Your journey to India is incomplete without a trip through interiors of India on a train. But before you book your ticket, it would be helpful to know what all classes are available for booking and what to expect in there. Indian Railways have eight classes of accommodation. They are detailed below, in decreasing order of fare and facilities.
Tip: To enjoy your trip, make sure you go for a day journey.
Air-conditioned first class or AC1 or 1A – This is the most expensive and luxurious class of travel in Indian trains. If you are looking for absolute comfort while traveling by train, and do not mind a bigger hole in your pocket, this class is absolutely desirable.
Each AC1 coach has spacious, carpeted and lockable 4-berth and 2-berth compartments, and also have an attached washbasin. While booking tickets, you don’t have a choice of compartments because specific berth numbers are allocated by Indian railways. Though a preference is given to couples for the 2-berth compartment and to families for the 4-berth one, the same cannot be guaranteed.
The necessary bedding is provided, and berths are converted to seats for daytime use. Each coach accommodates 18 passengers. It is present only in certain trains which run on popular routes between metropolitan cities. There are some half AC1 coaches also.
Air-conditioned 2-tier or AC2 – Unlike AC1, AC2 coaches are not divided into separate compartments, but are open plan. The berths are arranged in bays of four (two upper, two lower) on one side of the aisle, and in bays of two, above and below the windows, on the other side of the aisle. These berths are also seats by the day, convertible to bunks for sleeping. AC2 coaches are air conditioned, and have ample leg room, curtains for privacy and individual reading lamps. Bedding is included in the fare. Each broad gauge coach can carry 48 passengers. AC2 is found in almost all long-distance trains.
Air-conditioned 3-tier or AC3 – If hygiene and comfort are concerns, but you don’t want to go all out in spending for the same, AC3 would be the option for you. Though AC2 or AC1 are recommended for day travel.
AC3 coaches are air conditioned coaches with sleeping berths. Berths are usually arranged as in 2AC but it has 3 tiers of bunk – upper, middle and lower, arranged in bays of six on one side of the aisle and bays of two (upper and lower) on the other side of the aisle. They are slightly less well appointed, and do not have individual reading lights or privacy curtains. Bedding is included with fare. It carries 64 passengers in broad gauge.
AC three tier (Economy) – These are air conditioned coaches with sleeping berths, present in Garib Rath Trains. Berths are usually arranged as in 3AC but with three tiers across the width and three longways (six on one side of the aisle and three on the other). Bedding is not included in the fare. (Now being discontinued)
AC Executive Chair class – If you decide to take a Shatabdi, and are traveling for a short duration and don’t need a berth, take the AC Executive chair class. These are air-conditioned seating coaches for comfortable short-distance travel. There are a total of four seats in a row.
AC Chair class – If you are traveling for a short duration, and won’t need to lie down or sleep, this one is the most comfortable and economical option. They are exactly like the AC executive chair class, except that they have a total of five seats in a row. They are found in all intercity day-time trains.
Sleeper class – If you want to travel cheap, and wish to interact with a large number of Indians from all walks of life, book a ticket with the sleeper class.This is the way most of the Indian population travels long-distance, and the majority of cars on a long-distance train will be sleeper class. Usually, ten or more coaches are attached together.
Sleeper class consists of open plan berths with upper, middle and lower bunks arranged in bays of six on one side of the aisle, and along the coach wall in bays of two (upper and lower) on the other side of the aisle. Bedding is not provided, and neither is air-conditioning. Sleeper class can be quite crowded and it’s fairly grubby and basic. On the other hand, you get a better view of the countryside than in AC coaches, where the windows are sealed, tinted, and sometimes dirty. Sleeper class is found on almost all long-distance trains except for the premier trains like ‘Rajdhani Express’. Each coach can accommodate 72 passengers.
Unreserved second class – This is the cheapest way to travel in the Indian railways. The coaches consist of open plan cars with wooden or plastic seats, rarely cushioned. Although entry into the compartment is guaranteed, a seat is not guaranteed. Tickets issued are valid on any train on the same route if boarded within 24 hours of buying the ticket. These coaches are usually very crowded.
Some trains might also serve food depending on the type of train you are traveling in. Happy Journey! 🙂