Do not provide a blanket to Garib Rath

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Railway in India

Rail travel is very popular in India. Even if the modernization of the railway is progressing very slowly, the Indian Railway already offers some more modern trains. After the USA and China, India has the third largest rail network in the world. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • The railway network is 63,140 km long
  • 8,702 passenger trains operate in India
  • The Indian railway network has 6,856 stations
  • 14 million travelers (according to some sources even up to 23 million) take the train in India every day
  • 1.3 million employees make Indian Railways the largest employer in the world.

Our travel offers for India

Rail journey through India: from Mumbai (Bombay) via Udaipur, Jaipur, Jaisamler, Delhi, Agra to Calcutta, 18 days

Trains in India

Western tourists are often faced with pictures of crowded and old trains in India. You often see photos of people clinging to the wagons from the outside or traveling on the roofs. All of this is also true. These pictures are actually not uncommon on site in India, but almost exclusively trains without a mandatory seat reservation are affected by them.

Trains with compulsory seat reservation

Duronto train

Usually connects two larger cities, without intermediate stops, mostly air-conditioned.

Rajdhani Express

Air-conditioned, fast night train that connects the Indian capital Delhi with the respective state capital.

Shatabdi Express

The fastest train in India. This air-conditioned intercity train operates during the day. There are only seats available.

Jan Shatabdi Express

Air-conditioned or non-air-conditioned express trains that run during the day.

Garib Rath Express

Air-conditioned night train. Every Garib Rath Express train has both wagons with seats and with bed compartments.

Trains without compulsory seat reservations

These trains are often overcrowded, especially the cheaper wagons.

Express / Mail train

Air-conditioned or non-air-conditioned trains with seats and beds that do not stop at all stations.

Fast Passenger (express passenger train)

Non-air-conditioned trains with seats and some sleeping places. Although the trains are labeled as "fast", they stop at every station.

Passenger (passenger train)

Trains not air-conditioned. Seats only available.

Regional and suburban trains

Local trains with seats or standing room. Most of them are not air-conditioned.

Meals on the Indian trains

Indian Railways trains do not have restaurant or buffet cars. On the long-distance trains, conductors take orders from travelers. As a rule, you can choose between a vegan and non-vegan meal. The food is brought about 1 hour after ordering. The meal consists of rice with sauce and costs around € 1.50 to € 3. During the entire trip, the conductors offer drinks, snacks or excellent hot sweet Indian tea (Garam Chai) for a few rupees (= approx. 10 cents). On some trains (such as the Rajdhani Express and Shatabdi Express), food is already included in the price of the train ticket.

Train fare classes in India

Price ranges on long-distance trains in India

There are 8 different price ranges on Indian trains, but not all of them are available on every train. Many train class designations (codes) are sometimes confusing for European rail travelers. Below is an explanation of the most common codes:

AC 1 - 1st Class / First Class Air-Conditioned (Code 1A)

Air-conditioned 1st class, only available on the Shatabdi Express, which connects the three largest cities in India: Chennai (Madras), Mumbai (Bombay) and New Delhi. It is the most comfortable travel class on Indian trains and means lockable 4- and 2-bed compartments. Sheets, pillows and blankets are available on the train. In the evening the beds are made by a train attendant. Each compartment has a washbasin and always clean toilets.

AC 2 - 2nd class / Tier Sleeper (Code: 2A)

2nd class means air-conditioned sleeping cars with 4-bed compartments on one side of the aisle and a row of two beds one above the other in the longitudinal direction of the car opposite the compartments. The difference to class 1A is that the compartments are not lockable here. There are curtains in every bed for more privacy. The passengers receive bed linen, pillows and blankets from the train attendant. There are 4 toilets in the car - 2 at each end of the car.

AC 3 - 3rd class standard / tier (code: 3A)

3rd class Standard / Tier means in India air-conditioned sleeping cars with non-lockable 6-bed compartments (3 beds on top of each other on each side of the compartment) on one side of the aisle and a row of 2 beds on top of each other in the longitudinal direction of the car opposite the compartments. There are usually no curtains on the beds in the compartments. Sheets, pillows and blankets are available on the train.

AC 3 - 3rd class Economy / Tier Economy (Code: 3E)

The 3rd class Economy wagons are the same as those of the 3rd class Standard, except for one detail: the row of 2 beds on top of each other in the longitudinal direction becomes a row of 3 beds on top of each other.

First Class in India (Code: FC)

This class can be compared with the 1A class. The difference is that the sleeping cars with 2 and 4 bed compartments are not air-conditioned. The compartments are lockable as in the 1A class. Bed linen, pillows and blankets are not included in the ticket price, but can be provided by the conductor for a fee. This price range is only available in a few trains.

