Travelling with Indian Railways —A guide
If you are reading this article, you must have made up your mind to travel by train. Don’t think twice. The Indian Railways is amazing! Trotting through India, covering over 60,000 km’s, these lovely trains are going to give you memories, lessons, and sheer joy.
Figuring out how the system works and what to expect from the journey may put you in a fix. With this article, I will try to ease most of your doubts. Hopefully, when you are done reading this, you will have a fair idea of what to do in and what to expect from the Indian Railways.
Here is a comprehensive guide to help you with everything from booking your ticket to staying safe and comfortable!
Booking the Ticket
Booking tickets have become much easier, now that you can book tickets online.
For E-Ticket reservation, you will have to register on the Indian Railways website first.
Once you have an account and have booked a ticket on the desired train, all you have to do is take a print-out and carry it with you on the day of departure. Easy-peasy, isn’t it? The only catch is that you can make a maximum of four bookings a month, and each ticket can book six passengers at most.
Visit QUICK-TICKET BOOKING for a pictorial guide on how to navigate your way through electronic booking. After that you can check train reservation status with pnr status
You could also book an I-ticket via the same website. Here you book the ticket online, but it is couriered to your place. For a pictorial guide on how to navigate your way through booking an I-ticket, visit I-Ticket Guide.
If you do not wish to avail these services, you may book a ticket for yourself in person. You may get this done on any raierlway station in the country. The ticket counters are usually open from 8 am to 8 pm on weekdays and until lunchtime on weekends. You can also buy a ticket for yourself when the train is just about to depart, but you may not get a seat if it is a busy train.
If you want to cancel your ticket, you need to check whether the chart has been prepared for your train or not. You can only cancel your booking if the chart hasn’t been prepared, by paying anything between Rs.60/- and Rs.240/-, depending on the class you had booked your seat in. In case the chart has been prepared already, you cannot cancel your booking. You will not be entitled to any refund either.
Choosing the Class
The Second Class General Compartment is the cheapest way to travel, and also the most adventurous if you ask me. Imagine getting up to use the toilet and coming back with your seat occupied by someone else. Yep, that is how it is going to be like in this Class.
If you are a budget traveller, travelling in the Second Sleeper Class is going to be the most viable option. It is structured in a manner that three berths each face each other. There are two berths on the side. You can enter your berth preference while booking your ticket. If you are tall, the Side Berths may prove to be a little uncomfortable for sleeping, so choose accordingly.
The AC 3-Tier Sleeper and the AC 2-Tier Sleeper are costlier and comfortable than the Second Sleeper Class. The First AC is most luxurious and elite.
On the Day of Departure
I would recommend you to reach the railway station at least 40 minutes before the departure time. You will have to carry your luggage all the way to the station, or probably haggle with a coolie and have him do it. You will also have to check the chart, locate your compartment and set your luggage. All of this is time-consuming, chaotic, and high-intensity. You will not want to get this done in a hurry.
Do not forget to carry your ticket along with you. Carry two copies to be safe. Also carry a valid ID proof with you. These are musts, and you don’t want to forget to carry these along at any cost!
The Travelling Ticket Examiner (TTE) checks your ticket. You will usually find him in a dark coloured blazer, with notepads and clipboards in his hands.
He is the man for all your queries. He will help you if you need to know the timings of the train. He is also the man you need to contact in case you want to switch your compartment/ berth or upgrade your class. You may also contact him in the case of any medical emergency.
Managing your Luggage
You may have to carry your bags through a number of staircases to reach your platform, which will prove to be very tiresome. In such a scenario, or even otherwise, you may want to hire a coolie for yourself.
Coolies are easily identifiable; these are men dressed in red and white, waiting outside the railway station on a lookout for potential customers. Whatever price they quote to you will be unreasonable. There is always scope for bargaining and haggling.
They are basically there to help you carry your bags till your railway platform, but you can also utilise their services in helping you adjust your luggage in your compartment.
Once inside your compartment, have the luggage placed in the space beneath the berths. This is very time-consuming and you will need utmost cooperation from your fellow passengers. There are chances that your bags will be stacked in a manner in which they will be rendered inaccessible, so always keep a small handbag/ purse with you with all your essentials.
You will be provided with clean sheets, towels and blankets by the Railways so don’t fret about that. However, I do recommend you to carry a spare hand-towel for yourself, just in case.
While some trains offer food, most don’t. In case yours doesn’t, you can either rely on the shops and eateries on the railway station or the vendors on the station.
Many eateries now deliver food right to your seat, so you don’t have to leave the train and sit in the restaurant to eat. This saves you from the chance of missing your train and also makes things more convenient. Apart from this, you may purchase food from the vendors on the station, but be particular about the quality and hygiene of your purchase.
All said and done, don’t forget to carry some solid snacking with you. Ensure that the snacks are storable, because if they go stale, you will have a hard time managing it. You would also want the snacks to be dry.
Most coaches in the train will be equipped with four toilets, two of which will be Indian in style and the other two Western. Usually, the Indian ones will be cleaner. Although the train is equipped with essentials, preferably carry your own toilet paper and soap.
Outside the toilets, you will have a wash-basin installed. You can use this basin to brush your teeth and wash your face when the toilets are crowded.
Some Additional Tips
- Always, always, no matter what class you are travelling in, lock your luggage with a padlock. Take care of your belongings. Don’t let your things out of sight, not even your slippers
- Keep your ticket and ID proof with you throughout the journey
- Do not let the coolies extort from you
- Definitely carry a small handbag/purse that contains essentials and does not take much space
- Bring along a good book or the like to keep yourself occupied
- Carry light lunching for yourself
- Loud snorers are very common, so carry earplugs or headphones for sound sleeping
- Keep a hand sanitizer handy
- Don’t expect the train to reach the destination on time
- Have a great time and make lots of memories!
Have a safe and comfortable journey!