Train travel in India
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Distances in India are huge so we decided to use overnight trains for travelling between places.
We always booked AC1 accommodation. This is either two or four berth. Clean bed linen and a small towel and bar of soap is provided. Being ‘elderly Europeans’ we had priority when compartments were allocated and usually managed to get a two berth compartment. These are upper and lower berth. Class 2 or 3 had curtains screening off the beds. There were ordinary coaches with seats only. You cannot reserve these and they are usually overcrowded with people in the corridors and hanging out of the doors. Toilets and washrooms are found at both ends of the compartment.
On the outside of each coach there is a list of compartments with names allocated to them. Allocation of 2 berth cabins seems to depend on official standing in India, age and nationality. Older people are given lower berths. There is no segregation of sexes when allocating compartments. Usually passengers in shared compartments don’t bother to undress.
There is a controller in charge of the train who sorts out any disputes on compartments and is responsible for good running of the train. He can be seen on the platform at all stops and is responsible for getting the train away.
At stations, local porters will board the train with offers to help with luggage. They are not paid a salary and are dependent on tips for their livelihood, so do be generous.
Traveling by train is an eye opener. Trains are full and over flowing with passengers. Stations are busy with passengers, porters, hawkers and railway children who live on the platform and exist by scavenging and begging. There is always noise – announcements of train arrivals and departures. On long distance routes, time keeping can be poor and trains may be several hours late.
We were amazed by the number of people seen walking along the railway line. It seems to be a recognised route-way. The railway authorities try and discourage it but are fighting a losing battle. Many people are killed each day.
We caught the Rajdhani Express from Guwahait to Delhi and Delhi to Abu Road were both good. There were 3 staff allocated to each coach who served meals and generally looked after the coach. Meal service was leisurely and a meal could take a couple of hours as the different courses were served and cleared away. There was a choice of vegetarian or non vegetarian. We went for the vegetarian choice having learnt that meat was served with bones and there could be more bones than meat.
Compartments were comfortable and the toilet and basins at the end of the coach were kept clean. The Delhi Mount Abu stock was older with retro 1950s style formica finishes.
The trip from Guwahati to Delhi took 36 hours. We had chosen this option rather than flying as we thought tit would let us see a bit more of India. In fact the scenery was similar for most of the journey, but it did give us an insight into the way of life. We saw the tea plantations, small villages with ponds full of water hyacinths, isolated rural settlements, larger towns with busy streets and shops as well as cows and pigs scavenging for food. There were vast areas of virtual nothingness with barely enough vegetation for the livestock.
At the end of the trip the attendants appeared with a visitors book to be signed and in hope of a tip. We put two notes on the plate and the chief attendant very carefully explained to us there were three of them. We took the hint and added another note.
The Mewar Express between Udaipur and Delhi was older stock with no attendants allocated to a coach, no served meals and it was not as clean.
There are some pictures here.
58 people found this review helpful
This review is solely based on the opinion of a Silver Travel Advisor member and not of Silver Travel Advisor Ltd.