Having spent almost a month in India and travelled just about each and every way possible, I’ve put a post together that encapsulates some of the useful things we learned along the way. Some of them are good to know’s and others are pretty vital if you want to maximise your time.
India is enormous. Almost fifteen percent of the worlds entire population resides there so to say it is busy is putting it mildly.
There are lots of cost effective ways to get around but they take time and there are millions of other people needing to get from A to B so if you know where you want to go and don’t want to get there by shoving yourself through a window on the train, I would suggest booking your tickets as far in advance as you can.
In order to get anywhere by train, you will need to register with Indian Railways. To do this, you will need to send attached copies of your passport via email (file size not exceeding 1mb) and an indian mobile phone number as you will be sent an SMS code to verify your identity (we learned this the hard way when trying to book a last minute journey). There are a couple of ways around this, ask those you’re staying with can you borrow their phone or order an indian sim card ahead of your trip and have it all sorted beforehand. Knowing what I know now, I would do this. They sometimes take weeks to activate your account after you receive an auto reply and it can be quite frustrating and long winded.
Make My Trip, Cleartrip and Yatra are a few of the more mainstream platforms used to book domestic travel. Worth noting that you can’t book any train travel on any of these websites without having registered with IR first. Nope. Tried that.
We travelled in both AC3 and AC2 cabins and slept semi comfortably.
My number one must have has been my silk mummy liner which is a life saver for long journeys or questionably clean bed linen. It comes up above your head keeping you completely covered and feels lovely against your skin.
At lots of stations when you make a stop whether it be on the bus or on the train, people might knock at the window or poke their head in to sell you water and snacks. Often this water is repackaged and not completely purified so my advice would be not to drink it and make sure you take plenty with you.
It’s also worth mentioning that if you think that the train is planned to stop for forty minutes, it will likely set off after fifteen and leave you sprinting alongside with your street food trying desperately to jump on without spilling any. So be sure to check precise timings with the conductor and only the conductor!
Bus journeys are the cheapest option of all if you are on a really tight budget, an amazingly cost effective way to travel cross country. We paid fourteen pounds (1,150 rupees) per ticket for a 500km journey and this bought us a sleeper cabin and supposed AC. A lot of the night buses are standard upright seats and they are no fun at all.
If you get queazy in the car I’d suggest coming prepared with motion sickness tablets, the roads aren’t smooth. Remember the ride at the funfair that would chuck you up and down in your seats as it spins around at neck breaking speed? That’s what it’s like. You wouldn’t be the first person to be crippled with sudden Delhi belly as you take your first bewildered step on to the bus with a long night ahead so I can’t push ‘Stoppers’ enough. They just might save you.
If all of the above fails or you decide that you simply can not face another twenty hour journey sandwiched between the reclining chair of the person in front and the back of the bus slamming in to the back of your head every time you hit a pot hole, you can fly.
We came unstuck a couple of times when trying to book trains that were already full and to avoid spending too long in any one place and missing all of the spots on our list, we booked internal flights with Jet Airways which we usually found on SkyScanner. Prices were still cheap when taking in to account the distance being covered and we never paid more than £80 each.
The beauty of travelling in India is that there is always an affordable way to get you to where you most want to go next.
However exhausting it can be, it is such an adventure and you certainly won’t forget it in a hurry.