The best way to travel through India is by trains, because not only it’s one of the cheapest ways to travel in the country but it also introduces you to different cultures and the landscapes. You get the window seat to experience an everchanging scenery on your journey. However, if you’re going to travel in India by train for the first time, then you need to know a few things. Therefore, here’s our guide to travelling by train in India if you’re doing it for the first time:
- Booking a train ticket:
Booking a train ticket for long distance trains in India can be a bit confusing if you’re doing it for the first time. Firstly, you can book tickets for all train classes except the second class, and there’s an online booking service which will help you with it, Irctc and Cleartrip’s website for Indian railways booking are your best bet.
While booking the train tickets, you’ll have put in the name and the number of your train, you can easily search for it on various websites like indianrail.gov.in, and after that you’ll be assigned a particular berth after you enter the details of the stations you’ll be traveling between, the date of travel and the class of accommodation you want to travel in.
Now if you don’t find a direct train, you will get an error message and in that case you’ll have to do a break journey. Moreover, if there are no tickets available, the availability will be shown as RAC(reservation against cancellation), in which case you’ll be given a seat in the train, but not a bed. However, if you’re shown WL, then you’ll be booked in the waitlist queue, and you can’t board the train until there are enough seats/beds available.
In case, you’re booking the tickets over the counter, you must first print out the reservation form or just obtain it from the office. Fill the form, and submit it at the reservation counter, and you’ll be handed your ticket.
If you’re booking online, just print the ticket once you’re done and always make a note of the 10 digit PNR number that you’ll be assigned.
- Different classes in Indian trains:
In long distance trains, there are five different types of classes, namely:
Second class(2S): Second class is generally used by the poorer of the people, or the ones who aren’t fortunate enough to reserve a ticket in any of the other classes. The reservation is not required for this class but it is really crowded.
Sleeper Class(SL): It’s usually used by the Indian middle class, and carriages are divided into open plan compartments with 6 beds each. These beds are stacked vertically in three tiers, while on the other, walking side of the compartment, two tiers of beds are provided. It’s less crowded than the second class.
Three tier air-conditioned class(3A): 3A class is a significant step up from the sleeper class in terms of comfort and the quietness. Plus you’re provided with bedding and towels during your journey, as well as there are attendants to help you as well.
Two tier air conditioned class(2A): This class generally attract the upper class travelers, plus there is more space as there are only four beds in each compartment, stacked vertically with two tiers on each side. Bedding and towels are provided in this one as well, plus there are curtains too for added privacy.
First class air conditioned(1A): This class is found in only the most popular of the long distance train, the cost is almost the double of 2A and you get the airline level treatment in this class. The compartments have lockable doors, carpet and set of 2 or 4 beds. You’re provided with bedding and towel like 2A and 3A, but the only issue is that you’re not specified if you’re booked in 2 bed compartment or 4 bed compartment.
Tips for traveling with Indian railways:
- Always carry a book with you.
- If you love to chat, then talk to people around you as Indians love to chat and you’ll get to know more about the local culture.
- If you have any special dietary requirements, then bring your food along as meals provided on board are average at best and don’t cater to the western tastes.
- Always carry money with you, because the food/drink vendors always keep taking rounds in the coaches plus it’s also possible to get down on the platform and buy something to eat/drink.
- In case you’re a light sleeper, carry earplugs or headphones with you.
- Even though the toilets are similar, toilet in air conditioned classes are much cleaner than sleeper class ones.
- Toilets are busiest during the morning hours between 8-9 am, so wake up early.
- Take care of your luggage, never leave it unsecured or put your valuable items on display. Carry padlocks or chains if you can.
- Use anti-bacterial hand wipes and toilet paper with you.