Travel on Indian Trains, Planes, Buses, Cars, Auto & Bike Rickshaws

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1 ) Trains

I think traveling on trains through India is a must for everyone at least once. Often the tickets sellout early so I recommend booking ahead of time on Cleartrip.com. When you’re actually on the train and cruising through the countryside it can be an exhilarating experience. It is definitely my favorite way to go apart from flying. I recommend only going on 2AC or First Class because otherwise it will be too cramped and potentially too hot. I find that sleeping on trains is very easy but it’s important to keep an eye on your bags or lock them. The train staff often come through with water, chai, snacks and fried foods. It is best to avoid everything unless it’s packaged like bottled water and packaged snacks. Trains mostly only stop at a station for about a minute so it’s important to know where your stop is and be ready to get all your bags off before you get to the desired station.

2) Train Stations

Train stations are the one thing I don’t like about traveling on trains in India. They generally stink of urine and can have dubious characters hanging out there as well as insane taxi drivers who almost fight each other for your business. One important thing that I wish I’d known when leaving the station is to act like you know where you are going and walk straight out without looking left and right. Otherwise you are likely to be pounced upon by a mob of hungry taxi drivers. Always outside the stations are little shops with snacks that I recommend going to, buying something and then asking them the best way to get to your destination and see if they recommend a driver. This will give you the best chance of not being scammed or tricked. Also it’s good to watch out for the driver taking you to a different hotel or destination than what you asked for because they often have deals with hotels if they bring in new customers.

3) Airplanes

The airplanes of India are the same as in all parts of the world. This is obviously the best way to travel long distances thoughout India. The tickets are usually quite affordable and can get you to almost every major destination across the country. Mainly regional flights are routed through Delhi which can be infuriating because a journey that should have been 2 hours turns into an all day event. Check out my blog about how to get cheap flights.

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4) Airports

The Indian airports can look and feel exactly the same as a Western airport if they’ve been built within the last couple of years. Otherwise they can be a bit seedy or look like a converted army base. They can be aggressive in not allowing you to take pictures around airports so watch out for that. Also when you are organizing a taxi to your hotel I recommend getting the hotel to send their driver to pick you up (if you can afford it) or get a fixed price taxi. Avoid just walking out of the airport without a plan. The drivers know you’ve just come from the West and smell money so they can quote absolutely outrageous prices for a 10 minute journey.

5) Buses

Indian Bus StationsBuses can be an okay way to travel through India but nowhere near as pleasant as the trains. As you may be able to imagine the Indian roads are generally mayhem with vehicles zig-zagging like there’s no tomorrow. I recommend going on the bus only if it is less than 5 hours and is a nice “AC” bus. One perk is that it’s usually super cheap like Rs 200 for a 5-hour journey.

6) Bus Stations

All the bus stations I’ve been are usually busy places with literally hundreds of buses coming and going. There can be beggar’s hanging around there who may ask for money (I never give them anything.) They also have places for chai and snacks. It can be tricky finding your bus so asking for help usually solves that dilemma.

7) Cars

Cars (with a hired driver) are a great way to travel short distances through cities especially if it’s AC and the windows are closed. The noise and pollution is generally obnoxious in every Indian city and so if you have the money this is by far the best way to get around. You can usually organize a driver though your hotel and they should be able to get to any address in the city. As soon as the journey becomes more than an hour or two it can be extremely tiring and dangerous especially at night when trucks are driving like mad men.

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8 ) Auto Rickshaws

The auto rickshaws (aka “auto’s”) are the best way to get around a town if you’re on a tight budget. They are extremely cheap (as long as you can bargain the driver down.) So what are the drawbacks? They are open to the air to receive the pollution, noise, flying objects and if you have a crash with a truck then you’d be history. That being said I ride on auto’s all the time but use ear plugs, sunglasses, and a cloth to breath through to avoid breathing the pollution.

9) Bicycle Rickshaws

Bike rickshaws are kind of an amusing novelty and can be a fun way to explore the narrow streets of new town. When you think about it, it is rather cruel to have this skinny little boy pedal a bicycle with you sitting in the carriage behind and I think they are actually illegal but in certain cities they still persist.

