Transportation in India
Replies: 17 - Last Post: Oct 12, 2012 10:51 AM Last Post By: dosgitanos
Oct 10, 2012 10:31 AM
Transportation in IndiaHi,
We're planning our fist trip to India Dec/12. We've been following all the new (and previously) posted blogs and making notes.
Many thanks to all the regulars, like joegoosy and pirate-at-50 for taking the time (and for your patience) to answer questions from
first-time travellers like us.
Our question is this: do we have to pre-book train trips and purchase tickets in advance? (we also intend to takes buses).
To give you some background: we've been backpacking for many years - to central & south America, Asia and last year all through
the Phillipines. We prefer to go as we please with a rough itenerary. We don't want to be tied down to schedules; if we find a place we love, we'll hang out there for a couple of weeks, then decide, okay time to move on in a couple of days. We'll check travel schedules and off we go. Now, India sounds like a huge challenge and headaque when it comes to being flexible! Is it possible to arrange transport as we go? We have no idea where we'll be say, in Feb. to start booking now.
By the way we should mention that we are planning 4 to 5 months in the country, so we're not in a rush.
We plan to fly into Chennai and work our way south- south west - then north. We do have the lonely planet guide & intend to us it.
Is it possible to travel in this manner? We'd appreciate any feedback.
Thanks in advance,
Oct 10, 2012 10:49 AM
1Aww, shucks. Thanks.
do we have to pre-book train trips and purchase tickets in advance? (we also intend to takes buses
You say you`ve been reading, and you sort of know the answer. Lots of the trains are difficult to get reservations on, lots of corridors are well-traveled. Use the http://www.indianrail.gov.in/ site, and check for availability.
Go a different way. It sounds like that`s what you have in mind anyway.
And I`m sure you`ve seen me suggest buses on many occasions. Private buses are very simple. EVERYONE wants to sell you a ticket (they`re all selling the same seats on the same buses), they get a small commission. I`d sort of suggest staying away from night buses until you have a good feel for things. And there will never be a new town that doesn`t feel strange at 3am - even familiar ones sometimes. Booking more than a day or so ahead isn`t necessary.
If I can help, give me a holler..
Oct 10, 2012 11:30 AM
Oct 10, 2012 12:01 PM
Thanks pirate and xscorcho for your reply to our question. Pirate, we plan (and prefer) to use buses when travelling. We plan on day buses; we would like to see as much of the countryside as possible; and have budgeted for 1st class for longer trips, if needed. We've taken our share of chicken buses in the past, so we're prepared to enjoy the experiences as they arrise.
We have noted the indiarail site and will book on line when/if necessary. We think once we have become accustomed to the country and talk to other travellers, we'll figure it out.
Thanks for your help - we'll stay in touch...
Oct 10, 2012 12:11 PM
4I have been travelling from Delhi to Agra last year with a friend and we nearly fell into a scam. And I have met recently another person who had the same adventure. You can buy tickets online to travel in India. It is pretty much the same as what is done in Europe, you print your itinerary. But when you arrive at the station, before boarding your train, a very well dressed gentleman ask you for your ticket and then explains that this is not a ticket and you need to take a cab to the central office in Delhi to "get your boarding pass". This is a scam, not sure what is the story. I assumed that when you jump in a taxi in panic, someone either steals your luggage or your seat that are now vacant because you will miss your train will be resold to someone else. So don't hesitate, just board the train and ignore anyone on the platform. Your ticket will be check when the train is moving.
I hope that this will help.
Oct 10, 2012 12:53 PM
Sylkyroad thanks for your tip- have added it to our list of scams. Would appreciate any other travel tips.
By the way, Pirate, can you recommend private bus lines throughout India that you've used. Thanks!
Oct 10, 2012 1:28 PM
6Personally for me trains are much better than buses for traveling, you get to move around, they are more social than buses...at least that's what I have found...
Anyway, sounds like you have plenty of time, so no need to plan anything.
I actually find India very easy to travel..I guess I would after so many times, but loads of people speak english, signs are often in english....and people are generally very helpful.
Oct 10, 2012 1:41 PM
Oct 10, 2012 3:07 PM
Mattyboy - thanks for writing. We haven't ruled out trains altogether - we probably will ride some, when it works (you can't go to India and miss riding the trains!) But, we want to stay flexible - and hate booking anything so far ahead.
