversations and also act as watch dogs over your luggage.


Which Berth to book?

The best spot is on top bunk of the 3rd tier. If the train is not busy you can usually change seats around to a different carriage to find a quiet spot. I noticed this once the train car was filled up and I was stuck with five Loud Larry's playing cards below me.  After a meal of crow, I went for a walk and discovered that the next two carriages were almost completely empty!
 
So you go back and grab your backpack and migrate seats. You might leave your luggage at your original berth, but mention it your fellow berth mates, or they may send your backpack to the bomb squad  You should consult with the TC in the likely event that the seats are reserved at the future station or you'll have some sulky desi pointing a finger at you.

What about security and the luggage?

There is a chain link provided bellow the seat that you can use with your own lock  or lock and chain to secure your luggage. But I never use it.  If you are in a regular class sleeper you can push your backpack under the seat, jamming it in there, that will make it will hard for someone to get out and run away with.

Ask everyone in the berth which station they are getting off on, so you know if they are going to leave in the middle of the night. Make friends with your berth mates and they will be good watch dogs. 

 
Not too good friends however: Never eat any sweets of food from strangers. Drugging of tourist has become more common.

AC coaches are better for security because they are patrolled by the ticket conductors. The carriage doors are locked at night. So the security is much better on these AC carriages.

I love sleeping on the Indian trains!

Nothing like a great train journey, waking up to the sound of the chai man sipping tea over foggy hills in the cold smelly peanut soaked floor you may find my chappals. In case you on don't feel like sleeping on a swaying carriage you can avoid it and the tired feeling of train-lag but you can avoid it.

There is something called 'Break Journey' that only after 500km you can get off the train for a maximum of two days to 'rest.' This must be done at the time of booking and your ticket will be endorsed by the station master. So you get a two tickets for the price of one but only two days to stop, which is not bad. Does not apply to special trains. Could be used say Delhi to Mumbai with a stop in Kota (bundi.)  Longer journeys of 800 get two stop overs!

 

You might also look in to Circular Tickets but these have to follow a particular route that probably won't suit anyone except a train conductor.

Sleeper class is booked up solid. But only at night! These means during the day you can pay the premium fare of sleeper class just to sit there. The beds are not made up until 7:00pm when you will have to stand (or get down.) You can check the map and plan to stay in a small town along the way. They should be another train coming tomorrow and you probably find a interesting town somewhere. You will have to search for the day trains,

Having said that sleeper trains in India is not that bad, quiet fun and an experience in it self that one should not miss.


Indra Rail pass?

You have to travel a lot on the train to get any value out of this. Over all I would  not recommend the Indra rail pass right now.


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Comments   

 
0 # James 2010-05-29 12:42
Bravo! An excellent guide and the best map i've seen of the Indian railways!
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