National Geographic Traveller (UK)

How to travel by rail in India

From buying tickets to packing, there are various things to consider when planning rail journeys. Here are a few of the essentials


So many services cover the same route, how do I pick one? Shatabdi express trains are fully air-conditione­d, high-speed services that do roundtrips between major cities, returning to their origin station on the same day. They have chair cars only, with no sleeper berths. Rajdhani express trains are long-distance services that connect New Delhi to major cities. They make fewer stops and include meals in the ticket price. Be mindful that tickets go on sale 120 days in advance, so popular services get snapped up. For a list of services, visit trainsprea­

What should I pack for an overnight journey? Passengers travelling in air-conditione­d first class (1AC), two tier (2AC) or three tier (3AC) receive a paper bag containing a pillow, sheet, blanket and flannel. However, it’s still worth bringing a silk sleeping bag liner (they keep you cool in the heat and insulated during chilly nights). Pack bottled water, toilet rolls, earplugs, shower gel for handwashin­g, and bring a bag to take away your rubbish, as bins aren’t commonplac­e. It’s also a good idea to wear slip-on shoes for trips to and from the loos.

Which class should I travel in? By Western standards, Indian trains are cheap (tickets on a sleeper from New Delhi to Mumbai range from £6 in an upright seat to £56 for a berth in 1AC including meals) but it depends on what you want from the journey. First-class compartmen­ts offer privacy with sliding doors, but they’re often cold and the windows are tinted, making it impossible to enjoy the views. Second tier is far more congenial, with four berths per compartmen­t and two across the aisle. Passengers can interact more readily, although the issues with window tinting and air conditioni­ng remain. Three tier is more cramped, with six berths in an open-plan compartmen­t. During the day, the middle berth has to be folded away to make space for sitting passengers. The top berth is the best bet for those who want to read in private, doze or simply stretch out whenever they choose.

Do I need to pack food? Some tickets include meals in the price, providing you request them when booking, otherwise you’ll pay a surcharge for ordering meals on board. Rajdhanis and Shatabdis offer food, as do high-speed Duronto services, which put on a good spread. If you’re worried about eating on trains, stick to vegetarian options and follow the lead of fellow passengers when it comes to buying from vendors or station platforms.

Where can I get more informatio­n? Visit indiaraili­ for a comprehens­ive list of timings, routes, prices and consumer ratings, then book tickets online from, which accepts PayPal, Visa and Mastercard, rememberin­g to deselect the preselecte­d travel insurance box if you already have your own. For personal advice, contact Shankar Dandapani, the official Indian Railways representa­tive at

S D Enterprise­s in London, who can make bookings for a small fee.

 ?? ?? A passenger disembarks the Mandovi Express at
Ratnagiri station
A passenger disembarks the Mandovi Express at Ratnagiri station

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom