TRANSPORT IN INDIA BASICS
In a country as sizable as India is, a traveler faces the necessity of covering huge distances quite often. It might seem a bit scary and overwhelming first but with some basic awareness and planning nothing is impossible. It is true that in India you might find yourself using extremely various means of transport! You can rhythmically walk through a desert on a camel, seat in a rickshaw rushing skillfully through unbelievably packed streets, follow the river flow in a canoe, fly high in the sky on a parasail and of course take a train, flight, car, scooter and so on. While this is all exciting and often a matter of a last minute decision, some things are good to know in advance.
Travel in India – by CAR
Among all sorts of cultural differences between people from Western countries and Indians is the habit of being rather self-sufficient. Most of us cook the food on our own back home, take care of plants or apartment on a daily basis, walk our dogs and drive our cars. In India you will find it a bit different. It’s an absolutely normal thing here to have a housemaid, a handyman or a driver hired full time. While being here on your trip, at some point you will definitely end up in a car with a private driver. Nomaday Travel works only with communicative, experienced drivers and will make sure you enjoy their company on your journey.
When being a passenger in general, we are always forced to give a trust credit to our driver. For some people it turns to be very difficult (drivers we know you are there always alerted!), especially in India. For your own sake be ready to show high tolerance and trust level towards chauffeurs. Back in our world the rules determine situation on the road. In India it’s rather opposite and main rule to remember is that – there are no rules. Locals know it and drive all accordingly. Of course we don’t advise you to be totally insensitive to outrageous behavior! Instead of comparing everything to how it is back home though, rather take it as an experience and enjoy the ride. Nomaday Travel drivers will make sure to get you safe to your destination.
Usually long distances in India are covered by train. Then you have the schedule, time of journey and it should all work. There are some destinations and situations though when the only way is to hit the road and drive through various landscapes. In that case don’t follow your logic based on time and distance relation back home. In India number of kilometers won’t tell you clear amount of time of travel. In order to estimate that, person has to take into count many factors, starting from region, roads conditions, weather conditions, traffic and so on. From Paris to Brussels you will cover 300 km in around 3,5 to 4 hours, but the same 300km from New Delhi to Jaipur will rather take from 6 to 9 hours… Don’t worry! Here is where our assistance and expertise comes in planning your trip. All in all, the great thing is, when traveling in India by car you have the chance to see the real life here. Flocks of sheep on highway, holy cows blocking major road in the middle of the city, colorful people, surprisingly decorated trucks, vigorous vendors, countless food stalls, roads leading through deserts, jungle and mountain serpentines. That’s all waiting for you to discover and enjoy!
Good to have on your trip: eye cover, earplugs, blanket (in the winter season), inflatable pillow, refreshing wet tissues.
Travel in India – by TRAIN
When you travel by train in India you are one of the approximately 13 million passengers that took a train that day, in one of the 7000 passenger trains that run every day. Impressive, isn’t it?! The fact is that Indian Railways nowadays is the largest rail network in Asia and world’s second under one management. Vast choice of routes, classes and timings creates opportunities to explore all India. Overcrowded miserable trains with bunches of people hanging from the door rails is what you might have seen in movies, old pictures and on funny Indian facts. We are sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not the reality. In fact you can travel safely and comfortably long distances in India on different budget levels. Starting from simple sleeper class with a reserved birch to an AC private compartment or even royal Palace on Wheels travelers from all over the world along with locals commute from one place to another. There is a complex ticket reservation system existing, that considering the volume of business, functions surprisingly efficient. Obviously there are delays and mistakes like in any other rail network in the world, but with these numbers how could there not be? Traveling in India by train is undoubtedly and experience in itself and you should not miss on having the “Chai, chaaaiii, garaaam chaaai!!!” wake up from a chai Valla squeezing through the aisle (chai – Indian tea, garam – hot), crossing vast territories of this incredible land.
Before boarding you should know some basics. On your ticket, depending on the class you have chosen, there will be the train number, coach number and seat number indicated. Once at the station, most probably crowded and bustling, give yourself time to orientate, trace the platform where your train stops and figure out which is your coach. Hop on the train, install yourself properly and take care of your belongings. Again this is nothing to stress about. Nomaday Travel will help you out with that on spot. Options that Indian Railways offer are vast and in short as following:
First Class (AC1)
AC1 class is to be found only on the most important long distance trains, is about twice the price of AC2 (second class) and has a charm of old fashioned traveling. You will be accommodated either in a 2 berth or 4 berth spacious, lockable and air conditioned compartments with a washbasin. It comes with an attendant who will make the beds and give more personalized service. Sheets, pillows, blankets, and towels are provided. You can charge your mobile and other electronics next to the bed and use small light for reading. Showers and toilets are located on either end of carriage and are usually clean and properly maintained.
