Train travel in India can be an exciting experience and a fascinating insight into local life; from taking in the flurry of activity at the stations, to the scenic countryside views onboard and the opportunity to get chatting with other passengers.
Whilst we recommend connecting the majority of the dots on your Rajasthan tour by private car and driver (as it’s the fastest and more comfortable means of getting around in most cases), peppering in a train journey or two can make a refreshing change of pace. Naturally, our guests would often like to know a little more about what train travel in India is really like before they commit to including it in their itinerary. For that reason, we have prepared this guide of our most frequently asked questions on train travel in India:
Where in my itinerary can I best include a train journey?
The most popular way of including a train journey in our itineraries would be from Bharatpur to Sawai Madhopur (aka Ranthambhore) or vice versa, as a means of connecting the dots from Agra. Bharatpur station is about an hour and a half’s drive away from Agra and that short journey is nicely broken up with a visit to Fatehpur Sikri en-route.
A typical day with this journey in mind would start with a sunrise visit to the Taj Mahal followed by a tour of Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri after breakfast, a late lunch in Bharatpur, and then the short journey onboard the Kota Janshatabdi to Sawai Madhopur which departs at 15:48 and arrives at 18:02.
If you’re not visiting Ranthambhore National Park, another great way of including a train journey on your trip to India is from Delhi to Agra. The Gatimaan Express departs in the morning at 08:10 and arrives in Agra a short while later at 09:50. If staying centrally in Delhi near the station this is more efficient than driving, though for guests staying on the outskirts near the airport it would be faster to drive. Another lovely opportunity to experience train travel in India is on the old narrow gauge railway in rural Rajasthan; a night or two at Dev Shree makes a great base from which to do this.
Would Indian Excursions help me board the train and disembark? Does anyone go with us on the train?
An Indian Excursions representative would accompany you from your hotel to the train station and assist you in locating your platform, train and assigned seats. At the other end, another member of our team would be waiting to greet you directly outside of your platform, holding a sign of your name.
On request and at an additional cost, a representative can be arranged to accompany you onboard throughout the journey.
How will I know how to get off the train?
This part is slightly tricky, as unfortunately, Indian trains do not announce the next station. However, your itinerary would include a list of the stops en-route and their scheduled times. Members of staff or other passengers onboard can assist you if asked. We’re also just a quick call away on the complimentary local phone we provide for the duration of your stay.
Are there toilet facilities onboard?
Yes. They’re not as clean or comfortable as those you’d find at your hotel, though they do the job when needed.
Do you recommend overnight train travel in India?
No. We feel that a shorter journey of three hours or so would be more comfortable given the facilities onboard. With overnight journeys you would not get a good night’s sleep; the bunkers are fairly basic and you’d be awoken through the night by passengers getting on and off at stations on the way. There are no shower facilities and lastly, overnight trains tend to depart awkwardly late and/or arrive very early, well before the standard check-in time at most hotels.
Will food be served on the train?
Some but not all trains have a meal service included in the ticket. Others sell snacks and beverages onboard, such as tea, coffee and cookies (you’ll most certainly hear “Chai, chai, chai garram….!” (“tea, tea, hot tea…!) being hollered through the coach by sellers). Alcohol is prohibited.
If your train journey overlaps with a meal time, we would generally recommend our representative assist you in arranging a packed meal beforehand from your hotel to carry and enjoy onboard.
Are trains in India on time?
Generally, yes, though winter fog that affects the month of December and January can cause delays. Indian Excursions would be tracking your train’s status on the day and keep you informed. Should there be a significant delay we would offer the choice of driving instead.
What about my luggage? Is it safe during train travel in India?
Yes, it is safe to carry luggage on Indian trains though it would be recommended to exercise the same caution as you would anywhere else in the world by keeping an eye on your belongings. In most cases however your driver would be heading to your next destination by road and can safely deliver your luggage to your hotel a few hours after you arrive. It is always our priority to allocate the same car and driver throughout your stay to the extent possible, which not only allows our guests to gain a sense of familiarity with their driver but is also more cost-efficient as it avoids empty legs. Where your “main” driver is heading to your next destination, a second driver local to your destination would be arranged for your station transfer on arrival.
Are seats reserved?
Yes, you would be allocated a particular seat, though note that it is not possible to select a seat of choice as this is assigned by Indian Rail at the time of booking your ticket.
What classes are available on trains in India?
There are many different classes available on trains in India and these can be somewhat confusing! For this guide we’ll focus only on those we recommend comfortable for guests of Indian Excursions; Air-Conditioned Chair Car (CC), Executive Air-Conditioned Chair Car (EC), First Class Air-Conditioned (1AC) and Two Tier Air-Conditioned Chair Car (2AC).
- Air-Conditioned Chair Car (CC): Commonly found on day trains rather than overnighters, Air-Conditioned Chair Car is exactly as it sounds; rows of assigned seats in an air-conditioned carriage. Padded seats are aligned in rows of three and two, some with tables. This is the highest class of coach available in the Kota Janshatabdi from Bharatpur to Sawai Madhopur (Ranthambhore) and is regularly frequented by guests of Indian Excursions.
- Executive Air-Conditioned Chair Car (EC): Similar to Air-Conditioned Chair Car but a small step above, this class of coach is available on the Gatimaan Express from Delhi to Agra. Like Air-Conditioned Chair Car, this coach offers padded seats in an air-conditioned carriage. Food is served onboard in proper crockery and cutlery (though we’d recommend we pack your breakfast from the hotel to carry onboard instead).
- First Class Air-Conditioned (1AC): First Class Air-Conditioned, known as 1AC, is found on journeys of a longer duration. Compartments offer either two or four beds as well as carpet and a lockable door. During the day, the upper beds are usually folded down to allow passengers to sit on the lower. This class of coach is found on the Golden Temple from Sawai Madhopur (Ranthambhore) to Bharatpur, as well as the August Kranti on the same route. Unfortunately, it is not possible to select in advance whether you’d prefer a two-bed or four-bed compartment, rather it would be allocated by Indian Rail a day before the journey commences. There are limited seats available in 1AC and tickets usually book up fast at the time of their becoming available (120 days prior to the journey).
- Two Tier Air-Conditioned Chair Car (2AC): Two Tier Air-Conditioned Char Car, or 2AC, is similar to 1AC though the compartments are separated by a curtain rather than a lockable door so there’s lesser privacy, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as for a shorter daytime journey it makes a nice opportunity to chat to other passengers.
If you’d like to experience train travel in India on your upcoming trip to Rajasthan (as part of a wider planned itinerary), please do get in touch. As specialists in this region with years of experience and a well-proven track record, we’d be an ideal match to assist with your arrangements and would be delighted to get stuck into the planning of your tailor-made itinerary.0