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One of the luxurious ways to explore the most prominent tourist destinations and attractions in India is to opt for luxury train travel. The history of luxury train traveling in India dates back to the days of erstwhile maharajas who used to travel in opulent personal carriages for purpose of state visits, hunting and personal occasions. In the year 1982, Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation launched Palace on Wheels in collaboration with Indian Railways to revive the art of elegant traveling in India. Palace on Wheels was launched to promote tourism in Rajasthan and cater exclusively to the overseas traveler and offer them a hassle free, all-inclusive and opulent option of traveling to the royal destinations in Rajasthan. Palace on Wheels is still the most revered luxury train in India. Nowadays there are a total of 6 luxury train plying different routes and offering a total of 11 pre-packaged itineraries.
 
One of the luxurious ways to explore the most prominent tourist destinations and attractions in India is to opt for luxury train travel. The history of luxury train traveling in India dates back to the days of erstwhile maharajas who used to travel in opulent personal carriages for purpose of state visits, hunting and personal occasions. In the year 1982, Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation launched Palace on Wheels in collaboration with Indian Railways to revive the art of elegant traveling in India. Palace on Wheels was launched to promote tourism in Rajasthan and cater exclusively to the overseas traveler and offer them a hassle free, all-inclusive and opulent option of traveling to the royal destinations in Rajasthan. Palace on Wheels is still the most revered luxury train in India. Nowadays there are a total of 6 luxury train plying different routes and offering a total of 11 pre-packaged itineraries.
*'''The Palace on Wheels''' [http://www.palaceonwheels.co.uk/]— India’s most authentic luxury train, the Palace on Wheels does an eight-day loop from [[New Delhi]] with stops and sightseeing tours in [[Jaipur]], Ranthambore, Chittorgarh, [[Udaipur]], [[Jaisalmer]], [[Jodhpur]], [[Bharatpur]], and [[Agra]].  The train is equipped with modern amenities such as internet connection, live television, dining cars, bar & sitting lounge, guest cabins with attached bathroom and even a spa. The all inclusive prices of the Palace on Wheels start from US $340 per person per night on triple occupancy basis in the lean season and US $450 for the same in peak season (October-March). It is advisable to make bookings on this train well in advance as the train is sometimes booked out months ahead.
+
*'''The Palace on Wheels''' [http://www.palacesonwheels.com/]— India’s most authentic luxury train, the Palace on Wheels does an eight-day loop from [[New Delhi]] with stops and sightseeing tours in [[Jaipur]], Ranthambore, Chittorgarh, [[Udaipur]], [[Jaisalmer]], [[Jodhpur]], [[Bharatpur]], and [[Agra]].  The train is equipped with modern amenities such as internet connection, live television, dining cars, bar & sitting lounge, guest cabins with attached bathroom and even a spa. The all inclusive prices of the Palace on Wheels start from US $340 per person per night on triple occupancy basis in the lean season and US $450 for the same in peak season (October-March). It is advisable to make bookings on this train well in advance as the train is sometimes booked out months ahead.
 
*'''The Deccan Odyssey''' [http://www.deccan-odyssey-india.com/]—  Second luxury train introduced in India after the huge success of Palace on Wheels in Rajasthan, the Deccan Odyssey was a joint initiative of Maharashtra State Tourism Development Corporation and Indian Railways to promote tourism in [[Maharashtra]]. The itinerary of this luxury rail tour was designed to offer the cultural and historical insights to the guest at some of the most significant destinations in Maharashtra. The 7 nights/8 days itinerary beginning from [[Mumbai]] crisscrosses some of the most mesmerizing landscape along the verdant Western Ghats and the Konkan Coast. This luxury train tour package also includes 2 days halt in the tiny emerald of [[Goa]], which is a very popular global beach destination. The Deccan Odyssey fare starts from US $315 per person per night on triple occupancy basis in the lean season (April & September) and US $425 for the same in the peak season (October-March).
 
*'''The Deccan Odyssey''' [http://www.deccan-odyssey-india.com/]—  Second luxury train introduced in India after the huge success of Palace on Wheels in Rajasthan, the Deccan Odyssey was a joint initiative of Maharashtra State Tourism Development Corporation and Indian Railways to promote tourism in [[Maharashtra]]. The itinerary of this luxury rail tour was designed to offer the cultural and historical insights to the guest at some of the most significant destinations in Maharashtra. The 7 nights/8 days itinerary beginning from [[Mumbai]] crisscrosses some of the most mesmerizing landscape along the verdant Western Ghats and the Konkan Coast. This luxury train tour package also includes 2 days halt in the tiny emerald of [[Goa]], which is a very popular global beach destination. The Deccan Odyssey fare starts from US $315 per person per night on triple occupancy basis in the lean season (April & September) and US $425 for the same in the peak season (October-March).
 
