One cannot even consider a visit to India to be complete without experiencing travel on Indian trains and making one’s way through the busy Indian railway stations. Traveling through Indian trains is not only cheap but is also very safe and comfortable especially in the AC classes. It is that comfortable that one can travel even long distances such as from Jammu to Trivandrum, Bombay to Delhi or from Delhi to Varanasi with much more ease through Indian trains than flying, using sleeper trains.
Train routes in IndiaThe Indian railway network, the fourth largest railway network in the world after United States, Russia and China has 63,000 km of rail routes and 6,800 stations. Not only that, it is the biggest in the world in terms of passenger kilometers. Traveling by train is the easiest way to travel within the country and everyone remains updated on the best AC Sleeper Class Booking options available through the Indian Railways official site.
Some train tips
- The trains in India go almost everywhere, and it's generally safe to assume that you can travel between any two Indian cities or major towns by train. Indian trains are quite safe to travel on, even for families or women traveling alone, and you are unlikely to have any problems. Having said that, theft of luggage is not unheard of, so just for your own peace of mind take along a bicycle padlock or medium-sized lock to secure your belongings. In the sleeper-cars, there are wire hoops hanging down underneath the seats to which you can chain and lock your luggage. As in any busy place, pickpockets operate at the major stations so take extreme precaution.
- Do not eat food from strangers or people who befriend you on the trains.
- Do not leave your luggage or belongings unattended
Also, always double check your reservation, PNR number, Seat number etc. against the prepared cart that gets stuck outside every train coach before departure. Your train, coach and berth number will be printed on your ticket. Reservation lists for each long-distance train are posted on the notice board at each station about two hours before departure, showing the name, age and sex of each passenger reserved in each berth in each coach - the age and sex help the ticket inspector identify the passengers. The reservation list for each coach will also be pasted on the train itself, next to the entrance/ Check to see that your name is listed correctly. The system is efficient, and the days of finding your reserved berth already occupied by passengers are gone.
Food and drink on Indian trains: Although, there are no such thing as restaurants or buffet cars on Indian Railways, however, on long distance trains, usually an attendant comes to the coach and asks for the food orders. The attendant then notes down the order that is usually a choice of 'veg' or 'non-veg' and thereafter serves with the meal an hour or two later. The service is not at all expensive, ranges from Rs. 50 to 100 per meal, and hence fits in everybody’s pockets. The attendants also regularly pass on carts selling different drinks such as soft drinks, beverages, snacks, samosas or excellent hot Indian tea (garam chai) or coffee for passengers’ brunch times for just a few bucks. On the premier Indian Railways routes such as that of the Rajdhani Express and the Shatabdi Express, food is included in the fare, served at your seat giving your taste buds the ultimate satisfaction.
The efficient Indian Rail Reservation system means that you can safely forget those old photos you've seen of overcrowded Indian trains with people on the roof or hanging on the side. On fast long-distance trains in AC1, AC2, AC3, or AC Chair Class, all passengers have an assigned seat or sleeping berth so there's no overcrowding.
However , one cannot expect pristine western standards anywhere in India, specially when it comes to toilets. On Indian trains, you'll find AC1, AC2, AC3 and AC Chair class fairly clean by Indian standards, with both western-style and squat toilets usually in a reasonably sanitary condition. Toilets in sleeper class or basic non-AC 2nd class are best avoided.
Notable trains and achievementsThere are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites on IR - the Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus and the Mountain railways of India. The latter is not contiguous, but actually consists of three separate railway lines located in different parts of India:
- The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, a narrow gauge railway in West Bengal.
- The Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a metre gauge railway in the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu.
- The Kalka-Shimla Railway, a narrow gauge railway in the Shivalik mountains in Himachal Pradesh.
The Palace on Wheels is a specially designed palace train hauled by a steam locomotive, for promoting tourism in Rajasthan. On the same lines, the Maharashtra government introduced the Deccan Odyssey covering various tourist destinations in Maharashtra and Goa, and was followed by the Government of Karnataka introducing the Golden Chariot train connecting popular tourist destinations in Karnataka and Goa.
The Samjhauta Express runs between India and Pakistan. Another train connecting Khokhrapar, Pakistan and Munabao, India is the Thar Express that restarted operations on February 18, 2006.
The Kalka Shimla Railway till recently featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for offering the steepest rise in altitude in the space of 96 kilometres.
The Lifeline Express is a special train popularly known as the "Hospital-on-Wheels" which provides healthcare to the rural areas. This train has a carriage that serves as an operating room, a second one which serves as a storeroom and an additional two that serve as a patient ward. The train travels around the country, staying at a location for about two months before moving elsewhere.
Among the famous locomotives, the Fairy Queen is the oldest running locomotive on the mainline in the world today, though the distinction of the oldest surviving locomotive that has recently seen service belongs to John Bull. Kharagpur railway station also has the distinction of being the world's longest railway platform at 1072 m. The Ghum station along the Darjeeling Toy Train route is the second highest railway station in the world to be reached by a steam locomotive. The Mumbai-Pune Deccan Queen has the oldest running dining car in Indian Railway.
The Himsagar Express, between Kanyakumari and Jammu Tawi, has the longest run in terms of distance and time on Indian Railways network. It covers 3,745 km in about 75 hours. The Bhopal Shatabdi Express is the fastest train in India today having a maximum speed of 150 km/h on the Faridabad - Agra section. The fastest speed attained by any train in India is 184 km/h in 2000 during test runs.