Train travel in India can be one of the most rewarding and interesting ways to travel the country as you see an enormous amount of typical Indian life and countryside as you go along. The overnight sleeper trains also allow you to cover large distances at low prices, avoiding the costs of internal flights and extra hotel nights.
The Indian railway network is vast and generally pretty efficient, and is famously the second largest employer in the world (after the Chinese army, and ahead of the UK NHS). Most trains depart on time from their origin, but longer journeys are often delayed by several hours by the time they arrive. Only up in the Himalayan foothills can trains fail to link the country together.
There is a wide range of classes available ranging from private 2 or 4 berth first class air-conditioned cabins (AC1) down to the incredibly crowded unreserved 2nd class carriages. We normally recommend travelling 1st class, or in the 2 tier air conditioned carriages (AC2) for overnight sleeper train journeys, and 1st class or AC Chair Class for daytime journeys. You can find excellent comprehensive information on train travel in India from Seat61.
When we design our holidays in India, we often try to build in at least one train journey, normally near the start or end of the itinerary.
As well as the main train network, there are now several special luxury trains that offer a very different experience, and allow you to base your holiday on board the train with excellent service, food and sometimes guest lecturers on board. These trains don’t normally run all year round, avoiding the monsoon seasons, and have 8 day/7 night itineraries (unless otherwise specified). We can combine these journeys with a further vehicle or flight based itinerary to see more of the country, or a simple beach extension.
- Maharaja’s Express. A new train operating several looped routes from Delhi through Rajasthan and also from Delhi to Varanasi (7 days/6 nights). Some departures are hosted by guest lecturers including well known international journalists.
- Palace on Wheels. The original luxury train, this was re-furbished in 2009 and continues to run tours through Rajasthan departing Delhi on Wednesdays between September and April (New Delhi – Jaipur – Sawai Madhopur (for Ranthambore National Park) – Chittaurgarh – Udaipur – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur – Bharatpur – Agra (Taj Mahal) – Delhi).
- Royal Rajasthan on Wheels. Another train running trips through Rajasthan, departing Delhi on Sundays (Delhi – Jodhpur – Udaipur – Chittorgarh – Sawai Madhopur (for Ranthambore National Park) – Jaipur – Khajuraho – Varanasi – Agra (Taj Mahal) – Delhi)
- The Indian Maharaja. A luxury option that connects Mumbai and Delhi with some interesting stops en-route (Mumbai – Daulatabad – Ellora and Aurangabad – Ajanta – Udaipur – Sawai Madhopur (for Ranthambore National Park) – Jaipur – Fatehpur Sikri and Agra (Taj Mahal) – Delhi, and v/v)
- Deccan Odyssey. This train does a loop from Mumbai south to Goa and back via Ajanta (Mumbai – Sindhudurg Nagari – Goa – Kolhapur – Aurangabad – Tadoba & Wardha – Ajanta Caves / Nasik – Mumbai).
- The Golden Charriot. This train connects Bangalore and Goa in the south in a circuit that also includes the ancient sites at Mysore and Hampi (Bangalore – Kabini/Bandipur – Mysore – Hassan – Hampi – Gadag – Goa – Bangalore).