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How to Travel on Indian Rail?

Updated on July 18, 2021
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Uday Writes on Digital Marketing as he provides the service as a freelancer. He loves to write on aspects of digital marketing and content.

Indian Railway Network

The most common mode of transportation in India is the railway train. The vast network, and cheap fare makes this mode of travel unavoidable. The journey can be uncomfortable and full of uncertainty but never colorless. Be prepared for a journey full of surprises, but be assured as well that you will reach your destination safely.

The system keeps the Nation on the move, and in time to come it has become a country within a country. The mode has developed character of its own. When you are aboard one, the time stops clicking and the expectancy comes to a halt. You are at a mercy of biggest transport system in India. With more than eleven thousand trains, and the whole journey dotted with stations the intrigue is phenomenal.

The motion is an experience of a timeless journey in the void of Nation Space. Your immediate surroundings and activities catch all your attention. You are entrapped in a large cubicle with a diaspora that is a picture of people of India within the country.

Railway Station

Railway Station
Railway Station | Source

Trains Available for Passengers

There are various types of trains that ply between different stations of India. These are designated as passenger, express, duranto and mail trains. For traveling within the cities there are local and metro rails.

The difference between these trains are stoppages - which are few in case of those named as express, mail and duranto. These are the fastest in India, meant for express travel. The trains do not halt at every station so please be aware. They offer varying degree of luxury in coaches with climate control. The slow passenger rail stops at almost every station and are meant for small distances. A set of quaint rails powered by old steam engines also operate near major hill stations which are a tourist's delight.

India is also planning to introduce bullet trains shortly. These will ply between its bustling metros.

Indian Railway in Pictures

VT Station
VT Station | Source
Local Rail Mumbai
Local Rail Mumbai | Source

Discovering Trains

Before you travel, you have to know which train you have to choose in order to reach the destination you are planing to visit. Each rail has a name and number. The latter differs during the up and down journey. The best way to find out the right train is to visit the railway website for information. This is a comprehensive website with details such as timings, stoppages, and route of all passenger rails.

In all major stations you will find an information booth. You can ask for the required information there. The stations have huge boards with information of all arrivals and departures. This is good for finding out the timings, train numbers and names.

The electronic boards on stations offer information of train running status and the platform they will arrive at. The boards are placed at number of places making it convenient to seek information. These are updated regularly and offer accurate information.

Rail Journey in India

At The Station

  • Remember if you do not have a reserved ticket than you have to secure one from the booth in the station premises. Alternative to the reserve ticket is a general bogey ticket for short day journey which is highly uncomfortable hence you should reschedule your travel.

Once you have arrived at the station and I hope quiet early, you need to do more. First task is to hire a coolie (laborer) if you have many articles of luggage. The second daunting task is to find out on which platform your train is arriving, the coolie will guide you easily, but if you do not hire one then you have to rely on the electronic sign boards on the platforms if they are working properly. You can also look at the large sign board at the main station corridor. If this is also under repairs than visit the information window wait in the line and then inquire.

All through the process keep the train number and name in your memory. To be doubly sure ask the guy at the book stall or the vendors on the platform and confirm. Keep an ear on the announcement, in case there is a last minute change in the platform number or the arrival timings.

At large stations there are small electronic boards that contain the coach number. Stand near the one that is yours. Avoid opening your purse or hand bag which contains your passport carelessly incidence of snatching can take place. The passport will act as an identity proof in case your are a foreigner.

Small items of general use are available at the station. You can buy utility items like toiletries, magazines, books, some basic medicines and inflatable pillows and so on. Government appointed stalls in the station premises sell food packets, snacks and beverages. For sit in meals you should visit the eateries. You should buy mineral water and foodstuff before hand. If the train does not have a pantry car, you should not forget this. Buy a chain lock for the baggage and secure it for the night.

Once the train arrives wait till the initial rush of those alighting from the coach, and then move in. Go to your seat adjust yourself and the baggage before sitting down. You are on the way.

If you are going to reach your destination in wee hours of the morning or late night than be alert. During the journey do not eat anything offered by other passengers, the food may be drugged in order to loot you. Keep a photocopy of your ticket separately.

