Traveler’s Guide to Transport in India

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India is a vast country and dream destination for travelers from around the world. India has a wider landscape which you can witness when you travel between cities or states. India has 29 states and it can take more than a month to visit India. Each state has its language, festival, culture, etc. Different religions add to a different life experience. India offers you multiple things like beautiful deserts in Rajasthan, beautiful lakes in Udaipur, holy river Ganga in Varanasi, trekking in north mountains, beautiful beaches in Kerala and Goa, Yoga in Rishikesh, Glittering Bollywood industry in Mumbai, Ajanta and Ellora caves in Aurangabad, Taj Mahal in Agra, Gwalior Fort, Ramoji Filmcity and Sudha car museum in Hyderabad, Akshardham temple in Delhi, etc.

To explore India you need to use various types of transports and each one will give you an unforgettable experience.

Tip 1: Get an Indian SIM card for your phone which will allow you to search things, book tickets, and get directions on your phone. Keep addresses, phone numbers and map noted on paper. Keep a power bank with you.

Tip 2: Don’t be shy to talk to locals. Be respectful and friendly to people and they will guide you through your journey.

Traveling in India might seem complex in the beginning but the knowledge captured in this article will help you to make your experience less stressful and great.  Let’s look at the different type of transports –

 

Airplane

India is a big country and the fastest way to travel is by flight. There are many airlines such as Air India, Indigo, SpiceJet, GoAir, Vistara, etc. You can book a flight ticket from the airline’s official website or the easiest way is to book through websites like goibibo.com, makemytrip.com, cleartrip.com, yatra.com, etc. Domestic air travel in India is cheaper compared to other countries. If you are not trying to save more money then you can upgrade your travel for few more rupees and get more legroom, a full meal, and extra comfort.

Some Indian airport has multiple terminals like Mumbai and Delhi so check your terminal before you leave for the airport. For example, Delhi Airport is having terminals 1, 2, and 3. Terminal 2 is official for domestic flights and Terminal 3 is for international flights but domestic flight leaves from both of these terminals.

At the airport, it is advisable to use pre-paid taxi from a taxi booth or book an OLA or UBER.

If you are planning to travel a short distance then prefer train or bus.

 

Trains

India has a big network of trains which connect all the cities. After air travel, the train is the fastest way to travel from one end to another end of the country. You can enjoy a wide variety of landscapes while traveling through the train. Traveling by train in India is a different kind of experience.

 

Things you need to know for your train travel

  • Train seat reservations fill up very fast. So if you already know the dates of your travel then you should book the ticket in advance. On some of the busiest routes, train reservations should be done 2-3 months in advance. You can make a reservation online at Indian Railway’s official website https://www.irctc.co.in or from the nearest railway station’s reservation counter. Most of the travel websites that provide flight reservations also provide train reservations. Some of them are com, makemytrip.com, cleartrip.com, etc. You can use their mobile app also. It’s really handy and easier to book.
  • Indian Trains are broadly classified based on their average speed. You will find that for the same route there are different types of trains having words in the name like super fast, express, mail, passenger, etc. Fare may differ depending upon the type of train which is proportionate to the total travel time.
  • There are different classes of coaches in each train like First AC (1AC), Second AC (2AC), Third AC (3AC), Executive AC Chair Car (EC), AC Chair Car (CC), Second sitting (2S), sleeper, General. These classes are directly proportionate to comfort, crowds, and price. AC means that there will be air conditioning and the corresponding number like 1, 2, and 3 refers to the number of berths offered or the class level. All coaches except General Coaches need a prior reservation. General Coaches are heavily crowded, avoid traveling in this class.

1AC is the most expensive; the fare is similar to air travel. Each cabin in 1AC has a lockable door which gives more privacy. 1AC and 2AC berths are wider and more cushioned. 3AC Coach is generally preferred because it is affordable and money and no extra people in the coach. During the day in 3AC and sleeper coaches, middle beds must be folded down against the compartment walls to allow passengers to sit on the lower berths. If you do not want to sit during your journey then add an Upper berth as a preference while doing reservations. In Sleeper class, you will get many extra people but it is the cheapest. EC, CC, and 2S are the seated classes with different comfort levels.

