Indian train fans?

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by Caravanman, 21 May 2015.

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  1. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    Hi Folks,

    Just joined the forum, this is my first post...
    I am planning a trip to India this autumn to ride the trains, and would like to hear from anyone who has experienced or has interest in this?

    Ed. (Nottingham)
     
  2. stut

    stut Established Member

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    Yes, I love travelling by train in India, frustrating and exiting as it can be in equal measures. I'm over there every few months for work, and always try to squeeze in a decent journey, whether hanging out the door on urban trains, or a long overnighter in 2AC.

    Any info I can help out with?
     
  3. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    There is some useful information about booking tickets on Indian trains here.

    http://www.indiamike.com/india-articles/booking-indian-rail-tickets-from-abroad

    For most trains bookings open 120 days before travel and for long journeys you do need to book ahead. We have done five trips to India, each over a month long, and done around 22,000 km by rail on those. It might be worth you investigating the IndRail Pass if you are doing a lot of trains. We both qualify for Senior Discounts so don't bother with passes.
     
  4. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    Thanks to both for replies.

    I am looking for any recommendations towards reasonable hotels near stations, and any suggestions for itineraries / routes packing the most rail travel into the time there. I anticipate somewhere between a month and two months visit.

    Have either of you managed to get registered on the India Railways website, I can't seem to get them to respond to my emails requesting the phone code to be sent to me by email instead ?

    If you care to email me, my email is cajunfan@hotmail.co.uk

    cheers,

    Eddie.
     
  5. stut

    stut Established Member

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    Ah, I have a grandfathered account on the Indian Railways site, from way back. But have a look at the India Mike methods, they should work - and Cleartrip are a pretty helpful company (have used them for domestic Indian travel quite a bit).

    Do you have any idea where you want to visit? It's a massive country, and the speed of the trains makes it feel bigger still! There's no shortage of places to stay near stations - one of my most memorable stays was in the retiring rooms of a rural station on a relatively obscure narrow gauge branch... But then it's easy to get an auto-rickshaw and only get slightly ripped off to get to wherever you want to be.
     
  6. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    I have had my IRCTC account for a while. You can register for this with a little bit of perseverance. In order to get a Cleartrip account you need to register with IRCTC anyway so it is no extra work.

    The advantage of booking through IRCTC is that trains come online for booking at 8.00 IST on day -120 rather than at noon IST. Just now and again this is the difference between getting what you want and having to wait a day or two. You need to be aware of festival dates such as Durga Pooja and Diwali which create severe peaks in demand for rail travel.

    The other reason for using IRCTC is that all bookable trains are listed. Cleartrip have got better recently but used to be really bad at listing all trains. The downside of IRCTC is that you need an Amex card with SafeKey enhanced security available. I have a fee free one from Barclays and I think that there is one available through BA.

    I see from your other thread that you qualify for Senior Discount (40% for men 60 or over). There are options to purchase Senior tickets on b oth IRCTC and Cleartrip.

    Don't plan to spend every day of your trip on trains.

    1. You will be knackered in no time.

    2. You will miss an awful lot of amazing stuff.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    If you are really set on 'Extreme Train Travel' take a look at this blog https://gcirc.wordpress.com/
     
  7. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    Hi,

    Thanks again for the quick replies!

    I have visited India 3 times, once in 1983, and twice more recently, one of the recent trips included attending a wedding.

    I feel that I want to do the amazing variety of the country full justice this time, and so combine a good, wide ranging tour with my love of train travel again.

    Keeping well is a priority, hence my request for any hotel tips.

    I certainly would want to rest up and also to enjoy the non rail sights too.

    Probably as a single senior traveler on this trip I am looking for reassurance almost as much as anything !

    I am just not very good at "planning ahead", so feel that looking at others trips and blogs will help me create a more sensible route.

    I will clear the decks and have another bash at registering on the Indian rail site...

    Cheers,

    Ed.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Hi,

    Thanks for the above link to the circular tour pages... Quite a "full on" train trip in 14 days!

    It is exactly the sort of thing that can assist me... lots of info on how they did it, train numbers, connections, etc, and the fact that they reviewed their trip again once it was over.

    It will be quite far from my own leisurely pace, I am sure, but a good skeleton to hang ideas on...

    Cheers,

    Ed.
     
  8. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    In 2013 we did a 7,000 km round India trip as follows

    Delhi (NDLS) - Howrah (Kolkata) by overnight Rajdhani

    A few days in Kolkata including an excursion by Kolkata local to Chandannagar

    Coromandel Express to Chennai (overnight)

    Nilgiri Express overnight to Mettupalayam then the Nilgiri Moiuntain Railway up to Ooty. (metre gauge, with rack and pinion and steam hauled for part of the trip)

    Coimbatore to Alleppey for a houseboat excursion on the backwaters

    Alleppey to Mangalore overnight

    Mangalore to Mumbai overnight.

    Double decker to Ahmedabad.

    Metre Gauge to Udaipur overnight. (This line may now be closed for Gauge Conversion)

    Jodhpur to Jaisalmer by Unreserved day trains

    Jaisalmer to Delhi overnight.

