We had our first 19 hour train journey from Goa to Kerala and I have to admit it was tougher I would have expected. Still, I would definitely do it again as it was a super exciting experience. The following seven lessons learned will help you to get prepared for your first long-distance train journey in India.
1. Ticket reservation
You can book the tickets online or from a travel agency. As we were traveling on high season, all the sleepers were booked for couple of days onwards. We got last minute tickets from travel agency, but we had to be there at a certain time to get the tickets with 50 – 50 chance. And we got them! 🙂
2. AC or non-AC sleepers
AC was double the price of the non-AC sleeper, which was around 900 rupees. So we decided to save some money and give the non-AC a go. You can manage the night well with non-AC sleeper, but during the day it got extremely hot. The non-AC cabins consisted of compartments of 8 people (three or two bunks above each other) and there was an aisle in the middle of the compartment full of traffic. And yes, there are no pillows, blankets or bedsheets.. 😉 Next time, I would maybe pay extra for the comfort of AC.
3. Departure and arrival time
The long-distance trains are always late, so get prepared for that. We had 23:40 – 17:40 train, which was running 1,5 hours late. Waiting for couple of hours at the railway station in the middle of the night and arriving to a new destination pretty late were not the most comfortable choices. Next time, I would rather take an afternoon train and arrive early morning.
4. Finding your cabin and bunk
The trains are long and the cabins are marked with a code that you could also find outside of the cabins. The staff at the station helped us to stand at the right place on the track.
When we got to the dark and full cabin there was someone sleeping on every bunk. Luckily there was a conductor in the cabin, who helped us out to find our bunks and kicked the guys out off our bunks.
5. Food and drinks
Indian railways have their own kitchens on trains, but we got a tip from a local guy to avoid the food if you do not want to get ill. And we were happy of that hint, as we saw the staff taking showers in the kitchen at the end of the journey.
We ordered some take away naan breads and omelettes from a restaurant in Goa and brought loads of snacks. Bottled water and other drinks you can easily buy from the train. We also had coffees in the morning, which were sweet but ok.
We were able to place our backpacks at the end of our bunks and hold our bags of valuables next to us. The bunks are not that long, so incase you are tall, this may not be an option for you. Some people storaged the luggage under the lower beds.
7. Sleeping and doing
It was possible to get some hours of sleep with earplugs and shades on. In the early hours we started waking up to the ongoing ”kopi, kopi, coffee” or ”chai chai, chai” mantras. Someone was constantly selling something to eat or drink.
Traveling on a train is quite an experience where something is constantly going on. The best advice for the way is not to plan too much doing, just enjoy the beautiful changing views, have a chat with your travel mates and have some rest.
Last but not least, the toilets, you don’t want to spend too much time in there.. An experience in itself!