AC Second Tier (AC2)
This class is available on most long-distance trains. It’s similar to the first class with the difference that door doesn’t lock and there is no additional space for luggage. Berths are arranged in cubicles of four (two upper and two lower) and two more above and below the window on the other side of the aisle. They are equipped with individual reading lamp, common power connections, sheets, pillows and blankets provided in the evenings. Be aware that upper berth in the daytime will be pulled down and converted into seats.
AC Third Tier (AC3)
This class is the cheapest among the AC sleeper options. It’s quite similar to the AC2, only it’s a bit more crowded and is missing some amenities. There are three tiers of bunks in the compartment instead of two plus more on the other side of the aisle. You won’t have curtains and individual berth lights that you can find in AC2. Every passenger receives pillows, sheet and blankets in the evening and here also in the daytime middle berths will be folded in order to create seating space for everyone.
This option is much cheaper than other sleeper classes and popular among locals and budget travelers. There is no AC and no partitions between compartments in the coach but there are fans installed that improve the air circulation and cool things down. Number of berths is the same as in AC 3 (2×3 tiers and 1×2 tiers on the side along the aisle) but you will see them more packed with travelers. Even though all seats are reserved, in reality more people come inside and seat wherever there is space. Middle berths must be folded during the daytime so having an upper berth is the best option when it comes to private space (impossible to seat though). In the sleeper class you won’t receive any bedding so don’t forget to carry your own blanket or sleeping bag for longer journeys. The thing about sleeper that all travelers remember is the bustling atmosphere, numerous snacks and drinks sellers going around, new train buddies with lots of stories to tell and hours of gazing at passing landscapes.
AC Chair Car (CC)
This is a comfortable, air-conditioned option for daytime journeys, with total of five seats in the row and overhead space for luggage.
AC Executive chair class (EC)
This is an upgraded version of CC, to be found only on the most important Shatabdi Express trains. Here you have comfortable seats that have more leg room, only 2+2 seats in a row and a simple meal and newspaper included.
Second Sitting (2S)
This is the cheapest and least comfortable choice. Second sitting has ordinary coaches with wooden or plastic seats in two rows of 3 seats in each. The number won’t be necessarily respected by the passengers though and you might be amazed how big the storage capacity of the coach is! Sometimes it may have reservation online option and sometimes not.Travel in India – by PLANE Considering the huge area that India covers it is quite common to travel by flight during one stay. Due to the changes made in aviation regulations, starting from early nineties India has seen fast growth in private airlines operations. Nowadays there are numerous domestic carriers connecting important cities and regions. It is of high importance to schedule your trip with ample time to reach airports through city traffic and to take into account different luggage restrictions between particular airlines and between domestic and international flights.
Travel in India – by BUS
Buses are the second most popular mean of transport in India. First of all train tickets tend to get sold out with a blink of an eye on popular routes and in addition the railway network does not reach everywhere a person would like to go. Truth is that traveling in India is not the most convenient and pleasant thing to do. Roads are in poor condition, traffic is a headache and the vehicles tend not to meet average comfort expectations. There are of course different choices in this category, starting from state operated companies with regular buses, usually completely packed and of poor quality hence very cheap. Then travelers can choose from range of private local carriers operating within a state and sometimes offering inter-state routes. Among these there are also different rates and service quality levels. Generally a bus ride in India is recommended as a last option and for rather short distances. It is fun to get on one of the local buses, full of villagers carrying various items and livestock for a short trip but we don’t recommend it when covering long distances on an itinerary full of activities. Travel in India – in the cities At first, or maybe throughout all your stay, traffic in Indian cities will probably seem to you like an absolute chaos with death traps. It is true that driving here is a special skill and as we mentioned before, sooner or later you will have to accept it and use some mean of transportation. And it can be really a lot of fun! The best example is the rickshaw experience. There are basically two types of these vehicles – bicycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws. With the first ones usually maximum 2 to 3 people can hop on and leisurely cover short distances within the area. With an auto that is at the same time small and capacious, people can drive around all city! The best thing about them is that you can get them almost anytime anywhere. Then there are of course taxis. In big cities there are numbers of private taxi companies that you either order online, on the phone or stop on the street and of course we can arrange one for you if you wish. Buses exist of course, but are not that popular among tourists as they are usually lacking basic information about the route and time table. Taking a public city bus is indeed an experience. Try it if you want to see the real life here.
All in all…whichever type of transport in the city you choose you always must acknowledge the existence of possibly huge traffic. Indian cities are known to be highly congested and getting from point A to B often requires lots of patience.With Nomaday tailored itinerary you will usually travel with a car, having private driver and whenever possible and more convenient with a train. This way you gain not only comfort and safety but also freedom and flexibility during your trip. The idea is for you to feel that this is your trip, your experience created according to your needs.Except from all these there will be places and moments when you will forget about the destination and simply enjoy the ride. That is definitely going to happen on a luxurious houseboat slowly passing through Kerala’s backwaters, riding a camel like a Maharaja through Thar Desert in Rajasthan or on a royal style, old fashioned Palace on Wheels train.