    Our blog about the trip is here http://radinja3.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/where-not-to-stay-in-delhi.html

    This trip disn't include any of the Narrow Gauge lines which are my big interest. Any of these would be worth adding on. http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-railways-f10/visiting-narrow-gauge-railways-in-india-t19777

    Other personal favourites include the trip up the Araku Valley from Vizag and the Steam Express run out of Delhi on certain Saturdays

    http://radinja4.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/first-class-ride-on-araku-line.html

    http://radinja4.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/steam-express.html

    I use indiarailinfo.com to find trains. It isn't a booking site. Decide where you want to go then look for hotels. There are some decent ones in our blog. IndiaMike would also be a good place to ask about hotels.
     
  9. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    Not quite "The Lost Weekend", but all Saturday is lost. Lost, far away from Nottingham, following your paths around India, reading your fantastic blogs!

    Astonishing! Brilliant! Great writing, photographs, and great attitude. I salute you both.

    I do have a few questions after reading your blogs, I am not sure if this forum has any facility for me to send you a private email...?

    Thanks again !

    Edwin.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---

    P.S. For some reason the India Mike link lands me on a non train page... but I did locate your guide to "non toy trains" ! It seems as if I am just a few years too late to enjoy the bulk of narrow gauge trains, with conversions happening apace. I guess one has to accept that for local users, a modern train is progress and comfort, even if lacking the quirky individual touches of whatever it replaces.
     
    Last edited: 24 May 2015
  10. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    Sorry about that. Somehow I missed the end off the link. This should be the correct link

    http://www.indiamike.com/india/indian-railways-f10/visiting-narrow-gauge-railways-in-india-t197779/

    The biggest surviving NG system in India is the Satpura lines and there have recently been reports that this will close at the end of October 2015.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    If NG is your thing the Gwalior line might be one for your list. I Went halfway out and back for a day trip on our visit earlier this year. There wasn't much evidence of GC (Gauge Conversion) work and there is apparently a proposal to seek World Heritage status for the line so it should be around for a while.

    See http://radinja5.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/tuesday-24th-february-ds-day-out.html
     
    Last edited: 24 May 2015
  11. Traveller54

    Traveller54 Member

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    We had a brilliant holiday in 2012 with Great Rail, train journeys around the Golden triangle were very efficient on the Shatabdi expresses but the most memorable trip was the toy train from Kalka to Shimla, marvellous scenery and slow enough to safely sit at the open door in places, you can almost high five kids as you ride past. In Shimla, the 5* Oberoi Cecil was, IMO the best hotel we stayed in on that holiday but there are a number of other options.
     
  12. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    Hi Traveller 54,

    Thanks for your reply. Sounds like you had a good trip. Was your visit as part of an organised tour group, or did Great Rail just book your tickets and hotels, etc? The Shimla hotel sounds pretty nice, but I imagine it might be a bit out of my price range!
    I have got a lot of ideas from reading "Glenmuchkin's" travel blogs above, but still need to decide on when and where in more detail. All very exciting !

    Cheers,

    Ed. (Nottingham)
     
  13. Traveller54

    Traveller54 Member

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    Hi Ed

    It was an organised tour, they still do it, "India's Golden Triangle", details on Great Rail Journeys web site. They also have an independent department that can help organise your own itinerary but I've no experience of this. We really loved India and would like to see another area sometime and would definitely consider Great Rail for a future trip.

    Hope you get something suitable fixed up.
     
  14. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    Hi,

    Thanks again for the info, Traveller54. Looks a good tour, and something I might consider in the future. If I can put together an indipendent trip, and my bottle lasts, I will probably try to go round solo this year.

    Glenmutchkin, Dave, as mentioned above, I have very much enjoyed reading your blogs. A couple of questions occur:

    With an unreserved train, as the Gwalior narrow gauge, do you need to buy tickets actually on the day of travel, or would an unused ticket bought the day before be valid on unreserved?

    You mentioned buying a 5 day pass at Mumbai CST... I am guessing this is not the foreign tourist pass, but some local area pass for unreserved trains? Can you point me towards any info on the web about prices and the extent of the area covered?

    Thanks again!

    Ed.
     
  15. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    You buy Unreserved tickets on the day of travel. At some small stations the Booking window only opens about 30 minutes before the train is due. Don't plan on Unreserved travel for overnight trips or for anything much over about 4 hours.

    The Mumbai pass is not exclusive to foreign tourists and you can just buy it at major station booking offices. I got the details from a pal who lives in Greater Mumbai. I will have a look for an on line link.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    There is a system map for Mumbai Locals here http://transportformumbai.com/mumbai_local_train_routes.php

    The pass covers the locals out of Churchgate and CST and some of these go quite a distance. A trip out to Neral Junction for a ride on the Matheran line is a good day trip. I would recommend spending the extra few quid on a First Class pass. It doesn't guarantee a seat but at the times we travelled there was much less crush in First.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    I think I first heard about these passes on IndiaMike. There is an oldish thread about it here. http://www.indiamike.com/india/mone...38/mumbai-suburban-rail-tourist-pass-t189689/
     
  16. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    Thanks for that info. I would anticipate only using unreserved when there is no other option.