Super Luxury Holiday Rails

Tourist Coach
Tourist Coach | Source
Tourist Coach
Tourist Coach | Source
Tourist Coach Interiors
Tourist Coach Interiors | Source

Traveling times

The journey can be peaceful and comfortable but it has become less so in recent times. The crowd swells up during the festivals and holiday season. The large crowd can make the compartments stuffy.

The uncertainty of booking, complexity of rail network, and the failing information systems make a train journey one of the most difficult. One needs to have an expertise to use this mode of transportation.

The expertise arises due to years of travel on railway trains to distant parts of the country. A novice can easily get confused and sometimes miss the train, albeit lot of help is available on the platform, hence one does reach his or her destination.

Preparation for train travel is an arduous task, food, water, medicine and other requirements have to be made in advance. The tickets have to be secured along with identification papers if you are traveling on e-tickets or Tatkal scheme.

Arriving at the departure station on time is a virtue learned with bad experiences earlier. The delays on the road to the starting point can even prevent you from reaching the station in time. Hence prescribed limit is advocated by old hands at railway travel. Before arrival reach station two to three hours earlier for big city and an hour for a smaller city.

View From Train

View From Train Window
View From Train Window | Source

Train on Tracks

Train Running on Tracks
Train Running on Tracks | Source


You need confirmed or RAC tickets to travel on Indian Trains. Hence try to book tickets in advance, in fact as early as you can. Keep checking your rail PNR status online at IRCTC website. The PNR is a 10 digit number printed on the top left side of the ticket.

Online Ticket Booking

For online ticket booking you need to register at IRCTC Website. After this you can log in and fill in the window asking for details. This will tell you the status of trains available on the day you wish to travel. You have option to reserve ticket by making payment on the same page. Once the reservation is final you will get an SMS with all details and mail with virtual copy of the ticket. You ticket is saved in the history section of you account. This will make cancellation possible and get refund in case there is a change of plan.

You can book I-ticket and E-Ticket online, but you need to carry an identity proof during the journey. In case your are Indian, you can carry a driving license or Income tax pan card as identity proof. In case of foreigners a valid passport is a must.

Tatkal Scheme

In case if you have not been able to secure a reservation than the last resort is the Tatkal Scheme. This ticket can be obtained one day before the train arrival. Some extra charge has to be paid for the Tatkal Scheme to obtain reserved seat. On many trains in India there is a quota available for certain categories of travelers - which might benefit you. You can check this on the IRCTC website or collect information from the booth in the booking center.


The fares are the lowest for the general class since no reservation is offered. It is best to avoid this class. The III Tier or Second Class fares are reasonably priced since the large number of commoners travel on this segment. This compartment offers no climate control except fans and is not very luxurious, by all means it is comfortable if not crowded.

The air conditioned coaches contain 3 tier AC, 2nd AC and First Class. The 3 tier AC coach accommodates more people than the the latter two. Hence it is less priced comparatively. 2nd AC Coach fare is nearly double that of the 3 tier AC Coach since there is greater space and comfort. The first class fare is nearly equal to the air fare applicable in the country and the coach is divided into sections for greater comfort and privacy. All the climate controlled coaches are furnished and well appointed.

Recently the Railways has introduced a new system (flexi fares) where in the tariff rises as the seats gets booked one after another. Hence book your seat at the earliest.

Railway Bridge

Railway Bridge in India
Railway Bridge in India | Source

Safe Journey

While alighting on Indian train check your seat on the chart or get details through Internet or SMS. Once you are seated, place your luggage under the seat. Always keep an eye on your belongings if they are not chain locked as suggested earlier.

Trains generally halt at stations for a short time hence be quick if you wish to get down for some reason. If you use coolie service make sure he has a railway badge on his shoulder.

Purchase edibles from registered vendors authorized by the railways. Purchase mineral water with sealed top.

Railway Train at Station

Train at Indian Railway Station
Train at Indian Railway Station | Source

India's First Passenger Train

The first train in India started during the British Rule in the Year 1853 from Mumbai to Thane.

© 2012 Uday Patel


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