As we mentioned in our previous article in which we talked about the history of trains in India, the rail network is very extensive, providing very good tourism services , especially to cover transport between distant cities where there is no airport, or it has few connections or frequencies. Although the quality standards are not the same as the European ones, in the most developed areas for tourism, but especially for the routes that link any city with the capital, there are trains whose quality is remarkable and acceptable to a western passenger. One of the best known is the Shatabdi Express , (the Super-fast for the Indians). It is the most prestigious train in India, reaching speeds in some sections of 160 km / h. (what our old ‘Talgo’ used to achieve). Most of the trains in India have their own name according to the route, which gives them even greater halo of romanticism. For example, the night Mewar Express that connects Delhi and Udaipur could be our Rias Baixas between Madrid and Vigo.

railway

Shatabdi (left) and Merwar Express (right)

All trains, at least those of medium and long radius, have public toilets , both “Indian style” ( without toilet paper and instead with a sleeve for washing), as well as “Western style” (with toilet paper). It is common for street vendors to get on and off Indian trains, especially at major stations, during longer stops. You can get tea , samosas , pakoras and various types of snacks and food. As for the drink, we do not recommend consuming anything that is not boiled (infusions) or sealed (water and soft drinks).

For a tourist, traveling by train in India can be interesting for several reasons: One of the reasons may be to know the train stations . These are places with their own life where many people intermingle (and when we say crowd, we mean crowd). The train distinguishes between classes (1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc.), but the station does not. In the stations you can see all kinds of people of any social class, caste , ethnicity, nationality, traveling motivation, etc. It is not uncommon to see an Indian familyComplete with 20 or 30 “camping” components on the platform, waiting for many hours to take a train to visit other family members, in front of 4 American tourists of white skin with a travel guide in hand. On the other hand, we must also say that the main stations in India have the necessary infrastructures and services, such as English-speaking staff at the ticket offices, digital panels and Bilingual Hindi / English PA, waiting rooms, bathrooms, canteen, kiosk, etc. . The one already mentioned in this blog Victoria Terminus station in Bombay – in its classic name – is a monument in itself, having been awarded as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO  in 2004.

Victoria Terminus Station (Photo: UrbanWanderer, CC Flickr)

Victoria Terminus Station, Mumbai

A train is a very good place to feel the Indians up close. During the course of an itinerary, the traveler sometimes makes contactin an indirect way with the Indians (receptionists, vendors, waiters, etc.). Everything is different on the train. It is not possible to “privatize” a compartment, even in first class, so contact and, over the course of the hours the conversation is almost inevitable. You can also value the experience from a practical point of view. You cannot ignore the fact that traveling by train is much cheaper than traveling by plane, and faster and safer than traveling by road in most cases. It is common for a 12 or 14 day itinerary to use a train to cover a daytime journey (between 2 and 4 hours), or even a night one (about 8 hours). The advantage of night trains is that at the same time a solution is put to overnight accommodation and the displacement between two cities with up to 1,200 km. away from each other. That said, obviously the rest is not the same as in a hotel, it is only enough to continue traveling. In future articles we will talk about train types in India and about pure tourist trains. –