When it comes to rail travel in India, the old adage, “the journey is just as important as the destination” rings true. In a country so vast, train travel is a way of life, with an astounding 18 million people travelling by rail, on more than 9000 scheduled services every single day. More than just a means of getting from point A to point B, it’s a quintessential part of the Indian experience. One as memorable as the food you’ll indulge in and the landmarks that will leave you in awe.
1. A seat with a view
Travel classes and styles in India differ greatly, but the ever-changing landscape is always fascinating. So if there is one thing I recommend to make your trip more memorable, it’s to secure a window seat. You’ll get a backstage pass to India. As the train speeds through the outside, you’ll get a rare glimpse into everything from the daily life of rural villages to the hustle and bustle of big cities. Just sit back and relax because this will be one of the few fleeting moments of peace and quiet amongst all the chaos.
2. Keep your camera on standby
Cameras are on everyone’s packing list so this next tip shouldn’t be too much of a stretch. Make sure your camera is easily accessible for when you do want to capture a moment of the world going by your window. The locomotive travels at fairly high speeds. Ensure your camera is already fixed to the appropriate settings so you can act fast.
3. Make new buds
When it’s all said and done, you’ll remember the people you met on your journey just as much (if not more) as the places you visited. Indians pass time on these train trips by getting to know their fellow travel companions and you will definitely be no exception. In fact, they will probably be even more interested to hear your story.
Just take note that asking personal questions, which may seem somewhat intrusive by western standards, is not considered rude in India. These can range from enquiring about your marital status and age, to your reasons for travelling alone. Embrace it and shoot some questions right back. Your new friends will be thrilled to hear you’re interested in getting to know more about them and you’ll most likely learn a thing or two. More often than not, they will also share some treats with you. In this case, trust your instinct and know that sometimes, it’s okay to accept candy from a stranger.
Note: If you’re not the talkative type by all means just plug in and zone out.
4. Stock up on comforts
You have to cover a lot of distance in India, which means extended travel times. Besides looking out the window and making new friends, you may want to bring some other distractions along for the ride. In this case I would suggest a book or a digital device stocked with your favourite games and music. You may also consider earplugs and a sleep mask if you have any intentions of getting some rest.
As for the creature comforts, make sure you bring a blanket or a good hoodie as the air conditioning tends to be a little over the top. Stock up on some wet wipes, hand sanitizer and toilet paper. These are all invaluable items to have throughout your entire trip.
And last but not least, bring along some snacks or make sure to have some change handy for the food and chai vendors making their way up and down the railway carts.
5. Safety first
This is a bit of a no-brainer and applies to rail travel just about anywhere. Needless to say, security can be an issue and you should be well aware of your surroundings. Train stations tend to be very crowded so pay careful attention to your belongings by keeping them close. When you are on board, have someone look over your luggage while you are off using the washroom. Be wary of scammers and people looking to take advantage. In the dozen or so rail trips I’ve done, nothing remotely dangerous has occurred. So don’t sweat it because with some simple common sense you will avoid trouble.
I know preparing for a big trip can be quite daunting but I will leave you with the same wise words I began with: “the journey is just as important as the destination”. If you live that way then every moment becomes an adventure.
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