Planning Your First Indian Train Journey?
For those who are seeking advice on how to plan your first Indian Train journey, look no further. Here is a Step by Step guide along with pictures to simplify your Indian travel planning by train.
Planning your Indian trip can be a daunting task. First of all India is vast, both length wise and breadth wise. All the places you heard about, sound interesting and you greedily want to go everywhere!
You finally sit down with guidebooks, maps, laptop and internet. The realization hits you hard then, that Indian trip planning is a bit difficult, especially if it is your first time!
Here in this post, I will try to make your Indian train travel planning easier by taking you step by step process along with the pictures and screenshots. But before we start planning lets quickly look at why we should consider Indian Trains.
Indian Trains : Why and When
Why India by Train :
- According to Wikipedia, Indian Railway manages the fourth-largest railway network in the world by size. So India is definitely well-connected by trains almost all across India.
- India is vast and most probably all the places you have in mind are hundreds of kilometers apart. For example Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi are thousands of kilometer apart from one another.
- Yes, you have an option to fly to major cities rather than taking very long train rides, but seeing how the landscape of India changes every couple of hundreds of kilometers is another experience which is not quite possible with flying.
- Traveling in an Indian train with the locals is another experience altogether. It gives you a closer understanding of the cultural differences where asking about your job, salary, marriage status and such are considered to be quite normal!
- Overnight journey in a train is better than that of a bus, most of the times where you have the freedom to walk around and use the toilets if needed. And yes, train journeys are safe. You might have heard someone mentioning about some unsafe events. People only focus on the small negative percentages!
When To Choose Indian Train :
- If it is an overnight journey, then go for it.
- If it is a long journey and you don’t want to spend on flights
- If you want to see how India changes every few hundred kilometers.
So Lets Get Started And Plan Our First Indian Train Trip!
Things you Need :
- An Active Internet Connection
- A website called India Rail Info
- Google Maps
- A bit of time to follow the instructions
At the moment we are focusing on the Initial Planning only.
So this is sort of feasibility study. Through this process we will figure out if train journey is possible between point A to point B, which all are the trains available, how effectively we can plan it with train and how efficient the plan is etc.
Let me Introduce you India Rail Info
“India Rail Info” is a website that we will be using to plan our trips. It collects live details and almost accurate information on Indian trains.
Why India Rail Info :
- It is completely FREE
- No need of Sign Up / Email etc to start using it
- It gets updated constantly and they have built a community to do so.
- I found it better than many similar websites due to many reasons.
- This is the website that I use to plan my travels. Personal Experience!
Lets Get To Know More About India Rail Info
When you go to the website, a page like this will welcome you.
The top left box is what we are interested in. You can start typing the “From Station” and “To Station” to begin with. The third box, you can not use it at the moment without much knowledge about the Train number and the train name (Here I am assuming that you are a first timer in India)
Let’s learn by doing
Most of you fly in to Delhi and want to see the Taj Mahal in Agra! (But if you ask me, I’d recommend you to start your trip from South India.You can read more about why you should start your first Indian trip from South India )
Case Study #1 : Planning Trip From Delhi to Agra
We are considering one of the easiest trips here.
Almost everyone who wants to come to India would know about Delhi and their plans mostly include the Taj Mahal which is situated in Agra. Since these places are quite popular, I believe there are less chances of misspelling these destinations. So you start typing From : Delhi and To : Agra
Certain Points to be Noted before Searching the Destinations
Regarding the Spelling of Destination
- You need to type the correct name. Check with Google Maps if in doubt.
- The drop down list will help you with the names if you do the first parts correctly
Regarding the Railway Stations
- There can be many train stations around a major city ( eg New Delhi, Old Delhi, Delhi Cantt. etc)
- Starting point of each train might be different.
- A train might not stop at all the stations near a major city.
But worry not! This website will help you. You can pick any major railway station from the drop down list.
Here in the example, we have typed “Delh” and it started showing all sorts of options. We will pick the first option that sounds right “New Delhi”. Same goes with Agra. We will pick “Agra Cantt.” from the list.
As you press “GO”, it will take you to an overwhelmingly long list of trains! It doesn’t happen all the time. Delhi and Agra is well-connected and there are many many trains running through this route. Not all destination combination would offer such long lists!
To begin with, the important things to observe from this list are below mentioned columns.
- From : The from station
- Dep : Expected Time of Departure
- To : The To station
- Arr : Expected Time of Arrival
- Dep Dates: On which all dates, the train is running from the “From Station”
- Classes : Different classes in the train which also determines if you can reserve a seat or not.
All the stations are mentioned in their Codes. When you bring your mouse pointer, the tool tip would expand the codes.
The asterisk (*) denotes it is the Origination station or the Terminating Station. I will tell you why originating and Terminating stations are important, on another post.