*'''The Golden Chariot'''[http://www.the-golden-chariot.com/]— Named after the famous Stone Chariot in [[Hampi]], a World Heritage Site, the Golden Chariot offers two weeklong itineraries across destinations in South India. Golden Chariot is the only luxury train in India offering luxury tours in South India. This Indian luxury train does two eight-day loop from [[Bangalore]]. There are two journeys offered by the train named Splendor of the South and Pride of the South. Whereas the Pride of the South covers destionations in the Southern State of Karnataka, the Splendor of the South cuts across the state borders and covers prominent destinations in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Karnataka.  Some of the facilities offered in the train include restaurants, bar, lounges, gym, business center, spa, Wi-Fi internet, cabins with attached bathroom and disable friendly coaches.
 
*'''The Golden Chariot'''[http://www.the-golden-chariot.com/]— Named after the famous Stone Chariot in [[Hampi]], a World Heritage Site, the Golden Chariot offers two weeklong itineraries across destinations in South India. Golden Chariot is the only luxury train in India offering luxury tours in South India. This Indian luxury train does two eight-day loop from [[Bangalore]]. There are two journeys offered by the train named Splendor of the South and Pride of the South. Whereas the Pride of the South covers destionations in the Southern State of Karnataka, the Splendor of the South cuts across the state borders and covers prominent destinations in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Karnataka.  Some of the facilities offered in the train include restaurants, bar, lounges, gym, business center, spa, Wi-Fi internet, cabins with attached bathroom and disable friendly coaches.

Revision as of 11:20, 9 November 2012

    This article is a travel topic

An IR passenger train
The modern Delhi Metro, a sign of India's economic development

Nearly all trains in India are operated by the government-run Indian Railways (IR) [1].

IR is the third largest rail network in the world, and the rail system is efficient, if not always on schedule. Tracks running well over 60,000 kilometers help connect about 7500 stations, ferrying nearly 20 million people every day. Although distances in India are long and Indian trains aren't the world's best, traveling in them can add a fascinating new dimension to a visitor's experience. There is virtually no better way to make friends with the local people and see the spectacular and diverse Indian countryside. On many routes the railways are the fastest and cheapest way to get around.

Contents

Trains

Regular Trains

All regular trains in India are either super-fast, express/mail, fast passenger, passenger or local/suburban trains. The broad hierarchy from luxurious to normal is as follows:

A schematic map of India's rail network, color-coded by gauge
  • Duronto — these are air-conditioned as well as non-airconditioned non-stop trains offering an experience of luxury combined with punctuality and to add to it the expense of travel is lesser than Rajdhani.
  • Rajdhani Express — These are fully air-conditioned superfast overnight trains, having only AC sleeper accommodation, that run between the National Capital (Delhi) and each state capital.
  • Shatabdi Express — These are fully air-conditioned superfast daytime intercity trains offering sitting accommodation (no sleepers). They are the fastest trains in India.
  • Jan Shatabdi Express — These are superfast daytime intercity trains offering both airconditioned and non-airconditioned sitting accommodation.
  • Garib Rath Express — These are fully air-conditioned superfast overnight trains, having both sitting and sleeper accommodations, that offer more seats per carriage at a lower fare.


Note: The above are fully reserved trains. They do not have general compartments (see below).

  • Express and Mail — These trains have both air-conditioned and non-airconditioned carriages, including both sitting and sleeper accommodation, and do not stop at all stations.
  • Fast Passenger — These trains have only non-airconditioned carriages,including both sitting (mostly) and sleeper (sometimes)accommodation. They stop at almost all stations on their route.
  • Passenger trains — These trains have only non-airconditioned carriages offering only unreserved sitting (general compartments) accommodation.
  • Local or Suburban — These trains offer both sitting accommodation as well as standing room and grab rails, and operate within and around big cities.

Mountain trains

Indian Railways operates trains to various hill stations in India. Travelling on them is a delightful experience, with the tiny trains passing through tunnels, over bridges, around curves and loops amid spectacular scenery. The three mentioned below are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

A DHR train on the Batasia Loop near Ghoom
  • Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) [2] —Winding its way over the steep and torturous foothills of the Himalayas, the 'toy train' takes six hours to cover the 83km distance from New Jalpaiguri (NJP) to Darjeeling. Completed in 1883, the railway follows the road (and mostly shares the same bed) and uses an interesting system of reverses (the trains climbs into a sliding and then goes into reverse to climb up the next section of the hill, sort of like a sideways V) and loops (the track loops around and crosses itself) to navigate the steep climb. Batasia Loop, at a tor point near Darjeeling just beyond the town of Ghoom, is the most famous because of its great views.
  • The Kalka-Shimla Railway [3] —The railway from Kalka to Simla was completed in 1903, the final stage in the connection of Calcutta, then the capital of British India, with Shimla, the summer capital. The 96km railroad runs through the magnificent scenery of the Shivalik Hills, up valleys ringed by high mountains, across 864 stone bridges built like Roman viaducts, and through 107 tunnels, the longest over a kilometer (1144m) in length.
  • Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) [4] —The steepest mountain railway in India, the NMR climbs the 6159 feet from Mettupalayam to Udhagmandalam over a distance of 46km, with gradients of 1:12 in some stretches. Completed in 1899, it is the only railway in India to use a rack and pinion system to climb the steep gradient. The train passes through 16 tunnels, over 250 bridges and around 205 sharp curves, with the breathtaking scenery of the Nilgiri Hills visible all along the way.

