Thinking of India, the first things that comes to mind is chaos and safety. India is a heavily populated country with millions of tourists flowing in every year, traveling in India can give anyone jitters. Being an Indian native, I will present how to travel in India with insider tips and keeping safety a priority.
There are various mediums available throughout the country to ease our way through the different states. Be it trains, buses, or flights, traveling was never this easy in India before. The premium trains, the Volvo buses, and the high & low-end flights have made traveling from one place to another comfortable.
The ultimate guide on how to travel in India
When I take you through my guide on how to travel in India & having used all mediums, I present my best tips, know-how & recommendations on how to travel in India. So, let’s start from the mediums available!
Traveling through airplanes is one of my favorite means of travel in India. I find it not only convenient but also time-saving. Traveling through roads or trains will take almost double time which flying will take. With airports in almost every major city or connectivity nearby, taking a flight will save a lot of hassle.
Low-cost airlines like spice-jet, Indigo or GoAir are some of the India based corporations providing airfares at an almost similar price of a train ticket. The airlines’ sales & discount offers save a lot of money too if planned well in advance. Air travel has picked up in India in the last few years since these low-cost airlines came into the picture.
When coming to India, you will probably land in a metro city like Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur or Cochin. These cities are well-connected to surrounding cities through trains & buses and also domestic terminals. Point to remember is that the domestic terminals usually cater to low-cost airlines. The major airlines like Air India & Jet Airways also fly from here, but they mainly use the International terminals.
If sky-scanner is your go-to app for booking the cheapest flights, then Make My Trip is the best one available for India. All the live deals, along with MMT discounts, this is the site I recommend when booking an air ticket.
With one of the longest rail networks in the world, traveling via trains is another one of the best ways to travel in India. I have been traveling through Indian trains since childhood and have experience with different types of trains. So, I’ll put forward my best tips about the train types, and how to book and board the trains.
Every small town or a big city is well-connected through Indian railways, eg, Delhi itself has more than 5 railway stations. Train tickets can be booked through the counters at the station & online via official site of IRCTC as well. Since IRCTC came into the picture, online booking has made the traveler’s life easier. Even foreign nationals can also book tickets through the site, though a set of rules apply to them. You can refer the document by the official site here.
Moving on, there are various categories in Indian trains –
1. 3rd AC, 2nd AC & 1st AC – AC sleeper berths, in the sequence of prices going up. 3rd AC has 3X3 berths, 2nd AC has 2X2 berths and 1st class is the premium of all with a cabin of 1X1. They are the best options for overnight and long journeys with pantry available at no extra charge.
2. Executive Class – AC sitting class but with wider berth, more like the premier economy. With pantry availability at no extra charge, the executive class is the best bet for shorter durations of less than 10 hours.
3. Chair Car – AC sitting arrangement like the economy class in fights.
4. Sleeper – The class with sleeping berths but non AC. Mostly used by locals, but I’d not recommend traveling through keeping security in mind.
5. Second Class – The sitting class, & non AC.
6. General – Cheapest and extremely crowded. I never recommend traveling through the General class especially if you’re not from India.
Remember, only Executive class, 2nd AC, and 1st AC classes are available for foreign nationals.
Tour agents also arrange to book through IRCTC or Paytm (another app for booking), but I recommend trying through IRCTC first. Agents charge extremely high, especially on short notice. IRCTC has improved a lot since its start-up days and I also use it with ease.
Most of the long-distance trains in India usually stop at every small town. So, if you’d like to save time, opt for premium trains –
- Rajdhani – for distance more than 10 hours and pantry available with no extra charges.
- Shatabdi – for a duration of fewer than 10 hours and pantry charges included.
- Duranto – High-speed long distance AC trains, but no pantry.
- Garib Rath – High-Speed long distance AC trains, but for much cheaper than its counterparts. The pantry is not available in Garib Rath.
Traveling to shorter durations of 10-15 hours by road is optimal as the road network is well-organized in India. Every city has its main bus terminal, where one can easily locate the time-table and get tickets right away. Various websites have also come up now for effortless bus travel with online booking facilities. Sites like red-bus, make my trip provide services ranging from the timetable to online booking.
There are various types of buses as well, non AC, AC, Volvo, deluxe, semi-sleeper, & sleeper. If you plan to travel overnight, prefer sleeper or semi-sleeper.
Tips when planning to travel via buses –
• Buses are used extensively by locals and operate by all times, even starting overnight.
• Paytm is the widely accepted medium now, and you can use it to purchase tickets online & also at the ticket counter.
• If you plan to get the ticket at the terminal, carry some change, not all local operators accept cards or Paytm.
• Better to keep a track of the timetable before heading to the terminal, the buses might be fully booked.
• Reach at least half an hour prior to the departure time to avoid any issues.
• Sites like red bus and other online services display a seating chart, & some even highlight if the seat booked is by a female. So, booking online has its perks.
• For Females – If you travel solo & traveling overnight, know these things before choosing your pick –
1. Your next seat will be allocated to a female only & ticket operators are well aware of this. In case of any diversion, talk to the bus operator before the bus departs.
2. If comfortable sleeping next to a complete stranger even female, opt for a semi-sleeper bus.
Various private car operators are also available in India for renting cars for a road trip. Zoomcar is one of the renowned ones which charge nominal and provide cars in a nice condition. Every city & town have some local cab operators as well and they usually charge on per kilometer basis. The local cab operators provide drivers as well as charging daily wage (approx 300 -500 INR per day) as well.
When traveling in the Himalayas, I recommend renting an SUV for more than 3 people and the same goes for higher altitudes also.
These are various by which one can travel in India comfortably. I recommend choosing the ones wisely and mixing it up on your India trip. All the mediums will bring a lifetime of memories & unique experiences.
Following these tips and tricks will help you travel in India like a local! Enjoy the victory of Indian travel.
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