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Taking an overnight train in India -- yes or no?

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Aug 11th, 2012, 06:47 AM
  #1
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Taking an overnight train in India -- yes or no?

Hi, all,
My itinerary is pretty much set, and I'm currently planning traveling from Varanasi to Agra on the overnight train in January. I'm having second thoughts, however, and would appreciate your opinions. We will be seeing the Taj Mahal the day we arrive and are staying one night in Agra. We arrive on a Thursday morning, so don't have the option to see it on Friday, the day we leave.

This is hubby's and my first (and likely only) trip to India. We'll be in India in January to February 2013 for 3 weeks going to Rajasthan, Delhi, Agra and Varanasi. We are late 50s & mid 60s. We generally travel in the budget to low/moderate range, although I will say that traveling comfortably is important. We are planning to have a car/driver for much of the trip and have a few internal flights booked already (Delhi-Varanasi, Jodhpur-Delhi).

My MAIN concern at this point is ensuring that we are as healthy and rested as it's possible to be, given that India will be an intense experience. We are very open to traveling by train; however, I'm now wondering about sleeping and whether we might be better off flying back to Delhi and taking an early train the next morning. I've seen hubby when he's sleep-deprived, and he's not a happy camper (um, traveler), which makes me a grumpy traveler, too!

As I said, we are open to the experience and certainly would rather save a few extra dollars, although I'd rather spend the extra cash and feel good than save a few dollars and feel sick. So I'm going back and forth on this -- I'm leaning toward taking the train overnight, but am willing to consider returning by plane if it would make a difference in how we felt.

Suggestions or thoughts? Especially from those who said "Glad I did it but wouldn't do it again" - would you have done it the first time if you knew what it was like?

Many thanks!
Paule
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Aug 11th, 2012, 08:46 AM
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I have ridden a lot of night trains in India. Sometimes I've slept well, sometimes not so well. I am a big fan of traveling in 2AC, where you are likely to meet friendly local families. However, you would probably sleep better in 1AC, although it is usually populated by less-friendly military, government and business types. The real issue is whether other people around you are going to get off in the middle of the night, and how much noise they make doing so.

I do think that traveling by train is a not-to-be-missed experience. See http://www.seat61.com/India.htm for lots of info.
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Aug 11th, 2012, 09:12 AM
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Earplugs and eye shades. That should help. Also, make sure you lock your luggage up. Varanasi to Agra is the only route we had a problem with and had a back pack stolen in the middle of the night, the only item not locked up.

I suggest you get one upper and one lower bunk on the same side. I thought we did but had two uppers which was the problem, we didnt see them rifleing through our stuff.It the luggage is right below you then you would lknow they are there

This to me was rare however, most of the people we met on the trains, and everywhere in India were fantastic.

It is a great way to save time and money. We found 2AC clean and comfortable.
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Aug 11th, 2012, 10:09 AM
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Thanks, I'm leaning toward sticking with the plan to take the train.

I think the Varanasi to Agra only has the 2AC option, so we're bound to have a real travel experience!

live42day, I do remember reading about the luggage being stolen. Is it kept on the floor while you sleep? How do you lock it up? I mean, is there a pole or something that it locks onto? Our bags are easy to unzip, so does that mean I need to make sure I bring along locks for the zipper, too? Now I'm getting a little anxious!

Anyway, thanks for the feedback, it does overall make me feel okay, just shall we say, a little cautious?!
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Aug 11th, 2012, 10:50 AM
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There are straps under the bottom bunks, you need a cable lock to secure your bags to the strap. I seem to remember there is also room over the door. I always have a combination lock on my big bag, which is the one I lock to the strap. I keep my day bag, with the stuff worth stealing (camera, computer etc) in the berth with me. I also wear a money belt, for passport, ATM/credit cards, cash etc. although I often put it under my pillow if I'm sleeping on a train.

I'm more comfortable if I don't sleep in my clothes, so I take a long top with me (mine is the top half of a shalwar kameez, but a really long T shirt would work) and put that on instead of my top and bra in the bathroom, then take off my trousers after I get into bed. I also travel with a Dreamsack, which I sometimes use on trains - see http://www.yaladesigns.com/travel/dreamsacks
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Aug 11th, 2012, 10:59 AM
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Forget the door - that's 1AC, no doors in 2AC! Looks like you're right about no 1AC, but the Bsb Okha Exp only has five stops and gets in at a reasonable hour in the morning.
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Aug 11th, 2012, 02:41 PM
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We are booked on the ovenight Bundelkhand Express, Varanasi to Gwalior, 1AC. Departs Varanasi 6pm, arrives Gwalior 9am (hopefully!). This train is apparantly more reliable than the Varanasi to Agra train, though I have also been told that 'this train runs late many times'... We arrive on Wednesday, and a late train wouldn't be as big an issue for us as it would for you arriving on Thursday and having to drive 3 hours to Agra.
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Aug 11th, 2012, 04:56 PM
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Secure your belongings, as noted above, so they're safe while sleeping. Indians are great people, but some are thieves too. Like any travel, be on your toes.
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Aug 11th, 2012, 06:34 PM
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Thanks everyone, I think we're going totake the train . We still have time to decide, but my inclination is toward doing it. Keeps the costs down, too.
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Aug 12th, 2012, 07:01 AM
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The "Dreamsacks" mentioned above are a good idea (I've travelled with others on trains who swear by them) but at that web price is crazy. We found the same thing (apparently) for about US$4-5 in Hanoi all over the place in the markets and stores.
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Aug 12th, 2012, 07:56 AM
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I took one overnight trip 2AC from Delhi to Jaisalmer and, while I slept badly because of 1 woman turning a light on and off nearby to rummage in her purse and might not choose to do it again, I'm glad I did it.

I have several overnight train rides planned in Asia in the next months and when I'm feeling uncertain and thinking about just flying I remind myself of how much more interesting the trains will be. I think of them not as transportation so much as another form of seeing the country in an intimate way, not possible unless I buy the ticket and take the ride. And certainly the stuff of memories and stories.
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Aug 12th, 2012, 08:03 AM
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Thanks, MmePerdu,
That's a good reminder of why and how we like to travel, and what we really do enjoy & remember the most from our travels.
We'll definitely keep the overnight train in the plans.
Paule
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Aug 12th, 2012, 05:49 PM
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We are in our 60s and probably travel in the same budget range as you do. We did three overnights on our six week trip and survived and weren't too crabby the next day even if we didn't sleep too well on a few of these trips. See if you can possibly get 1AC. We had this for our of our overnight trips and it was much nicer than the 2AC we had for others.
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Aug 13th, 2012, 03:55 AM
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Thanks Julie. I remember your trip report and remembered your description of the experience. I don't think that 1AC is offered on that particular train route, so we'll just keep in mind that it's India and hope for the best!
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Aug 14th, 2012, 11:48 AM
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Carrob - I hope you are going to spend the day in Gwalior. It is one of the towns rarely mentioned, but a major highlight to our trip.
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Aug 15th, 2012, 02:27 PM
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Yes dgunbug, I hope so too! I read how much you enjoyed your stopover there. We really wanted to stay for a night, but that would have meant being in Agra on a Friday or having to take out a day somewhere else. We are hopeful that the train will arrive in Gwalior on time and we'll be able to visit the fort, and maybe the palace too!
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