Luxury Trains

One of the luxurious ways to explore the most prominent tourist destinations and attractions in India is to opt for luxury train travel. The history of luxury train traveling in India dates back to the days of erstwhile maharajas who used to travel in opulent personal carriages for purpose of state visits, hunting and personal occasions. In the year 1982, Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation launched Palace on Wheels in collaboration with Indian Railways to revive the art of elegant traveling in India. Palace on Wheels was launched to promote tourism in Rajasthan and cater exclusively to the overseas traveler and offer them a hassle free, all-inclusive and opulent option of traveling to the royal destinations in Rajasthan. Palace on Wheels is still the most revered luxury train in India. Nowadays there are a total of 6 luxury train plying different routes and offering a total of 11 pre-packaged itineraries.

  • The Palace on Wheels [5]— India’s most authentic luxury train, the Palace on Wheels does an eight-day loop from New Delhi with stops and sightseeing tours in Jaipur, Ranthambore, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur, and Agra. The train is equipped with modern amenities such as internet connection, live television, dining cars, bar & sitting lounge, guest cabins with attached bathroom and even a spa. The all inclusive prices of the Palace on Wheels start from US $340 per person per night on triple occupancy basis in the lean season and US $450 for the same in peak season (October-March). It is advisable to make bookings on this train well in advance as the train is sometimes booked out months ahead.
  • The Deccan Odyssey [6]— Second luxury train introduced in India after the huge success of Palace on Wheels in Rajasthan, the Deccan Odyssey was a joint initiative of Maharashtra State Tourism Development Corporation and Indian Railways to promote tourism in Maharashtra. The itinerary of this luxury rail tour was designed to offer the cultural and historical insights to the guest at some of the most significant destinations in Maharashtra. The 7 nights/8 days itinerary beginning from Mumbai crisscrosses some of the most mesmerizing landscape along the verdant Western Ghats and the Konkan Coast. This luxury train tour package also includes 2 days halt in the tiny emerald of Goa, which is a very popular global beach destination. The Deccan Odyssey fare starts from US $315 per person per night on triple occupancy basis in the lean season (April & September) and US $425 for the same in the peak season (October-March).
  • The Golden Chariot[7]— Named after the famous Stone Chariot in Hampi, a World Heritage Site, the Golden Chariot offers two weeklong itineraries across destinations in South India. Golden Chariot is the only luxury train in India offering luxury tours in South India. This Indian luxury train does two eight-day loop from Bangalore. There are two journeys offered by the train named Splendor of the South and Pride of the South. Whereas the Pride of the South covers destionations in the Southern State of Karnataka, the Splendor of the South cuts across the state borders and covers prominent destinations in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Karnataka. Some of the facilities offered in the train include restaurants, bar, lounges, gym, business center, spa, Wi-Fi internet, cabins with attached bathroom and disable friendly coaches.

The Golden Chariot Pride of the South itinerary begins from Yeshwantpur Station in Bangalore and covers Mysore, Srirangapatna, Kabini, the historical sites of Shravanabelagola, Belur, Halebidu, Hampi, Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole and finally the beaches of Goa during its 8 days loop. Prices of Golden Chariot Pride of the South starts from US $440 per person per night on triple sharing basis and reaches as high as US $754 for the same on single occupancy basis. The Golden Chariot Splendor of the South itinerary take the guests on voyage across Bangalore, Chennai, Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Madurai, Poovar, Thiruvanathapuram and Kochi. The attractions of this luxury train tour include Auroville, Vidhan Soudha, Rock Fort Temple, Kumarakom backwaters, Meenakshi Temple, Chinese Fishing Nets, Jewish Synagogue and UNESCO World Heritage sites Group of Monuments at Mamallapuram and Brihadeeswara Temple at Thanjavur. This prices for Golden Chariot Splendor of the South starts from US $545 per person per night on triple sharing basis and reaches as high as US $831 on sigle occupancy basis.