Travel in India with friends

10) Travel time

I believe you will enjoy your journey most if you remain well rested and don’t get exhausted. Travel is tiring in general but travel in India is probably about 3 times as tiring as it is in the West. This is because, depending how you choose to get around, you will be bombarded by so much sensory stimulation. For this reason I recommend traveling no more than 5 hours in one day unless it’s a train where you can comfortably lie horizontally and sleep.

11) Travel pricing

Obviously traveling by plane is the most expensive. Trains are the next most expensive if you travel 2AC or First Class (First Class is generally double the cost of 2AC but you get your own compartment!) Buses are cheap. Rented cars especially if they are AC are nice but can be very expensive. Auto rickshaws are cheap but the drivers love to scam you so the trick is to walk and go to the next driver and then the prices will quickly lower. Bike rickshaws are super cheap.

12) Travel Comfort

If you are going for a super comfortable journey and have a good budget then flying and renting AC cars is definitely the way to go. Trains are a great second choice and are extremely affordable compared to flying. Taxi’s and buses are uncomfortable if they are any more than an hour or 2 journeys.

13) Travel Pillow

I love to sleep. If I don’t have my pillow it can be more difficult so if you’re like me I suggest you bring a small foldable pillow. I don’t care if you’re laughing at me right now :). I have happily slept many hours in trains, planes and automobiles thanks to my little pillow. It is also useful when going to hotels, especially the cheaper ones that have pillows filled with cardboard!

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27 Comments on “Travel on Indian Trains, Planes, Buses, Cars, Auto & Bike Rickshaws

  1. Pingback: Shopping in India – Learn How to Bargain Like an Indian | Asher Fergusson

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  3. i dont understand then why some people are coming to India. ??? if you are looking for some luxury with fun i am sorry may be it’s not the place. but if you wanna explore by traveling in India with various transport methods you should try to be normal than a ”tourist”… not thinking about AC buses always and First class ticket in trains. I think you have a hard time in India but it doesn’t mean that in India, its always like that…. come down talk to people then you will understand why people leaving here even this much hardships…

    may be in the train there is a coach called ”sleeper”. and always there will be a felicities like tatkal (means emergency tickets). You can avail it by visiting only IRCTC website.

    I hate people are talking about luxury while traveling. If you are traveling 50km in crowded bus may be its .005% of you life. If you dont even can suffer that, howcan you live ? why you need to live ?

    • Hi Vish,

      People are coming to India to experience the beautiful rich culture, amazing food, friendly people and incredible landscapes.

      I agree with you that it is nice to really see a country by traveling on the normal modes of transport. If you don’t have much time then going by plane makes sense and is the most comfortable. Also I have found that if I am not comfortable then I will get very tired and this usually leads to getting sick. No one likes being sick and a Westerner in India much more susceptible so traveling in comfort is a good precaution to keeping healthy.

      Hope this answers your questions.

      Cheers,

      Asher.

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  9. Thanks for the share, this is definitely an issue that I think everyone needs to know before arriving in places like this – I spent one month in Bangalore, India and I’m happy to say I’m home now without all the nonsense of the rickshaw drivers. I made a video of one of my terrible experiences and shared it on my blog: http://giveforgranted.com/2014/09/rickshaw-scam-bangalore-india Please, share this if you can! I want to help make a difference across India!

    • Hi Jenna,

      I’m sorry that happened to you! It really is insane how persistent the scamming is in India. I normally agree on a price before getting in a rickshaw but I know they like to use the meter to aid their scams. You can insist on a price especially when you know the distance and what it should cost. If the driver doesn’t like it then you can just walk to the next one and he’ll likely go for the lower rate. With that said it is very tiring emotionally and physically to have to do that at every moment…

      All the best,

      Asher.

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  19. the article about travel in india with different vehicle was nice. sometimes you may feel uncomfortable in bus travel and may find difficulty in reaching rural ares. so better book bus in travel agency and enjoy your trip.

  20. Hi Asher,

    I have gone through all your posts about India just to know the outsider’s view about the People, places, culture, lifestyle varieties we have and I found it quite honest and close to the reality.

    Hope it helps people from all around the world with their travel plan to India ๐Ÿ™‚ Keep writing. Thank you.

    • Thank you Sonu ji!

      That is my intention for creating the blog – to help people enjoy the incredible India we know and love without getting into trouble ๐Ÿ™‚

      Cheers,

      Asher.

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