Pirate - appreciate your help with bus lines; we've added them to our list. We'll figure it out as we go. Good tip about Paolo - we are planning to travel Hampi to Goa and will avoid them. Thanks again!
Oct 10, 2012 3:12 PM
9we are planning to travel Hampi to Goa and will avoid them
Hope you can. The train runs only 4 times per week Goa-Hampi-Goa. Paolo knows when it`s full and charges accordingly. Besides that, the road is horrible.. And it`s a night bus that drops you in the middle of nowhere (see post 1) in the middle of the night.
Oct 10, 2012 3:50 PM
Oct 10, 2012 4:32 PM
just wanted to say thanks for the question. im in the very early stages of thinking about a trip to india in feb/mar/apr and had the exact same question and for the exact same reasons. had read quite a bit on this forum but still wasnt quite clear but the "veteran" responders came through:)
im only going to be in india 6-8 weeks(southern india) but im assuming the same idea applies.... without planning buses are available most of the time and trains if youre lucky?
Oct 10, 2012 11:43 PM
Oct 10, 2012 11:52 PM
It's very much possible to travel flexibly in India, provided you yourself are flexible. In regards to the trains, there is always the possibility of going unreserved. Unreserved isn't usually very comfortable, and you're certainly not guaranteed a seat, but it will get you from A to B and the tickets never sell out. If you're only travelling during the day, it's a perfectly valid option. For longer trips - and particularly overnight ones - you'll want to book as far in advance as you can, though it's often possible to get something even a day or two before if you're flexible which train you want to take. A wonderful class of trains in India are the Inter-city expresses. Generally covering distances of 4-8 hours, these trains tend to leave early in the morning and most of the seats on board are "2S" class. They're very cheap and you have a reserved seat on the train. Tickets on these trains are very often available last minute, and they're a great way for getting around from one city to a nearby one.
In regards to buses - if you want to travel flexibly, efficiently, and without hassle, use India's government bus system. It does vary from state to state, but in the state's where it's well set-up (which is most of India), it's one of the best run things in the country. Government buses generally leave on time and run to schedule (they don't travel very fast, but they also don't come with unexpected delays and they almost never break down), departures are very frequent, and it's very rare for anyone on a government bus to try and scam or over charge you. They also leave from large bus stations which are generally easy to find. For most major routes in India, it's possible to simply go down to the bus station whenever you're ready, and find a bus heading in your direction with an hour at most, and often much less. Private buses are often more comfortable, but they're in the business solely of making a profit, and so they'll often hang around places a long time waiting for passengers and there's a very frequent possibility of being over-charged on them. Unless you plan on taking an overnight bus - in which case you'll certainly want additional comfort, though in some Indian states there are excellent deluxe overnight bus services - I'd advise you to stick to government buses, particularly for the flexibility and the lack of hassle. Unless you're traveling overnight, there's never any reason (and usually no possibility) of pre-booking a government bus.
One last tip - the cities of Madras, Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta have special booking offices for foreign tourists, where foreigners can get access to special quotas of tickets not available elsewhere (ie. you can get tickets - usually sleeper class - on certain trains which might otherwise be full). If you're planning any long train trips where tickets seem to be sold out, it's not a bad idea if you're passing through one of these cities to try and get your tickets there.
Finally a word of assurance - I spent a year recently traveling in India planning everything as I went, and only booking the very occasional train trip in advance. I got by just fine. You have a long time in the country, which means you can avoid overnight travel, which means the less-comfortable methods of getting around India should be perfectly adequate for you, which means it's very easy to be flexible.
Oct 11, 2012 1:41 AM
14"huge challenge and a headache .. no ,as said above its easy ,especially as you have so much time on your hands. For shorter jourmeys buses are good..often faster than the train...especially in the south...you can usually go to the bus stand the daty before and book your seat if you want to.I wouldnt use overnighters though...no sleep and you arrive knackered.Some of the most popular train journeys are booked out but not always and flights are also an option .You can often find ticketing agencies where for a small fee you can sit with them by the computer and they will go through all of the available options and issue you an e ticket....better than the hassles of queing for hours at the station as was the case in the past.The larger cities also have tourist reservation counters at the railway station. If you are experienced in travelling "flexibly" in S and central America you will have little difficulty adjusting yourselves to India.Same same but different.
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