  • The Indian Maharaja[8]— India’s first privately run luxury train and winner of World Travel Award in the category of Asia’s Leading Luxury Train; the Indian Maharaja connects Mumbai to Delhi and covers some of the most royal and culturally significant destinations in India. This luxury train trip includes tours to UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ajanta and Ellora, Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri along with Udaipur, Jaipur and Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan. The Indian Maharaja itinerary asts for 8 days and 7 nights and the train tariff starts at US $595 per person per night for Silver Class twin occupancy and the most exclusive gold class single occupancy could cost as high as US $ 1590 per night.
  • Royal Rajasthan on Wheels[9]— Royal Rajasthan on Wheels takes you on a whirlwind tour across princely land of Rajasthan. Spectacular fortresses, resplendent palaces and diverse culture await the travelers in Rajasthan which used to be the land of Rajput maharajas in the days of yore. The itinerary of the train include tours to Jaipur, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Khajuraho, Varanasi, Agra and Delhi and span across 7 nights and 8 days. Attractions include the Taj Mahal, Amber Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Mehrangarh Fort, Ranthambore National Park and Eastern and Western Group of Temples at Khajuraho.
  • Maharajas' Express[10]— Latest luxury train in India, Maharajas' Express is touted as the India’s answer to the Orient Express. This luxury tourist train offers 5 itineraries 3 of which are pan-Indian tours and 2 are golden triangle tours. The Maharajas’ Express journeys are named the Heritage of India, the Indian Splendor, the Indian Panorama, Gems of India and Treasures of India. Maharajas Express also happens to be one of the costliest luxury tourist train rides in the world with fare starting from US $3580 per person per journey and reaching as high as US $22000 per person per journey for Presidential Suite.

Classes

Long-distance

  • AC First (1A), the most comfortable class to travel in, includes lockable four-berth and two-berth (coupe) compartments. The carriages are clean (and carpeted) and the toilets are much cleaner than any other toilets you get to see on Indian trains. Sheets, pillows and blankets are provided (an attendant makes the beds at night). AC First Class carriages are usually found only on important overnight trains and are the most expensive class.
  • AC 2 Tier (2A) Passengers sleep on four berths in an open cabin or on two berths that are positioned lengthwise along the side of the carriage. Each cabin has a curtain for privacy and each side berth has its own curtain for privacy. There are four toilets, two at each end of the carriage, and usually include a mix of western and eastern style loos, spottily provided with toilet paper. An attendant brings around blankets, sheets and pillows.
  • AC 3 Tier (3A) is similar to 2 Tier, the significant differences being the additional middle-bunk in the cabins (but not on the sides). Recently Indain Railways has added curtain in each cabin for privacy and each side berth has its own curtain for privacy similiar to AC 2 Tier coach. This can make it uncomfortable to sit up straight during the morning if the person in the middle-bunk is a heavy sleeper. An attendant brings around sheets, blankets, and pillows in the evening. Because there are more people around, AC 3 Tier tends to be noisier than AC 2 Tier.
  • AC 3 Tier Economy (3E) is generally found in Garib Raths and a few Durontos - it is similar to AC 3 Tier but with the presence of a middle berth on the side too making it 9 berths in a bay. Denoted by "G". 3E is cheaper compared to 3A.
  • First Class (FC), the way the Raj traveled, has mostly disappeared from Indian Railways in favor of Air Conditioned carriages. Like AC First Class, berths are arranged in four-berth and two-berth (coupe) lockable cabins but the similarity ends there. No bedding is provided unless booked in advance (there is an extra fee for bedding), and the carriages, not sealed from the heat and dust of India, can be quite grubby. Fares are higher than 3A owing to the fact that the preference of people shifted, resulting in FC becoming extinct.
  • Sleeper Class (SL) is the way most Indians travel and is an inexpensive way to get around the country. Berths are arranged in the same pattern as AC 3 Tier, six berths in a cabin and two along the side of the carriage, but there is no air-conditioning. The downside is that it can be hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable inside. The toilets are sometimes dirty and, in some parts of India, you'll find yourself sharing your cabin with passengers without a reservation. Still, for the adventurous, this is the way to see India. Chai-wallahs and hawkers selling all kinds of food (with the accent on local) roam the carriages and you'll find yourself sharing food and life-stories with the lower middle class families that travel on this class.

Short-distance

  • AC Executive Chair Car (XC) is only available on some Shatabdis. It is extremely comfortable, and is the most comfortable way to travel during the daytime.
  • AC Chair Car (CC), found on most daytime intercity trains, is also quite comfortable, but the seats are not as wide as XC. It is advisable to travel on this class wherever possible, as 2S (see below) can get quite crowded, particularly on busy routes.
  • Second Class Chair Car (2S), available on most daytime intercity trains, is reserved seating in carriages without airconditioning. Chair car seats are comfortably padded, but the heat and dust outside can make it an uncomfortable ride in summer.Also,it is usually used by the passengers with a "general" ticket,and use the seats by paying the fine (usually Rs15) to the TTE.There is every chance that you may end up in a seat with four people which is actually meant for 3.Also,if you find that there are too many empty seats while booking online,don't expect the compartment to be empty.

Unreserved

  • General compartments (GS) have uncomfortable wooden bench seats and the carriages are often packed with people sitting on the aisles and luggage racks. Not an advisable way to travel, even for short distances, except for the exceptionally tough and the curious travelers that are in it for the experience alone.


