India is big country. Traveling here by land is not hard. Indian railway network is quite wide. In the train you can meet many interesting local people and it is safe. Train is very popular transportation in India. Railway stations in big cities, which are almost every city, are overcrowded with full of people.
There are some classes in Indian trains:
Air-conditioned first class, sleeper – AC1
Air-conditioned 2-tier, sleeper – AC2
Air-conditioned 3-tier, sleeper – AC3
First class, non-Air-con, sleeper – FC
Air-conditioned Executive chair class, seat – EC
Air-conditioned Chair class, seat – CC
Sleeper Class, non-Air-con, open compartments – SL
2nd class seats, non-Air-con – General
For long distance is good to travel by sleeper cars. Most of the train cars are sleeper cars with different classes (AC1, AC2, AC3, SL). You can choose between Air-conditioned or not-Air-conditioned car.
If you are traveling in India in winter months, which are the best for traveling, because it is not hot (except very Northern mountain parts like Ladakh, which are ideal for summer months), and you travel on budget, best is to travel on Sleeper Class – SL cars. SL class is non-air-con. There are open compartments with 8 beds (3+3 crosswise + 2 lengthwise) with folding middle beds. No bed-sheets. SL is the most common class in Indian trains.
If you want to buy a ticket directly, as a traveler, you have 2 options: online, or in the ticket counter on railway station. On big cities, there are Tourist ticket counter on railway station, where you can buy a ticket or get info in English.
How to buy a train ticket online:
- You need to buy an Indian SIM card. If you do not have a residence in India, you can not buy local SIM card directly from the mobile operator. But, you can buy activated SIM card in some small shops located in tourist area. Just ask in shops with logos of mobile operators. They will activate it for you. You just pay some fee to them. Indian people recommend me mobile operator Jio, which is good for internet data.
- Make account in web page: https://www.irctc.co.in.
- On the same page, you just sign up, and you can search for your train connection. You can purchase a train ticket here by your international credit or debit card (mark this option). Sometimes, online payment does not work. Try later, it will work. It does not work in some specific hours per day, or in some day.
- When your online payment is done, you do not need to print the ticket. You just show code which you will receive by SMS on Indian mobile number you putted during registration.
When you are looking for train connections, check out this help-full web page: https://indiarailinfo.com/. Try to find first here your connection.
In India, trains or SL classes are sometimes fully booked. But you can still buy a ticket with waiting list. In this case, you pay for the ticket, but do not have reservation with seat/bed number. There are always some cancellations, and few hours before train departure they will send you a SMS with status of your reservation. They will send you seat/bed number, or, if you are not lucky, they will cancel your ticket and automatically refund your payment to your card. When you are purchasing a ticket, you can see how many people are in the waiting list. If you somehow did not receive a SMS about your ticket status, check it in station – printed list of reservation for specific train or in the office in the station (need to ask).
Another way, how some Indian people travel, is to buy a General ticket – 2nd class with no reservation. Sit on some empty seat or bed in your preferred class and wait for the inspector. He or she will assign a bed or seat and you will pay the difference between General ticket and your assigned class with no extra fee. I did it few times, when I was traveling in India. One time, my ticket with waiting list was cancelled before departure and I bought General ticket, sit in empty bed in SL class and inspector after few hours assigned me a reservation. It was in the train from Haridwar to GOA (40 hours).
=== Knaper ===