  • You need to understand the booking/reservation status. Your PNR (passenger name record) is a ten-digit number that you can use to track your ticket’s status online.
    • WL (Wait List): it means no ticket at all. You should not get on the train with a waitlisted ticket. You can book a ticket in this status when you are booking weeks before the scheduled departure date and the waiting list number is very less. The probability of you getting it confirmed only possible if someone cancels a reservation.
    • RAC (Reservation against Cancellation): This ticket will allow you to board on the train and you will get half of a bench which means you can only sit and won’t be able to lie down. There may be someone with a confirmed ticket who does not show up or cancels the ticket later during your travel; In this case, you will be given a full bench by TC (Ticket Collector) on the train.
    • CNF: Ticket is confirmed.
  • Always carry the printout of your ticket and id proof like a passport with you.
  • Trains might be delayed by few hours so consider this fact while planning your trip.
  • Another option for a foreigner to book a ticket is by visiting an International Tourist Bureau(ITB). ITB sells foreign tourist quota seats to foreigners and non-resident Indians (NRIs). Foreigners can also make a reservation under this quota on the IRCTC website using an account with a verified international mobile number.  ITB also assists with travel planning and other related inquiries. ITB offices are present in New Delhi, Varanasi, Kolkata, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Agra-Cantt, Secunderabad, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, and Bangalore.
  • You should tie your luggage with a lockable chain under your berth. You should hold your purse or day-bag while you sleep.
  • There are two toilets at the end of each carriage. One western-style (sit-down position) and another one is Indian style (squat position). In India, commonly people use water instead of toilet papers hence in trains you will not get toilet papers. If you are habitual of using toilet papers then bring your own. You should also bring hand sanitizer and wet wipes.
  • There are some luxury trains which will blow your mind. Some of them are Palace on wheels, Deccan Odyssey, the Golden Chariot, etc. These are the most expensive train rides and especially for tourists.

 

Toy Trains

These are smaller trains and normally available in Hilly areas. One example of such a train is the Kalka-Shimla toy train which covers 96km and passes through 103 tunnels.  You can enjoy the scenic valley and Mountain View from the train window. A similar train is available in Matheran also. You can find more toy train details here.

 

Metro/Local Trains

Few cities in India like Mumbai are bigger and crowded than some smaller countries of the world. Local trains/Metro helps in commuting within the city in less time.

Metro trains are operational in cities like Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata, and Hyderabad. Metro train travel is fast, stress-free, and fully air-conditioned. Metro trains are similar to the suburban rail system in other countries so it is easier to understand. The first carriage of each Delhi Metro is reserved exclusively for women. Metro tokens or cards can be bought from Metro station and can be recharged via Paytm and other payment apps.

Tip: Metros can be crowded in rush hours (Morning 8 am to 10 am and Evening 6 pm to 8 pm)

Local train in Mumbai is part of local people’s daily life. Local trains are divided into Harbour, Central, and Western lines. You can buy a smart card which helps in getting a ticket from a vending machine for all types of local trains. Tourist passes are also available.

Tip: Local trains will be more crowded in Morning and Evening. The best time to travel is 11 am to 4 pm.

 

Buses

India is well connected by private buses and state government buses. Sometimes trains are overbooked and flights are too expensive then buses are a good option for commuting between cities. Catching a bus is easier than getting on a train or plane. You can book most bus tickets online at redbus.in or can go to the nearest bus stand and book tickets.

Tips for bus travels –

  • Many times pick-up points are some corners or roadside shops and it gets confusing where exactly the bus will stop. You should ask local people for the nearest pick-up point for your bus ride. Also, you should know where you want to get off when going to a large city like Mumbai or Pune because buses have multiple bus terminals or stops.
  • There are multiple types of buses.

Local buses: If you are traveling for few hours (2-3 hours) then take a local bus with sitting because it is super cheap. You are not assigned to a seat so you may end up sharing seats or standing. Most of these buses’ fares were under 100rs (1.5$). In Mumbai, you can enjoy a double-decker local bus ride.

  • Volvo or deluxe buses: If you are traveling long hours better to book a sleeper AC bus. You can make your booking on a sleeper bus for overnight travel and you can save money on accommodation because AC sleeper busses are super comfortable. Bus booking websites highlight available facilities in the bus like Wi-Fi, toilets, etc. Sleeper buses also have several classes, deluxe, semi-deluxe, or super deluxe. We suggest booking the super deluxe.
  • Book your seat near the front to avoid a bumpy ride. Also, avoid booking upper seats.
  • Due to space issues, they will ask you to put your bags in the luggage space. You should keep your valuables and important documents with you in a small bag, not in your luggage bag.
  • Long journey buses stop in between for food and toilet breaks.

 

Tram

Tram is operational only in Kolkata. These electric Trams provide emission-free rides to all and the best way to explore the city.

 

Taxi

Taxis are an integral part of Indian city transport. In few cities, you will find old ambassador model taxis. These are available in different colors in various cities. New online taxi services like Ola, UBER, etc. are very popular and can be booked via mobile app. You can use OLA and UBER’s shared pool to save some more money.

There are exclusive taxi services available for women with women drivers in some cities.

 

Auto rickshaw

A three-wheeled auto-rickshaw which is known as a ‘tuk-tuk’ is a common transport vehicle in many cities. The auto has a small cabin for the driver and seat for the passengers where 2 to 3 passengers can fit at a time. The small size of the auto helps in quickly crossing the traffic.