Fares

Typical fares
Distance Class Total Fare in Rs
100 km AC First Rs 550
100 km AC 2 Tier Rs 320
100 km AC 3 Tier Rs 230
100 km AC Chair Car Rs 180
100 km Sleeper Class Rs 120
500 km AC First Rs 1610
500 km AC 2 Tier Rs 785
500 km AC 3 Tier Rs 575
500 km AC Chair Car Rs 450
500 km Sleeper Class Rs 215
1500 km AC First Rs 4200
1500 km AC 2 Tier Rs 1610
1500 km AC 3 Tier Rs 1165
1500 km Sleeper Class Rs 425

Despite the numerous types of trains and classes, the fare system is quite logical.

  • Shatabdi, Rajdhani, Jan Shatabdi and Garib Rath trains have fixed point-to-point fares. The fare one-way may be slightly more or less than the reverse-fare, due to different catering charges.
  • Express and mail trains have standardized fares based on the distance travelled.
  • Super-fast trains are charged the same base fare as other mail/express trains, but a super-fast surcharge is added to it.
  • Fast-passenger trains as well as Passenger trains are extremely cheap.

Schedules

Before booking a ticket, pick up a copy of Trains At A Glance [11] (<<dead link<<) [12], the national rail timetable, from any railway station. This is updated every July and remains valid until the end of the next June. It allows you to choose the best train for your needs, and find the name and number of the train for your destination. However, this is a general guide and does not contain a detailed list of all stations, neither does it contain all the trains that ply. A more specific guide depending on the "rail zone" is available at important stations on that zone. For example, a detailed guide on trains plying in West India (i.e. the Western Zonal Timetable) will be available at all major railway stations in West India. You can also get the whole schedule online at [13]. A list of trains operating between a given pair of stations can also be obtained online [14].

Ticketing

It is necessary to reserve tickets in advance in order to travel by any of the classes listed above (except GS). Tickets an be booked in two ways:

Internet booking

Prior to booking, the website [15] is extremely fast and user friendly to look at schedules, status and plan your journey. Cleartrip is also an alternative easy to use online booking site that has a mobile friendly page. You can use it to check trains without booking [16].

There are two different types of tickets that can be booked online:

  • An i-ticket (short for internet ticket) is a ticket that is booked online, printed at an IR office and couriered to your (Indian) mailing address within 48 hours of booking. The procedure for booking an i-ticket is as follows:
    • Log on to the IR Online Passenger Reservation Site [17].
    • Login with your username and password. If it's the first time you're using the site, you need to sign up first, by providing your name, email id, mailing address, telephone number and occupation. (note: they only take mobile phones from within India that start with the 91 country code.)
    • Type the station codes of the originating and destination stations, the date of journey and the class into the box in the centre of the screen, and select the 'i-ticket' check box.
    • Click on the Find Trains button. A list of trains operating between the given stations will appear.
    • Select the train of your choice from the list and click on the Book Ticket option. Before you do this, you can also check the fare, schedule etc. by clicking on the respective buttons.
    • A Ticket Reservation form will open on the page. Fill in the details and preferences of all the passengers (a maximum of six in a single booking), check the appropriate address box and click on the Go button.
    • A copy of your ticket with the details will appear on the screen. Click on the Make Payment button.
    • A list of banks opens up in a new window. Select your bank and give the details of your card (PIN number etc.). If you are using a foreign (non-Indian) card, you must choose the "Axis" option.
    • A message confirming the booking will appear on the screen. The ticket will be delivered to the mailing address specified within 48 hours.
  • An e-ticket (short for electronic ticket) is a ticket that is booked online and printed instantly. Valid proof of identity (voter ID card/ PAN card/ passport/ driving license) of any of the passengers should be produced along with the ticket on the day of the journey. The procedure for booking an e-ticket is as follows:
    • Log on to the IR Online Passenger Reservation Site [18].
    • Login with your username and password. If it's the first time you're using the site, you need to sign up first, by providing your name, email id, mailing address, telephone number and occupation. (note: they only take mobile phones from within India that start with the 91 country code.)
    • Type the station codes of the originating and destination stations, the date of journey and the class into the box in the centre of the screen, and select the 'e-ticket' check box.
    • Click on the Find Trains button. A list of trains operating between the given stations will appear.
    • Select the train of your choice from the list and click on the Book Ticket option. Before you do this, you can also check the fare, schedule etc. by clicking on the respective buttons.
    • A Ticket Reservation form will open on the page. Fill in the details and preferences of all the passengers (a maximum of six in a single booking), check the appropriate address box and click on the Go button.
    • A copy of your ticket with the details will appear on the screen. Click on the Make Payment button.
    • A list of banks opens up in a new window. Select your bank and give the details of your card (PIN number etc.). Note: You cannot use a foreign credit card to make a payment
    • The copy of your ticket with the details will reappear on the screen. You can Carry the printed copy/SMS sent on your Mobile/Electronic Copy on ipad, cellphone, laptop etc as well as a valid proof of identity with you on the day of your journey.