Sleeper Class in India (Code: SL)

Sleeper Class looks very similar to the 3rd class standard (3A) wagons (also means non-lockable 6-bed compartments on one side and a row of 2 beds on top of each other on the other aisle side). However, the sleeping cars here are not air-conditioned and the compartments are narrower, so that one more compartment fits into the car. There are usually no curtains here either. Fans provide some cooling. The Sleeper Class is very cheap and also popular with the Indians. Foreign tourists often have great reservations before booking this price range and are not often found in these wagons. It is definitely recommended for all those who want to get to know real Indian life.

Explanations:

  • UB (Upper Berth) - bed up
  • MB (Middle Berth) - middle bed
  • LB (Lower Berth) - bed down
  • SU (Side Upper) - side bed below
  • SM (Side Middel) - side bed middle floor
  • SL (Side Lower) - side bed below

Price ranges on short routes in India

AC Chair Car (Code: CC)

1st class air-conditioned car with three seats on one side of the aisle and two seats on the other.

Second Sitting (Code: 2S)

2nd class car, not air-conditioned, with three seats on either side of the aisle.

The most beautiful train routes in India

Pamban Bridge - rail connection with the island of Pamban

The incredible structure connects mainland India and the island. Originally, the rail connection was supposed to extend to Sri Lanka, but the rest of the rail line remains in the planning area so far. This bascule bridge is about 2 km long. Travelers have a unique opportunity to travel across the sea by train.

Concussion stretch in India

On the route from Mumbai to Goa, between the Indian cities of Roha and Thokur, there is a fascinating scenic route. Here, travelers experience a journey through a region rich in rivers, valleys and mountains, crossing around 2000 bridges and 91 tunnels.

Narrow gauge railway in the mountain regions of India (Toy trains) - Mountain railways in India

Three Indian railway lines have been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. All three wonderful rail routes were built by the British colonial government.

Darjeeling Himalayan Railway

The railway line was built in 1883 and is located in the Himalayan state of West Bengal. The 83 km long route leads over around 500 bridges. Line trains of the Indian Railway run here twice a day. It sometimes happens that parts of the railway line are interrupted by landslides.

Kalka-Shimla Railway

This breathtaking railway line connects the cities of Kalka and Shimla in northwest India. On the narrow-gauge railway line trains of the Indian Railways run. This almost 100 km long route was built in 1903. It leads over 864 Roman-style viaducts and 107 tunnels as well as through the wonderful landscape of the Shivalik Mountains to the valleys surrounded by high mountains.

Nilgiri Mountain Railway

The beautiful 48 km long mountain route is located in southern India in the state of Tamil Nadu. The travelers can expect 16 tunnels and around 250 bridges as well as spectacular landscapes.

Tickets in India

The tickets go on sale in India 120 days before departure. Only for some short routes can train tickets be bought 30 days before departure. If you have limited time in India, be sure to reserve your tickets well in advance as rail travel is very popular in India. Even if the Indians prefer to take the cheaper trains on which no reservation is required, the trains that require a reservation are often fully booked long before departure. Train tickets sell out quickly, especially during the high season (from the end of November to January and from April to June) and for departure days on the popular holidays (e.g. Diwali - November 11th, Holi - March 6th).

Entry requirements for India - visas and formalities

German citizens need a valid visa to enter India. This must be applied for in person at one of the four India Visa Service Centers in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich or Frankfurt / Main or online as an electronic visa before departure. Strict attention must be paid to regional responsibilities. A tourist visa can be applied for for a period of up to 6 months. The passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of departure and have at least two free pages next to each other.

Travel security on the Indian trains

The Indian railway should be cheap, dirty, dangerous - that's the cliché, but it doesn't have to be, at least when it comes to safety. As in any other country, you should watch out for pickpockets at the large stations. Thefts on the train, on the other hand, are rare. The luggage can be secured with a padlock, and there is always a special chain under the seats.

For women traveling alone, 3rd class (AC 3 tier) is recommended as the safest, because you are surrounded by many people all the time. 1st and 2nd class compartments can often be closed from the inside, but you have to share them with strangers who don't necessarily have to be nice companions. The ability to lock the compartments in particular could be dangerous for a woman traveling alone. So-called women-only carriages (compartments for women only) are provided on some trains. Of course, culture-conscious behavior that is appropriate to the situation is also recommended: knees and shoulders should be covered, short pants or short skirts and tank tops are not recommended. More information on "Women traveling alone in Asia".

Rail travel in India - all information as PDF