If the auto-rickshaw has a meter then you can pay the driver as per the meter rate card. Otherwise, if the taxi driver refuses to go by it then better to agree on the fare before boarding the auto. You can ask locals for the approximate fare required to reach your destination and then negotiate with the driver. Auto fare varies depending upon the city but on average, it will be approximately 15rs per kilometer. You should not pay anything before you get down from the auto at your destination. OLA and UBER also provide auto rickshaws which is a better option to avoid bargaining.

Tip: You should always keep smaller bills to pay the fare because taxi drivers rarely have rupee change. India has also adapted well to mobile payments so that you can install the Paytm or Google Pay mobile app to pay your fare. You can add money to your Paytm wallet using your credit card.

 

Cycle rickshaw

A cycle rickshaw is like a tricycle where the driver peddles in the front seat. They are not a very fast and great way for market sightseeing. These are available in few cities like Delhi, Jaipur, etc. You should be careful and keep your legs inside while the cycle rickshaw driver zips you through narrow pathways.

 

Motor Cycle Rickshaw (sometimes called as Jugaad)

Local mechanics create Motorcycle rickshaws by combining Motorcycle and carriage. Motor Cycle Rickshaw is available in Rajasthan.

 

Ships and Ferries

Ferries are the common mode of transport in coastal areas. These ferries or mini ships connect two places that are separate by water bodies. People and transport vehicles like buses, trucks, and bikes are loaded on ferries and sailed to the destination. A ferry ride can be enjoyed at various places in Goa, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Assam, and Kerala. There is a cruise service available from Mumbai to Goa.

The ferry rides in Mumbai operate between 6 am to 8 pm. These rides give an astonishing view of the Gateway of India and Mumbai city.

  • From “Gateway of India” to “Elephanta Caves”. Fare is approximately 160rs return journey ticket.
  • From Gateway of India to Mandwa. Fare is approximately 110rs return journey ticket. From Mandwa to Alibaug can be traveled in a local bus. Alibaug beach is the most visited beach near Mumbai.

 

Shikara Boats

Shikara is a wooden boat and a popular tourist attraction in Kashmir. These are not found anywhere else. This ride can only be taken in Dal Lake, Nagin Lake, Lotus Lake, and Golden Lake of Kashmir. Shikara ride in the lake is an amazing experience to witness floating gardens and amazing sceneries.  It cost approximately 500rs (roughly 7$) per hour.

 

Rent a car

You can hire a car from a travel agency. In India when you hire a car, you also get an experienced driver with it as part of the hiring deal. It cost around 2500rs (35$) per day for 200km and around 10 to 15rs per km for each extra distance. Toll and parking charges will be mostly extra. You may need to give some nominal charge to drive for the night but that will be part of the deal that you make. An English-speaking and friendly driver can be a good local tour guide as well. You can keep your driver happy with a good tip. The advantage of a car hire is that you get complete luxury and security. There is no crowd or rush problem and you can explore places as per your comfort.

You can also rent a self-drive car for example from zoomcar.com  and explore the country on your own but this is mostly not used by tourists because roads are rough in many areas and not suitable for someone new to this.

 

Rent a bike

In places like Goa renting a bike or scooter is the best way to explore beaches and places in general. Riding a scooter is a fun and cheapest way to do sightseeing; you can also feel the wind while riding. People usually rent bikes for the Leh Ladakh trip.

 

Ropeways

Ropeways in India are the way to transport people or things to high altitude places. These ropeways are means of getting spectacular views from atop. Charges vary from place to place.

 

Animal Rides

You can ride animals in different cities. You can ride an elephant at Jaipur palace and feel like an old-time king. You can enjoy a desert safari by riding a camel instead of a Jeep in Rajasthan. Horse ride is available for sightseeing at most of the hill destinations like Shimla, Mahabaleshwar, Matheran, etc. You can enjoy horse and camel rides on most of the beaches also. Bullock cart ride is also an amazing experience that can be taken in any village of India. Some farmers still use bullock carts to carry goods to the market. Horse cart (“Tanga”) rides can also be taken in few cities. You can sit on Yak in Shimla or Sikkim and get your picture clicked. The fee for all these rides is nominal once. These may become some memorable rides of your lifetime.

 

 

Some people believe it is inhumane to do ride animals. As per my experience, most of the animal owners in India treat them as their family members.

Now you must have got a good idea about different transports available in India. You should first list down destinations that you want to visit and activities that you want to do. Based on this you can arrange these destinations in sequence and make reservations accordingly. You should embrace each travel adventure and enjoy it. I bet that your India travel will be the most amazing and unforgettable experience. Now I am handing it over to you so that you can share your experience or tip for traveling with these modes of transport in India.