Counter Booking

Tickets are also sold at most railway stations and at Indian Railways' 1000-plus computerised passenger reservation centres located across the country. For reservation at a counter, you need to fill in a paper form and submit it to the clerk at the counter (occasionally, after a long wait in a queue) along with the payment in either cash or by credit card. Credit cards are accepted at most important stations. Counters in the metros and other important cities accept Visa, Mastercard, AmEx and Diners Card, as well as cards of most Indian banks. There are generally 1 to 3 counters where credit card payment is allowed, depending on the station.

Booking Tips

  • Avoid travel agents, touts, or anyone else who offers to book your tickets for a fee. It is usually much easier (not to mention cheaper) to do it yourself.
  • If you are booking from abroad, the easiest is to use the online service and print e-tickets at home. i-tickets can also be sent by local courier to addresses in India (not abroad) and most hotels willingly accept delivery if notified in advance.
  • Train tickets are in high demand, especially during the summer (April-June) and winter (December-January) breaks. This means that without careful planning, it may be next to impossible to get tickets for long distance travel (for example from New Delhi to Mumbai). You can book up to 120 days in advance, but during the busy season, the tickets may get sold out quickly. So plan your journey well in advance.
  • Foreign nationals can get tickets from a quota reserved for them. In big cities, you have a specific counter or even a special office for them.
  • If you plan to travel in 1A or XC, tickets should be easier to get - they are generally in less demand. Although, in view of increasing tourist population, even those seats are hard to get unless booked at least 5 days in advance.

Non-confirmed accommodation

If you do not get a Confirmed (CNF) ticket, you may get one that is Waitlisted (WL) or in the Reservation Against Cancellation (RAC) status. If you've booked your ticket in advance, it will probably move from WL to RAC status or even to CNF status as time goes by (because of cancellations), so it is a good idea to check it periodically and keep your plans dynamic. Use the 10-digit Passenger Name Record (PNR) number, printed on the top right-hand corner of your ticket, to check the status of your ticket at any point of time, either on the website [19]or by phone (dial 139, from any landline telephone in India). The number will read like WL32/WL14 or similiar, with the structure being WL(original position)/WL(current position).

You cannot get on to a reserved compartment if your ticket is waitlisted (you can only enter a General Compartment if available). Waitlisted caught entering the train are treated as non-ticket holders and fined. But if you have an RAC ticket, you are allotted 'sitting' berths - i.e. in a Sleeper Coach, you and a fellow RAC ticket-holder share a berth so that both of you can travel sitting instead of sleeping. The Ticket Examiner then allots you a CNF sleeping berth as and when one is available due to last minute cancellations, no-shows etc. Depending on the train, the route and the season you are travelling in, the RAC ticket may get upgraded to CNF either as soon as the journey begins, mid-way through the journey or not at all. If you do not move up past a wait list (WL) ticket before the train leaves, you can apply for a refund, but only up to a maximum of a few hours after the train leaves (3 hours for short journeys, up to 12 hours for long journeys). If you bought your ticket online, a WL tickets receive an automatic refund.

Final berth listing will not be completed until at 4-hours prior to departure. Once the checked list is posted, often final cancellations and government official reservations are re-positioned which allow WL and RAC to move up in the queue. It is also possible that the list moves downward as officials are granted priority seating, and later confirmed seats become non-confirmed. Booking non-confirmed is really a gamble, but more often then not the seat will become available, especially if your earlier in the queue.

If you arrive at the station while still waitlisted, wait until the train arrives. A reservation list will be posted at the beginning of each class or tier. Locate your name according to reservation number. If your name is not listed, your ticket remains non-confirmed. Track personnel will also be able to assist you.

Boarding without accommodation may still be possible. The conductors are known to assist and turn a blind eye to providing foreigners and students available seats without a proper reservation. A bribe payment might be expected, use your own judgement. Any exchange will be discussed upfront immediately after departure, and expected to be completed upon arrival. Typically you will be placed in AC1 or AC2 alongside officials who will also be aware of your accommodation and will expect a partial payment as well. Because a number of seats are reserved for government officials in top tiers, it is easy for officials and conductors to "sell off" an accommodation to travelers.

Tatkal

Many trains keep a small quota of seats known as Tatkal (meaning 'immediate' ) for sale one day before the departure date. There is an extra charge for these seats. This option is also available at the time of booking online. Even with this extra quota (about 4% of the seats on a train) it can sometimes be difficult to get the train you want when you want it. For tatkal tickets cancellation no refund will be paid. Only four tickets can be booked at time. ID proof is must for Tatkal ticket booking.

IndRail Pass

The IndRail Pass is valid for all visitors to India. It is a pass which allows unlimited travel on all of IR's trains except:

  • Metro/Suburban Trains
  • Hill Railways
  • Luxury Tourist Trains

IndRail passes automatically expire 1 year from the date of issue. However, prior reservations are necessary. The IndRail Pass is generally not good value for money if you are staying for a month or more. However, if you choose to travel in Executive Chair Car for 2 or 3 journeys over a couple of days, it is indeed worth purchasing.