How to Choose the Right Train
1. Pick a Train from the right Station
From the list, you will get the full name of the stations by placing your mouse over it. By checking the station name on google maps, you can figure out which station to choose, whichever is more convenient or whichever is nearer to where you have booked your accommodation etc. Use Google maps to help you in decision-making.
For example if you are in Delhi, you can either choose New Delhi, Hazrath Nizamuddin or Anand Vihar stations.
2. Check the Departure and Arrival Time
All the trains are listed in the order of their Departure time. If you want an overnight train, pick that one. Also, you don’t want to reach a new place at odd hours. So check the Arrival time at your destination too.
For example, for an overnight journey it is better to start at 19:00 hrs and reach the destination at 08:00 hrs rather than to start at 15:00 hrs and to reach at 04:00 hrs at a new place.
3. Dates of the Week
Some trains won’t run everyday. Do check that also while choosing the train.
4. The Classes
Reserve your seats, if it is a long overnight journey, you want to . Sleeper class, 3rd AC, 2nd AC and 1st AC are the preferred choices for an overnight journey. Sleeper is the cheaper one from the above mentioned classes and 1AC the highest. A detailed description about class system is out of the scope of this post now.
After looking at all these factors, you can do an initial planning of your trip. Now you know which are the available trains and their times etc. But we are going a bit advanced level of planning now.
Case Study #2 : Planning Trip From Goa to Hampi
If you want to chill out in India, you don’t want to miss Goa, India’s party capital. Once you are in Goa, one of the sensible options to visit next would be Hampi. (Or the other way around)
So you have gone to our website IndiaRailInfo and typed Goa and you saw all the options from the dropdown list.
Now you can find many options, but the first one is not even situated in Goa. The code name of the place just happened to be “GOA”!
It is now time to look at the second line for the detailed address. Can you see near the arrow, “Margao, Pincode and Goa”? So we pick the first option with Goa on its address line.
It will be difficult for a first timer to know the names of major cities. Everyone talks about going to Goa. But when you refer Goa, it is actually a State in India, unlike Kochi or Bangalore which are city names. So you have to pick Madgaon, one of the train stations in Goa.
Now time for Hampi. You start typing Hampi in the “To Station” box.
You are typing “Hampi” and the drop down is showing you “Hosapete Jn (Hospet)”.
Here in this case, the website is helping you to understand that there is no railway station in Hampi, the nearest train station is in Hospet. How cool is that?! I’ve seen this option only in this website.
Don’t get greedy and type any name that comes to your mind to find out the nearest railway station. It doesn’t work that way. Remember, this is not Google!
But if it is a major tourist spot and people are searching for it, they might have added this alternative.
So once we are ready and press “GO” it will give you a list of trains.
In the Delhi – Agra example you couldn’t see the chain of trains since the list was long and it didn’t make within the screenshot. Here you can actually see the Direct as well as Chain of trains since the trains between these places are less.
It is always a good idea to find a direct train. If you are feeling adventurous you can look into the connection train option. This leads us to the advanced level of planning of our train travel!
Case Study #3 : Planning Trip From Hampi to Chennai
Let’s say someone has made a very bad trip plan or you went to Hampi and got mesmerized by it and stayed there longer than you planned and now you have to reach Chennai to fly out. How will you go about it?
“Simple! Type Hampi, oh no Hospet and then Chennai and Press ‘GO’! ”
If that is your answer, you have learned well. But India still like to test you!
Hospet to Chennai : Zero trains!
No Trains! There is not a single direct train between Hampi (Hospet) and Chennai. Your train travel plan is doomed! But not when you have these awesome guys who created an alternate plan using Connecting trains. At the right most column, you can see the people who created these chains of train routes.
If you look closely, you can see one more column “XFer”. XFer is the connecting station. This indicates the train station from where you have to change the train.There are multiple options of connection stations given here. Depending on your convenience, ticket availability or the flexibility of your plan, you may squeeze in one more destination from this list.
I have decided to pick the option with Bangalore as the connecting station. So we have squeezed in Bangalore here in the above example.
But all these trains are running independently. If the first train is delayed and your second train can leave even before you reach! Since there are more than one trains are involved, you have to add the delays of both trains while planning such a trip. You can actually see the average late time along with the arrival and departure time for all the trains. This helps in planning.
If you are going to a busier train junction, you might find more options towards your next destination.Then you can go through the case studies #1 to #3 and plan your further journey.
As you can see, this kind of planning involves a lot of uncertainties. It can be frustrating, but that is the very fun. The thrill of reaching your destination by planning on the go and enjoying the feeling of learning a complex system!
In Short :
Planning a train journey can be a complex process, but if you take it as a challenge and accept it as a part of the Indian experience, it becomes a very thrilling adventure. This is the first step of that adventure! To Plan Your Train Travel in India.
In the next post, I will explain how to actually Book the tickets and actually plan your trip.
Do let me know if you have more questions. Suggest me more tips if you know more.