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dgunbug Sep 13th, 2010 05:31 PM

Indian Trains
We are beginning our research for our first trip to India and are trying to determine the best mode of transportation through the Golden Triangle & Rajasthan area. We plan to do the standard first time tour independently and will have approximately 3 1/2 weeks. I have read many reports on this site in which travelers describe their travels through India, hiring drivers in advance. Others and in particular those on other forums have made more use of the train system or planes to get to and from their destinations.

Having read about the hazardous driving conditions and the difficulty in traveling by automobile due to the traffic congestion, I am wondering why more people here have not made more use the trains system. I have read about Dogster's wonderful adventures on the train through India, but regretfully, that style of train travel is not in our budget. What are the conditions on the trains if one uses the first class A/C compartments? My husband believes that we could easily do most of our travels by overnight and local trains and he believes this will save money while getting us to our destination as quickly if not quicker than by car or plane. He is not adverse to hiring a guide or driver upon arrival and when necessary, but he is reluctant to pre-book a driver for the entire trip. He is also leery of flying on planes in India, stating that they don't have the best safety records. We have used sleeper trains on occasion in the past and have not had much difficulty with those, except when there was excessive smoke which caused my husband to have great respiratory difficulty.

So, my question is what are the pros and cons between trains, planes & private car travel in India? Are there any particular routes better served by a a particular mode of transportation?

I'm loving all the reports I've been reading and can't wait to explore India ourselves. Thanks in advance for any thoughts on this matter.

thursdaysd Sep 13th, 2010 05:41 PM

I spent 10 weeks traveling almost exclusively by train back in 2001 - see for my trip report. I'm going back to India this year and am finding trains less useful in the south than the north.

For lots of info on Indian trains and the different classes see I actually preferred 2AC to 1AC - 1AC was mostly government and businessmen, while 2AC was more families, and friendlier, but less privacy. If there are two of you you might get the single two-person compartment in 1AC - as a solo traveler I was always in one of the four passenger compartments when I was in 1AC.

I only flew once in 2001 (Agra to Khajuraho), although I did use a car and driver for a couple of stretches where trains or buses didn't work (Shekawati region in Rajasthan, and Khajuraho to Orccha to Jhansi, I believe).

shelleyk Sep 14th, 2010 04:14 AM

On my trip to northern India several years ago, I travelled mostly by road, but did one segment by train. I found the train station both interesting and chaotic. I am glad I did that one segment by train to have the experience of train travel in India, but I would not have wanted to make all transfers by train because of the hassle factor. Indian cities are noisy and chaotic. I liked the time on the road between cities to recoup and have some peace and quiet while still enjoying the scenery. The traffic outside of the main cities was not bad at all when I was there. Maybe I was just lucky.

dgunbug Sep 14th, 2010 05:28 AM

Thank you Thursday and Shelley for your comments. Anyone else to weigh in on this matter?

Craig Sep 14th, 2010 06:16 AM

We have used all 3 modes of transportation. For long distances, I recommend going by air - flights are relatively inexpensive and privately owned airlines such as Kingfisher and Jet are excellent. Delhi-Udaipur, Varanasi-Delhi and Udaipur-Mumbai-Aurangabad are good examples where going by air served us well. We traveled by train from Ranthambore Park (Sawai Madhopor) to Delhi in first class. It was a 7 hour trip that would have been even longer by car. We had a private cabin to ourselves but the experience was rather sterile. The windows were dirty so we really didn't see much of the countryside. It seems that the big fans of train travel on this forum are more interested in what is going on inside the train than outside. To really "see" India, you need to travel by car - we did Delhi-Agra, Agra-Jaipur and Jaipur-Ranthambore. Many take the high speed train between Delhi and Agra, however.

Hope this helps.

rhkkmk Sep 14th, 2010 07:07 AM

i am working on a 2nd trip to india for next year....we will use planes for long distances and a driver for rajastan areas, i.e. the golden triangle...

the car allows you to really see things, while the train just roars by with no stopping except at staions...

often sleeping on trains is in 4 bed compartments... not for me: safety, smell, lack of comfort...

i am using anoop's cousin, who lcuy used last year for my driver... i can send you his address....good english

the driving, while not calm, is not what i would call dangereous....make sure you have an SUV however so you are seen on the roads....

live42day Sep 14th, 2010 07:30 AM

I did all three as well, my trip report is 'trains planes and automobiles'. I am glad I experienced all three. As stated above planes are good for long distances. I never felt unsafe on an Indian plane, (I felt safer than on the road). The trains are a great way to travel but I would not do it all the time. We had a hard time sleeping on them. Other than that they were comfortable enough, we did second class as first class was never an option on the trains we took.

We prebooked the trains on '' which was very easy to use but you must do so when India is open for business, so it could be late night for you depending on your time zone.

indianapearl Sep 14th, 2010 10:46 AM

We drove mostly, but took three domestic flights, all of which were fine. From what I've read, train travel can produce mixed results. Some are great, others are filthy. I even read a report where one of the passengers sharing the compartment had a seizure in the middle of the night!

I agree with those who say you just can't see the rural areas of India without driving. Since more than half the Indian people live in rural areas, you'll be missing a lot -- women carrying firewood on their heads, buffalo threshing grain or hauling water, thatched huts, drying dung patties, people bathing and laundering in the rivers or town pumps.

CaliNurse Sep 14th, 2010 10:59 AM

Fot general information for future readers, even though it does not apply specifically to the OP's area of travel..
One of the bet ways to see the village life(es[ecially dong laundry, bathing,etc) is from the boats in the Kerala backwaters, as they go past villages.

Clark55 Sep 14th, 2010 11:44 PM

I think the best idea is to do a mix of all three. We flew to Varanasi from Delhi with Kingfisher airlines and we voted them the best airline in the world for passenger services, someone in a little red uniform collects you from your taxi and remains with you all th way to the departing gate, never seen this before and we were flying economy. From Varanasi we took the night train to Agra which was a great experience and would recommend it to anyone. From Agra to Jaipur we hired a driver, this is ideal because on the way is the famous Fatehpur Sikri, we also stopped off at Abhaneri on the way.
From Jaipur to Jodhpur we went back to train travel we got the Rathanbone Express at 17.05 arriving in Jodhpur at 22.30 we were a bit worried about arriving so late but a driver from our hotel was waiting for us and it was also an experience to see thousands of people already sleeping outside the station on the road.
From Jodhpur to Udaipur we booked a taxi as the not to be missed Adinath Temple in Ranakpur is on the way.
If you get your itinerary sorted, you'll then be able to look at the best way to get from one place to the other.

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