IndRail passes are available for sale in railway offices at the following stations - Agra City, Agra Cantt, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Aurangabad, Bangalore City, Howrah, Chandigarh, Chennai Central, Gorakhpur, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Mumbai Central, Mumbai CST, Mumbai Churchgate, New Delhi, Puttapurthi Town, Rameswaram, Secundarabad, Trivandrum Central, Vadodara, Varanasi, Vasco da Gama and Vijaywada. General Sales Agents are authorised to sell the IndRail pass at a 3-5% surcharge in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangkok, Dhaka, Durban, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Kuala Lumpur, London, Muscat, New York, Paris, Port Louis, Sharjah, Sydney, Tokyo and Toronto.

IndRail Pass rates in US $
Period of Validity AC First/Executive Chair Car First Class/AC 2 Tier/AC 3 Tier/AC Chair Car Sleeper Class/Second Class
12 hours $57 $26 $11
1 day $95 $43 $19
2 days $160 $70 $30
4 days $220 $110 $50
1 week $270 $135 $80
15 days $370 $185 $90
3 weeks $396 $198 $100
1 month $495 $248 $ 125
2 months $800 $400 $185
3 months $ 1060 $530 $235
  • A month refers to 30 continuous days
  • Discounts for children below 13 are available
    • For the 1/2/3 months pass, the rate for children is half of the adult fare rounded up to the nearest 5 dollars.
    • For all other passes, the discount is 50% rounded off to the nearest 1 dollar.
  • Fares have to be paid in US $ or Indian Rs. However, the dollar rate is fixed and the Rupee rate changes according to the exchange rate.

Many important trains also have a tourist quota available for foreign travelers and holders of an IndRail pass. Payment must be in foreign currency, usually US Dollars or Pound Sterling, or in Indian Rupees backed with adequate proof of foreign exchange conversion (an ATM receipt is usually acceptable). A passport may also be required. There are very few seats available on this quota and, with tourism to India on an upswing, it is best to try for a seat at least two or three days in advance.

Even if you have an IndRail pass, reservations are compulsory. You cannot reserve tickets online using an IndRail pass.

Intracity transport

The larger cities in India are generally served by more than one railway station. Most trains might halt at only one station, while others may stop at two to three.

Local rail network in cities

IR runs suburban railways in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune. Kolkata, Bangalore and Delhi have subway (Metro) systems as well. The Delhi Metro [20] and the Bangalore Metro [21] are airconditioned. The Kolkata Metro and other suburban trains are not air conditioned. Local rail networks are often crowded, but are generally the fastest and cheapest way to get around cities which have them. Those who are not accustomed to it are advised not to travel in local trains as it might be quite troublesome for them to alight from the train at the correct station after pushing through a large crowd of other commuters.

Trams

Tram systems in India were built by the British in Kanpur, Calcutta, Mumbai and Chennai. Only the Calcutta trams remain. Although appreciated for being emissions-free, they are not very popular due to the painstakingly slow speeds. Tram lines are being removed in much of Kolkata. A project is going on to renovate the remaining tram tracks in Kolkata.

Food

Hot food is available at mealtimes on almost every train in India. The food is mostly prepared in kitchens at railway stations and then loaded onto the train, either onto a pantry carriage attached to the train (on most important trains), or just brought on board by waiters and distributed directly to passengers. In most cases, a waiter collects orders an hour or two before mealtimes and if you don't place an order, you may be left out in the cold. However, in trains having a pantry car, breakfast is prepared on board the train and you do not have to place an order beforehand. You can tell which trains have a pantry car because there is a P listed with the classes available in Trains at a Glance. Meals available for lunch and dinner are generally vegetarian and non-vegetarian thalis (rice, dal, a vegetable (chicken or fish curries for non-veg thalis), yogurt (often sour), chapatis and occasionally, a sweet dish) or (veg/egg/chicken) biryani. Chilli chicken (sweet and sour chicken wings with chillis) is often available. Breakfast normally onsists of vegetable cutlet (a veggie patty) and bread, or omelet and bread. Pantry car service always includes the sale of tea, coffee, cold drinks and "namkeen" (chips and other salty snacks). Note that while pantry cars mostly re-distribute food, they do have a small kitchen and, if you're sick of the daal/chappati that shows up in the thali, it doesn't hurt to visit the pantry car and see if they can rustle up an omlet or some fresh chicken curry with parathas. The quality of food varies, with the fare being better in the South and West. Moreover, concepts of hygiene, taste, cuisine changes from region to region.

Most pantry cars and restaurants at stations are now managed by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) [22]). IRCTC provides satisfactory quality and hygienic food aboard trains and at stations. IRCTC kiosks are ubiquitous where one can find snacks/breakfast/packed foods/ biscuits/ cookies/ mineral water etc. At major stations, IRCTC has licensed Comesum [23] to open fine-dine restaurants. Additionally, one can also order food online at travelkhana [24] and your food will be delivered at your seat.

