The best way to get around on the India transport network is by train. It is the most reliable. There are loads of options that allow flexibility between cost and comfort. It is the preferred method of travel by most.
See our maps of the India transport system by rail
Trains charge for 3 main things.
- The Route and distance
- Reservation Charges
- Superfast charges (for more direct trains)
There are a few options with regards to class:
FC = First Class
1A – 3A = 1-3 tiered bunk bed cabins (with Air Conditioning)
CC = Chair Class (Sitting on wooden chairs without air con)
SL = Sleeping Class
2S = Second Sitting
3E = 3rd class (with AC)
Air Conditioning is important, especially in the summer as overcrowded trains with dusty and 40C heat on a 50 hour journey…. well… you can imagine it.
Routes and Costs:
All the above India transport routes can be found on the following site, which provides train maps and the timetables for each route listed.
An ace site that allows you to check out the journey you are planning to make and the associated costs. This is where our fare info has come from.
However some train lines are highly fragmented in India. There are often breaks or “Halts” in the journey that have long waits for the connection. This can be between 1 hour and 10 hours, so ensure you look out for this and be prepared!
Also ensure that if you are going to travel on 3A sleeper class that you book in advance, especially between two large cities as these are often booked up a week in advance.
If you are going on a long journey over night and you are knackered it might be worth investing in sleep. Upgrading from a 3AC class to 1AC, where you are alone will cost approx double the price of a 3A sleeper class cabin. The value here depends on the length of the journey vs how tired you feel!
If you have internet access then it is advisable to book a train ticket online (using credit card for safety) as the ticket halls are hot, sweaty and take hours to buy a ticket. You generally need to queue to get a ticket that allows you to buy an actual train ticket! The key here is planning and having lots of time…
With India transport there is of course an option to travel by road through private companies and networks of carriers who offer more exclusive travel. This is especially so in the north-west of the country and in the Himalayan regions. These are quoted as buses but can be more often than not estate cars (Volvos), small minibuses or coaches and vary wildly. So do the drivers and the state of the transport. As such if you book bus travel try to find out what kind of buses the company use.
A journey from Delhi to Mumbai for example:
|Rishabh Travels||A/C Seater (1+2)||06.00 PM||09.00 AM||1320||–||Details||Request|
|Rishabh Travels||A/C Sleeper (1+2)||06.00 PM||09.00 AM||1980||–||Details||Request|
|Rishabh Travels||Non A/C Seater (1+2)||06.15 PM||09.00 AM||880||–||Details||Request|
|Rishabh Travels||Non A/C Sleeper (1+2)||06.15 PM||09.00 AM||1320|
It therefore takes 15 hrs rather than 17 on the train. A good similarity in cost is between the trains 2AC cost (Rs 1352) vs a bus that carries +2 with AC (Rs 1980). So buses are more expensive, but generally quicker between major cities and always quieter.
However taking another journey: Bangalore to Chennai (Madras)
By bus this takes 8 hours and prices range from Rs 280 (£4) for a non A/C seat service to Rs 1100 (£15) for an A/c “HiTech” coach. The train takes 6.10 hrs costing £7 for 3a and £10 for 2A.
Check the weather when in India for planning your next move. Seriously, winding through the hills at night is a hair raising experience for even the most seasoned of traveller. Considering India transport buses are also a lot slower and more hazardous in the rainy season, so thus should be considered. In the mountains you are able to ride on the roof and this is often considered safer than inside as if the bus falls off a ledge then you can jump off with far greater chance of survival!
Another primary consideration is the quality and purpose of transportation. Some buses are produced for tourists and these need booking in advance. Local buses on the other hand carry more than the maximum passengers and carry ‘goods’, like chickens or large loads etc. This can make for an interesting or harder trip, however you look at it.
Oh I’ll take the “fun bus” please!
There are also 2 additional variables to take into account. On A/C trips the windows are shut, locked, don’t open. This is generally supposed to be good. However you can smoke on India buses and when there are people being sick, carrying chickens etc then the air is recirculated and can smell bad to say the least! As such non-AC trips provide fresh air, despite being far hotter, but are often half the price.
Secondly there are also “Video Buses” and “Kareoke Buses”. These are not tame and very loud. The music from the video buses make conversation very hard (think going clubbing hard). For an hour or so fine, but after 50!?