India trains are one of the most common forms of transportation for visitors who are not on a pre-arranged tour to explore multiple destinations. While some travelers choose to rent cars, hop on a domestic flight, or take the bus, the India railway is still the most popular method of travel and a very reliably affordable one as well. The variety of accommodation levels available during India train travel make the railway accessible for a variety of travelers, including those willing to pay for the most luxurious accommodation and the backpackers who crowd into the unreserved cabins. If you are planning on taking the train in India and you'd prefer not to be packed into an unreserved cabin, it is essential to book your tickets as far in advance as possible.
India trains are significantly different than their European counterparts. India train travel has a very wide spectrum regarding comfort, and foreigners should be aware of the sanitary and comfort conditions of the various levels when purchasing a ticket. The most comfortable option is the first-class sleeper car, a private compartment that can accommodate two to four people. Traveling the India railway first class ensures sleep and relaxation during your journey, allowing for more energy to explore your destination once you arrive. These tickets often sell out, so plan accordingly, and remember that reservations open 90 days prior to the travel date.
The next level of accommodation options on India trains encompasses the second- and third-class sleeper car options. The most comfortable of amenities in these cars is the presence of air-conditioning, which is important if you're traveling beneath the hot Indian sun. India train travel is typically sold out at least fifteen days in advance, so be sure to reserve these tickets as far ahead as possible as the second- and third-class sleeper cars are the first to become unavailable.
Some travelers make the mistake of not reserving in advance and find themselves in the unreserved cabins. These cabins are typically not up to a standard foreigners may be accustomed to, and travelers are packed in at sometimes alarming numbers. It is popular among travelers who are backpacking and on a tight budget, but only travel in the unreserved cabins on the India railway at your own risk. The food options can be limited or nonexistent, and have been known to be served in a newspaper, so bring your own food if you would prefer to avoid this.
The best way to make a long journey enjoyable is to make a reservation and travel between destinations in comfort, enjoying the landscape. One of the best aspects of taking the train versus purchasing an affordable domestic flight is the landscape, small towns, and real culture that can be observed along the journey. For example, the rail trip to Shimla is especially popular, as the route is known for its stunning views and 103 tunnels and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re planning on covering a lot of ground during your vacation, an India rail pass may be a good option for you. An IndRail pass can be purchased for half a day, one day, and longer. There are offices for IndRail purchases in many foreign countries, including the UK, Germany, Australia, and South Africa, though currently not in America. These passes may not always save you a lot of money, but they will make planning an itinerary easy. You can book your rail pass in any of the variety of accommodation options. As it is the third biggest railway network in the world, after Russia and China, there are endless options for enjoying India train travel, no matter which attractions and destinations you plan to see.