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Indian Railways operates the worlds largest rail network, transporting more than 20 million people a day over 40,000 miles of track. With more than 1.6 million employees, it is said to be the largest employer in the world. Despite the rise of the private car and domestic flights in recent years, Indian Railways remains a vital method for both Indians and tourists to travel around the country.
Travelling by train is a fascinating way to see the "real" India. Stations and carriages are full of travellers of all classes drawn from across India and beyond. You will often find yourself drawn into conversation with your fellow travellers, and can learn an enormous amount about the country. However, travel by train is not for the faint-hearted. Stations can be chaotic and incredibly crowded, and maintenance can be lacking. Toilet facilities are basic, with toilet roll rarely available and water sometimes in limited supply. Clean bedding is provided, but it is good to take warm clothes as the air conditioning can be ferocious. Drinks and meals can be purchased on board, but it is best to ask your hotel or lodge to arrange a box meal for an overnight journey. Note that alcoholic drinks are not allowed on Indian trains.
When you travel by train, our representatives will escort you to your carriage to make sure you depart safely, and you will similarly be met at the platform when you arrive porters will be arranged to carry your luggage. There are two main classes of carriage we book for overnight train travel.
1st Class Air Conditioned Carriage: This is the top level of service available on Indian Railways, used by business travellers, officials and foreign tourists. Accommodation is in lockable four berth compartments, with berths converted into seats during the day. Please note that both men and women share compartments. This class of service is only found on the most important services, and is often in limited demand. Berths are only released 60 or 90 days before travel and can not be pre-reserved, so it is not possible to guarantee this level of service when demand is high.
2nd Class Air Conditioned Carriage: The next level down, these carriages have compartments separated by curtains, with four berths on one side of the aisle and two berths on the other side. There is less space and privacy on these carriages, and the level of maintenance and attention to details is not as good as the 1st class service, but it is still acceptable for an overnight journey as long as you don't have too high expectations.
Open: The trains operate all year.
Location: India has a vast rail network, dating back to 1853. It operates both long distance and suburban routes on a multi-gauge network that has about 40,000 miles of track.
Classes & Accommodation: There are several classes of travel, some with and some without air conditioning. Trains may have just one or several classes of travel. The Duronto and Shatabadi trains have only air conditioned classes and food is included in the fare. Luxury trains such as the Palace on Wheels have luxurious suite accommodation. We tend to book one of two classes for overnight train journeys, 1st class air conditioned carriage and 2nd class air conditioned carriage. 1st class have 2 and 4 berth compartments. The berths are comfortable and relatively spacious, 2nd class carriages are open plan, with curtains used to separate bays. There are 2 upper and 2 lower berths in one bay on one side of the aisle and 1 upper and 1 lower berth in the bay on the other side of the aisle. The berths are smaller than those in 1st class. In both classes bedding is included in the fare. The carriages are kept pretty clean. Each carriage has both western style and squat toilets usually in a reasonably good condition. It is recommended to take your own toilet paper.
Facilities: Unless traveling on the Duronto, Shatabadi or Rajdhani Express trains or on one of the luxury trains, meals are not included in the fare. Long distance trains usually have a pantry car or an attendant selling food and drinks that can be eaten at your berth. We generally advise that people eat before boarding the train or get a packed meal from their hotel to take with them , as the quality of food offered on board can be variable. Alcoholic drinks are not served on or permitted to be taken onto Indian trains.
Children: Children can travel on Indian trains and pay a discounted fare.
Health: We recommend malarial prophylactics for travel to India.
Communication: There is no Wi-Fi internet access on Indian trains, but there are plans to introduce this service on some express trains. Some luxury trains, such as the Palace on Wheels, do have Wi-Fi internet access.