On the Rajdhanis and Shatabdis, all meals are included in the fare and are served at your seat at mealtimes.

If you are finicky, bring enough food and bottled water for the journey including delays: bananas, bread, and candy bars are good basics to have. Most important stations will have vendors selling all kinds of edible stuff, but the usual caveats about eating in India apply. Often, snacks and food reflect local specialities and, in the case of cooked food, are quite safe to eat.

General information

  • Smoking and consumption of alcohol on all trains and at all railway stations is prohibited. There is a steep fine for violation of these rules.
  • Most larger Indian train stations offer a standard set of facilities including cloak rooms to leave your luggage (slow and bureaucratic but cheap and reasonably safe; you must lock your own bag and show a ticket), First class waiting rooms (no touts or beggars), a computerised reservation office for advance bookings and a booking office for unreserved/same-day tickets. Restaurant facilities vary widely.
  • Several railway stations also have touchscreen kiosks which help you track your train (real-time running information) and also provide a host of other details regarding bookings, schedules etc.
  • All railway stations in India have signs in English mentioning the station name and details of facilities at the station. If you are still in doubt, asking around might be a bit of a problem because of the language barrier. In such circumstances, and in case of an emergency of any sort, contact the station master or the station superintendent for assistance. All station masters and superintendents speak English and will help you out.
  • Always watch your bags, especially in and around train stations. Once on a train, chain and lock your bags to the hooks provided under the lowest bunk, or keep them at your head. Make sure to also lock any exterior pockets (keep your toilet paper, and anything else you'll want on the outside). You can buy chains from chain-and-lock sellers who walk around train stations and trains.
  • The top (UB) and side upper (SU) bunks are best if you are the sort who likes to sleep early or late. The middle (MB) and bottom (LB) bunks are converted into seating area, so you will be forced to stay awake if everyone else in your compartment wants to stay up. Side lower (SL) and middle (SM) bunks are a great idea if you want a window seat, but they are a bit smaller than the other bunks, so don't choose them if you are a tall person. Note that 1A and FC classes do not have MB, SL or SU bunks, while 2A does not have MB or SM bunks.
  • Don't just look at a map and assume a short trip, it's best to check Trains at a Glance before making your plans.
  • Restrooms on Indian trains are usually of the squat variety (most carriages have two squat-type and two sit-down type toilets). The cleanliness tends to deteriorate over the duration of a journey, but on longer trips toilets are cleaned at intermediate stations. Washbasins are provided both inside and outside the toilets. Shower cubicles are available only on AC First carriages in Rajdhani Express trains.
  • Enjoy the train, and speak to your fellow passengers! You'll meet fascinating, wonderful people.
  • Do not take food from any unknown passenger if they insist to do so. Just avoid it with some sweet words. Otherwise you may not be able to distinguish between a thief (he/she'll intoxicate you) and a true passenger.
  • In all the states, all the non-AC coaches can be over-crowded because of local ticket-less passengers. At the time you may not find an authority to complain. So, better to adjust in the situation and try not to argue and complain. Although, AC coaches are safe from this problem.
  • People who serve you inside an AC wagon,like the Pantry boys, or the AC attendant (who would provide you blankets,sheets and pillows) all expect passengers to tip them.If you are not very forthcoming,they approach you for a tip either during the journey or near the ending hours of the journey.So its advisable to give a small tip in the range of inr 10 or inr 20.
  • In all AC classes, an identity card is needed per ticket (PNR).

Sleep

IR runs two hotels in Delhi and Howrah. Passengers can book independant rooms ar dormitories on production of tickets. Known as the Rail Yatri Niwas, the facilities are very basic and the rooms are quite shabby. There is a self-service restaurant.

There are also two Railway Hotels in Puri, Odisha (formerly Orissa) and Ranchi, Jharkhand, which offer far better service than the ones in Delhi and Howrah.

Retiring rooms are available at most major railway stations across the country. They offer basic facilities including a bed, mattress, blankets, drinking water, closet, restroom (and in the case of airconditioned rooms) a television. One has to produce a reserved journey ticket in order to be able to book retiring rooms.

Dormitories, both airconditioned and non-airconditioned, are available at almost all railway stations in India.

  • Rail Yatri Niwas, New Delhi Railway Station (Metro: New Delhi - Line 2), +91 11 2323-3484. Dorm Rs 145/bed, Single Non A/C Rs 265, Double Non A/C Rs 385/450, Double A/C Rs 850.
  • Rail Yatri Niwas Howrah, Howrah Railway Station, +91 33 2660-1742. Dorm Rs 100/bed, Double Non A/C Rs 350, Double A/C Rs 550, Triple Non A/C Rs 400.
  • Railway Hotel, Puri Railway Station, +91 6752 222-063 (fax: +91 6752 223-005). Single Rs 400/600, Double Non A/C 650/750/1000/1200, Double A/C Rs 900/1500, Triple Non A/C Rs 850/1700.


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