If you are a train lover, India will be the best choice for you because of its extensive railway network. 114,500 kilometres of total track over a route of 65,000 kilometres and 7,500 stations is what the world’s fourth largest railway network provides to its 30 million of passengers DAILY!!! That is the reason why there are so many pictures with over-packed vagons and I can ensure you that they are 100% real! It is crazy how the people never seem to mind much about the lack of space and are always smiling!
Undoubtedly, Indian trains are by far the best way to explore the sprawling patchwork of cities, villages and countryside of this huge country. But you should be careful, because unlike many other countries that you can jump on the train in the last moment, in India you will need to book your ticket as far in advance as possible (sometimes even two months earlier!) as popular routes can sell out quickly.
There are several categories of train tickets. In the majority of long-distances trains there is sleeper’s class (the one that we were always travelling as it is the cheapest one), 3rd non AC, 2nd AC and 1st AC. To be honest, because I travelled my first time in 2nd class, the real difference is that in sleeper class you can find either mice or cockroach but in AC classes there are only cockroaches, haha! The toilets are not the cleanest ones at both classes!
The last month of our journey in India, our program was almost like sleeping one night in a hotel and the next one sleeping in the train (because of the long distances of the places, most of the trains are over-night and in all classes you have your own berth to sleep). So, you can imagine how many times we travelled by train! Because of the huge railway network and number of passengers, there are often severe delays on some services and the absolute bedlam that goes on at stations when passengers are trying to board! I remember one time when I was travelling alone from Jaipur to Kolkata and the journey time was 25 hours but due to a 7 hour delay, I was in the train for 32 hours!!!
Another characteristic of the Indian trains is the vendors who are passing extemely often through the compartments, mostly in sleeper class, screaming out selling everything that you can imagine , from food snacks to toys and hairdryers! Of course, make sure you carry lots of small change for your purchases! In India, nobody, never has change!!
Apart from all of these funny staff -these incredible experiences made me fall in love with this country- , generally Indian trains are very safe. I met many female travellers that were travelling alone without any problems.
Although not for everyone, exploring India by train can be quite magical as you observe the lands and people passing outside your window. The sceneries are amazing and the people more than friendly! Get ready and enjoy your ride!
Check out more photos from India hereAsia, India