    The Mumbai pass seems good value indeed. I am looking forward to hanging out the door during the "super dense crush load" ! (Phrase from BBC prog. Monsoon Railway...).

    Cheers,

    Ed.
     
  17. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    You might change your mind when you see it. I did plenty of door riding but on quieter trains.
     
  18. stut

    stut Established Member

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    Heh, don't assume you'll be able to hang out the door. That's the prime position, and you'll be lucky to keep it, particularly when people start leaving the train (on the peak trains, you need to make sure you leave the train while it's still moving, or else you won't have a chance with the flow of people boarding...)

    If you do find yourself stuck without the ability to get a waitlist ticket to clear, and the Tatkal quota fails you, you do always have the nuclear option - buy an unreserved ticket at the station, and locate the TTE (travelling ticket examiner) who always holds a certain (paid) upgrade quota). However, this is never guaranteed, and you do have to board the train. The station staff may take pity on you and tell you where the TTE alights at the station, and a fellow passenger may allow you to share their SL seat until the TTE comes around. But the risk is always that you end up in unreserved. And that isn't pleasant - standing space can be hard to come by, so oversubscribed are the trains in certain area - let alone cramped, hard seats. You'll find young men standing in the middle of tracks to clamber up into the unreserved ('GEN' for General) carriages from the wrong side, so they can get on before people get off. This is not for the faint of heart - you'll find yourself wading in human sewage...
     
  19. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    I think that it should be pointed out that there is a difference between the Unreserved coaches on long distance trains referred to by stut and the wholly unreserved trains that run as locals in the big cities and on rural lines.

    On the long distance trains there are usually a couple of Unreserved coaches at each end of the train. Such trains can be up to 24 coaches long so its a pretty small proportion of the total accommodation. I have seen trains pull into their supposed starting stations with such coaches already full of people. The scrum to get on to these coaches is unbelievable.

    The wholly Unreserved locals that we used in Rajasthan and fron Orchha to Kajuraho and on the Narrow Gauge were nothing like as crazy although at times they were standing room only and the luggage racks were being used as seating. We found people to be very helpful on these trains. My wife always got a seat and I usually got one quite quickly. The loos can get pretty ripe on a hot day but the windows open and there are fans so they were not too stifling when moving.

    The Suburbans are all Unreserved but the journeys are 2 hours max so less of a problem.

    ADD - As a general rule the higher the class that you travel in the less competition there is for door riding spots.
     
    Last edited: 27 May 2015
  20. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    Cheers for the extra info ! As I mentioned earlier in the thread, I have visited before, but am looking to get in a bit more train travel this time, going solo.
    The wading bit mentioned above sounds a bit challenging, but at least it is human :D

    I think I have realistic expectations, currently enjoying collecting as much info and different tips from as many sources as I can, to assist making the best choices.

    Stut, you mentioned going regularly for work... are you based in one city for that?

    One supplementary question... It was mentioned in a blog to put shoes on the ceiling fans... what was the idea behind that?

    Cheers,

    Ed.
     
  21. stut

    stut Established Member

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    Had been based in Hyderabad for the last several visits, which is an interesting city (and sees very little tourism). I did a few posts in this forum on the joys of the local trains there. I'll likely be headed to Kolkata in the future.

    However... I'd also been to India a few times before on holiday, and have generally managed to carry my travel day off in lieu to make a long weekend while I'm out there to go and explore, using a combination of trains and the (really rather good) domestic low-cost airlines. So it's seen me in Chennai and the Tamil coast, Hampi, Mysore, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata and the Sunderbans, as well as around Hyderabad itself.

    Previous trips had taken me to Delhi, Amritsar, over to Pakistan, back up the Kangra valley railway (great little backwater of a mountain railway) to Dharamsala, then overnight at the delightful retiring rooms at Jogindernagar station (during a festival, which was rather fun), across to Shimla, down the Shimla-Kalka railway, to Delhi; also some time pottering around Mumbai (the trains there are seriously insane) and down to Kerala.

    Love the place - and love travelling by train, as frustrating as it can often be!
     
  22. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    For a while there was a running joke on IndiaMike about Shoes on Fans. Like most in-jokes you really needed to be there at the time and it probably looks very lame in retrospect.

    If you really want to know more the link is here.

    http://www.indiamike.com/india/indi...ing-into-an-upper-berth-shoes-on-fan-t122891/
     
  23. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    Thanks again for the replies.

    I think that between here and Indiamike forum, I am getting some good tips and can start to put together some coherent train ride options.

    Ok on the "shoes on fans"... I was struggling to imagine the reasons!

    Stut, I will have a browse and see if I can find your travel posts on Hyderabad.

    Cheers,

    Ed.
     
  24. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    Just to say that I did manage to get registered to buy Indian train tickets... Thanks once again for all the tips on here and also Indiamike forum.

    Edwin.
     
  25. duncanp

    duncanp Member

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  26. RichardN

    RichardN Member

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    And what looks like a catenary wire falling on the platform...
     
  27. Caravanman

    Caravanman Member

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    These little problems soon get sorted in India, platform already up and running again. :D

    [​IMG]


    Edwin
     
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