“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” India is one of the most interesting places to visit in the world. A melting pot of different religions, cultures and communities, this peninsula is home to the lofty Himalayas, the beautiful Bay of Bengal, the dense forests of Cherrapunji and the far flung tip of Kanyakumari along with the deserts of Rajasthan and the backwaters of Kerala. Each Indian city has its own charm and if you are commuting, be sure to try everything from the ancient cycle rickshaw to the state-of-the-art, modern metro service. The public transit in India has become more organized, easily accessible and convenient.
Travelling by train is a classic experience in India. The national rail network covers almost all of the nation with the exception of mountains in Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Ladakh and HP. Trains may be late, but they run across difficult and vastly changing terrains with ease. Overnight journeys are the right choice if you want to save yourself from travelling via the train. There are three types of passenger trains in India:
- Inter City/Express/Mail
- Super Fast
- Local Passenger
The long distance inter-city trains called express or mail trains along with super-fast AC trains such as Rajdhani are day-time trains which connect major cities in India over a travelling time of 8 hours. Painfully slow local passenger trains stop at each station. There’s yet another class of trains for the adventurous tourist such as the Palace on Wheels and the toy train to Darjeeling. A famous toy train also runs from Shimla to Kalkaji.
The various classes of train travel include:
- Second-class unreserved
- Second-class sleeper
- First class
The other 4 classes are :
- A/C Chair Car
- Second Class AC
- Third Class AC
- First Class AC
Rail fares are calculated for the exact distance traveled. Indrail passes are sold to foreigners and NRIs covering fair and reservation fees for every period from 12 hours to 90 days. It is costlier than buying tickets individually and is designed for nationwide travel. A seven day pass costs USD 80 in second class, USD 135 in first and USD 270 in AC. Luxury tourist trains are also there the flagship of which is the Palace on Wheels. These are maharaja carriages made into AC coaches with original design. An all inclusive 8 day tour starts at USD 2920. Discounts are offered during off seasons. Other heritage trains for tourists include Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, Maharaja Express and The Deccan Odyssey.
The massive distances in the country make flying a better option. Booking tickets is through the airline websites. Long carriers also have offices in metro cities. Children under twelve pay half fare while those under two pay 10 percent (one per adult).Major domestic airlines include IndiGo, Go Air, Air India Express, Jet Airways, Air India and SpiceJet.
Buses in India go almost everywhere. Government run state operated buses as well as private buses are available whether you are in Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) or Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala). Services vary in terms of price and standards and range from ordinary to deluxe, sleeper, volvo and low floor buses that are air conditioned. For example, Delhi’s DTC runs AC (red colored ) and non AC (green colored) buses or those in the capital city can also opt for Ho-Ho (Hop On Hop Off) buses which take tourists to as many as 20 monuments, sites and UNESCO world heritage locations here. Luggage travels in the hatch of private buses for which you may have to shell out an addition INR 10 to 20. Buying bus ticket is easy as there are many station counters and bus stands outside major cities. Private and express services generally require reservation beforehand.
Kerala, Kolkata and Andaman Islands are all connected by ferries and boats. Ferry boats is what Kerala locals call this service. Certain regions are only accessible by boat including the backwaters of Alappuzha and Kolam. Sunderbans in the delta region of southern Kolkata is another such area. Ferry services on the river Hooghly in West Bengal or hilly shikaras in Jammu and Kashmir are an interesting way to travel.
Vehicles with drivers and car rental firms are readily available. Local taxi firms and tourist offices can guide you to them. Cars cost around USD 27-35 per day covering a maximum of 200km. AC adds to the rate. Self drive rentals are there but traffic in the major cities is pretty bad and roads are congested. Taxi cabs (black and yellow cabs or white coloured private ones) are the best option.
Riding a motorbike is a fun-filled way to travel in India if you are adventurous. Choose a 250 or 550CC Enfield Bullet for hire sold cheapest in Puducherry, TN.. Some smaller models are also available such as Bajaj in India’s capital city in Old Delhi and Karol Bagh.
Share a jeep services are available for passengers coming from Bagdogra airport to Gangtok and other parts of Sikkim, Darjeeling or Siliguri in West Bengal and other NE locations. Sharing a jeep costs between INR 100 to 200 and the speed is 20 km per hour. Jeeps only ply if there are at least 10 people ready to share them.
Metro/ Suburban Rail
Metro systems and suburban railways are also prevalent in cities like Mumbai and Chennai apart from Delhi. The Mumbai suburban railway was the first rail system in India while metro lines were started in Kolkata first. Tram services, a colonial heritage are also operational in Kolkata. Regional rail networks transport hundreds of passengers each day and has the highest passenger density across the globe. There are currently 8 metro systems in India. Mumbai monorail which opened in the capital city of Maharashtra is the first to be used for rapid transit in independent India.
Autos and Cycle Rickshaws
Cycle Rickshaws were the most ancient form of travel in India and date back to the pre-independence era. Tricycles driven by human drivers, these are the cheapest way to traverse short distances in India. Metered autorickshaws and unmetered tempos are also a popular choice.
The rail, roadways, and aviation transport systems in India are rapidly expanding. With the vast number of choices ranging from bikes to ferries, the traveler has plenty of amazing choices for discovering India.
More about the Author
Ravi Khemani, the CTO and Co-founder at Ridlr, a mobile application for making public transit easier. He has been a part and parcel of the organization even before its inception in May 2010. He holds a Masters degree from the University of Missouri, Kansas (UMKC), United States. When Ravi returned to India, he noticed that there was no way for commuters to know alternate routes to reach their destination faster, unlike in the States where he was used to seeing live traffic information on the GPS and this gave birth to the idea of Ridlr. Ravi’s hobbies include reading about Tech/Algorithms, Learning and Programming new tech, and traveling to scenic places.