How I got around India and my recommendations for other travelers.
My least used mode of transport during this trip as I wanted to see as much by land as possible and the travelling for me, was part of the adventure. Planes were only chosen when there was no other option and when going to the Andaman Islands as the sea plane was well out of my budget and the long ferry ride from the mainland was way to much for my ‘open water fear’ to take.
By far the most used form of transport for me and what I would recommend. You get to mix with the locals more and experience some amazing food and delicious chai at the stations and on board. Yes the toilets can be an issues at times, but your in India so get used to it. Booking the tickets can be an adventure in itself, If you female or there is a female in the group get them to join the ladies queue and book for the group(they are the quickest queue!). Delhi has a tourist booking office if you are in the area, it can be busy but is so straight forward and the staff are very helpful here. I have created a list of all the different ticket types with 1. being the highest. I only ever used those listed as 6-8 and I would say I did feel there was potential for issues with safety on occasion. For that reason I would recommend any solo female travelers to pay that little bit more, or those who require comfort. I would always recommend booking the top berth otherwise you may have to wait for others to go to sleep before you can lie down, it also feels a bit more private. What is available depends on how early in advance you book and what areas you are travelling between. We did go with no 5 on one occasion as the that is how the full train was listed on our required route and there was a large step up in comfort and cleanliness and a small snack provided. I belief a meal is included on the three tier AC and above options also.
- AC FIRST CLASS (1A)
- FIRST CLASS CHAIR (FC)
- AC TWO TIER (2A)
- AC THREE TIER (3A)
- AC CHAIR CAR (CC)
- NON AC TWO TIER (SL2)
- NON AC THREE TIER (SL3)
- SECOND SITTING (2S)
Our second most popular form of transport, basically what we used when train was not an option on our chosen route. We only used day buses a handful of times and these were often very cramped and it was easy to get lost as no signs like you have at the stations. Night buses are something else entirely, more comfortable than the trains and more private as each bed has a curtain. If travelling alone check if they are single or double beds, they are small and unless you fancy spooning with a stranger you need to get a single which are not always an option on some routes. Doubles are perfect for a couple or groups. On long journeys there may be a stop for dinner and toilets but after that, you will have to go by the roadside as no toilets on the buses, I would always end up bursting and the bumpy roads and crazy drivers did not help, but in spite of this I really enjoyed the privacy you got from the buses. There was individual curtains to each bed so you could get settled in quickly. You might want to take snacks with you as some of the buses did not stop at all.
Most people are familiar with the motor rickshaw (tuk tuk) but there is also pedal ones in some places. We generally used these for shorter distances and from stations to where we were staying. We could not bring ourselves to use the pulled rickshaw in Calcutta as I felt too bad for the drivers having to literally drag us around. Whichever option you choose, you have to be prepared to haggle, but be fair. I always tipped the pedal ones a little extra as they put so much effort into it all.
Car quality varies throughout, same rules as rickshaw regarding haggling. if picking you up at a station drivers will often offer you tours of the area, we agreed to this on a few occasions when we took to the driver and we thought it necessary for that region, haggle lots if you do and they will likely take you to a ‘friends’ shop at some point in the day.
Only used a ferry between the Andaman Islands. Seat numbers for your seats are booked, however we did not get those as already someone in them. Ferry was small and basic with toilets. I did see a small first class section that looked a lot more comfortable if you fancy splashing out. Booking at the port can be manic, lots of queue barging and jumping (even in the woman’s line!). They also close quite early some days so check ahead of your journey.
However you choose to travel, remember sometimes it is about the journey, not the destination! 🙂