Travel India by Train and Discover the Unexpected

If you want to experience and exploring India in a whole new different way, you must travel India by train. You can rediscover the art of elegant train traveling or take a slow toy train up to any of the hill resorts.

travel India by train - Victoria Station Mumbai
Victoria Train Station in Mumbai

There are many forms of transportation available. Oftentimes, taking the bus is the most ordinary and cheap way to explore India, while traveling by plane or taxi on the other hand is a bit expensive.

But you can also travel India by train out of the ordinary.

The many cities of India are connected via railroad for an easy access. India’s rail network is quite commendable and the most important means of transport for long distance travel. Especially if you want to reach India’s internal suburbs, the train is the most effective way of transportation.

You may be even surprised to hear that a lot of the trains here are actually super organized and you’ll need to book in advance. For people accustomed to rail travel in Europe, train travel in India come as a shock, but the ordinary trains in India are more than just crowded.

Some of the luxury trains in India are the following: Palace on Wheels, Fairy Queen, Royal Orient, Deccan Odyssey, and Kalka Shimla. As the trains head to different destinations you have to determine the exact place that you want to visit first. Don´t worry they friendly staff in the train stations show you the right way.

For train journeys in India nothing beats The Palace on Wheels.

A luxury all India tour by train that has been rated among the top ten luxury trains of the world. It happens to be one of the finest ways to travel through the incredible, impressive, inimitable, inspirational land of India. Take a royal retreat and be the king or the queen through the splendid journey of Palace on Wheels.

It’s a journey worthy of kings and queens and no wonder the experience is labelled the Palace on Wheels.With its cream colored saloons, embellished with intricate designs, travel through Rajasthan on a journey through the former Maharaja kingdoms.

Once ruled by kings and emperors whose presence lingers on in forbidding fortresses and fairy-tale palaces, but nowadays they are mostly converted into museums, hotels, and restaurants where retainers serve truly royal repasts.The train stops for considerable periods at each city or place of tourist interest on the route allowing the passengers to explore the area to their satisfaction.

The 23 royal coaches are named after former Rajput states matching the aesthetics and interiors of the royal history. Each saloon is a place to relax and get together and has a mini pantry and a lounge to ensure availability of hot and cold beverages and refreshments. The train has two fine restaurants “The Maharaja” and “The Maharani” with an elegant Rajasthani ambiance serving Continental, Indian and Rajasthani cuisine. The train also boasts of a well-stocked bar offering the choicest of spirits of local and International Brands.

Over the years, the train has been refurbished many times to a great extent. The decor has been changed, but still keeping in mind the traditional aesthetic yet modern look. The bathrooms have been redone and are maintained sparkling clean. The rooms and lounges are equipped with all the latest entertainment facilities.

In 2015 the Palace on Wheels had a total of 1763 passengers from all over the world. The Palace on Wheels Route starts in Delhi, covers Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur and Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra, before it returns to New Delhi.

The Palace on Wheels runs from September through April from Delhi on every Wednesday. A train ride takes 7 nighty/8 days including full board, sightseeing tours in A/C coaches, boat, rickshaw, elephant and camel rides. For the luxury experience train tickets are quite affordable at US$ 600US per person per night. Have a look at the train schedule.

Another luxury tourist train in India is the Maharajas’ Express from Delhi to Mumbai.

The Maharajas Express comes with a total of 14 guest carriages which have got its names after various precious stones like Feeroza (for Turquoise), Monga (for Coral), Pukhraj (for Sapphire) and so one. All cabins are adorned with rich tapestry, wall-to-wall carpeting, semi-precious stones and antiques, but don´t lack every modern-day facilities at par with the International standards.

The Maharajas` Express comes with a total of 14 guest carriages which have got their names after various precious stones like Feeroza (for Turquoise), Monga (for Coral), Pukhraj (for Sapphire) and so one. All cabins are adorned with rich tapestry, wall-to-wall carpeting, semi-precious stones and antiques, but don´t lack every modern-day facilities at par with the International standards.

There are 5 different Maharaja Express Journeys departing either in Mumbai or Delhi. “Gems of India” and “Treasures of India” covering Delhi – Agra – Ranthambore – Jaipur – Delhi are the most affordable at US $3,850 for 3 nights/ 4 days p.p. on twin sharing basis, full board, butler service and guided off train tours included. The Maharaja Express price for the the 8 days/ 7 nights “Heritage of India” tour starts at USD 6,840.00, while the price for the 8 day / 7 nights “Indian Panorama” and “Indian Splendor” is USD 5,980.00 and up.

Have a look at the IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) website for Indian railway reservation availability, schedules, booking and prices

Travel by train in India – the slower the better.

  • If you have some time to spare and traveling on a budget, take one of the slow toy trains up to the hill resort of Shimla, Ooty (Udhagamandalam), Darjeeling or Matheran.
  • There is nothing to match the experience of chugging up the hills, past little hamlets and terraced paddy fields, making your way through dark tunnels and over breath-taking bridges.
  • The slow pace offers panoramic views and changing vistas. The invigorating air and the delights of a scenic hill resort provide a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of the city.
kalka to shimla toy train
The Kalka to Shimla toy train.

#1 Kalka Shimla railway: The toy train journey from Kalka to Shimla takes 7 hours (96 km) and is entertaining with 103 tunnels and lofty arched bridges. The dazzling view and the stops at the picturesque stations along the way – Dharmpore, Taksal, Gamma and Solan all add up to an exhilarating and very unique experience.

#2 The Nilgiri Mountain Railway (or Ooty toy train) starts from the town of Mettupalayam and thus begins a journey back in time, full of twists and turns as this narrow gauge train ascends 46 km, on its way to the hill resort at Ooty. At a maximum speed of 33 km/h this toy train treks across plains, plantations and forest clad hills. The 16 dark winding tunnels and tall bridges on the way offer breathtaking views and make this train journey to Ooty an extraordinary experience!

toy train darjeeling
The Darjeeling toy train.

#3 The Darjeeling Hill Railway is the most famous of the little trains, linking the towns of New Jalpaiguri to the lovely hill station of Darjeeling in 7 ½ hours. Withits 2 ft gauge, the Darjeeling toy train is indeed a ‘toy train’ and the narrowest of the regular narrow gauges. The tiny century-old engine is a connoisseur’s delight. The 86 km Darjeeling line needs no tunnels, thus allowing the traveller an uninterrupted view of the breathtakingly scenery of the Himalaya.

#4 the 77 year old toy train to Matheral, connecting Neral (on main line of Central Railway) and Matheran in 1 ½ hours. This is also the main way to reach the tiny hill resort, close to Mumbai. As the small train wheezes up into the clear mountain air one can enjoy the scenic view of hills and plains. The lack of traffic at Matheran makes this an unusual and peaceful retreat.

Various trains offer excursions ranging in time from a view hours to a couple of days to nearly two weeks.  If you have the time and money to travel India by train, these are experiences you will never forget.

You will love to read our next article about places to visit in North India.