India is incredibly huge. And if there is anything that exists across geographies, cultures, seasons and traditions of this nation, it is the network of Indian Railways. From the hustle & bustle of metros to the serenity of countryside, Indian Railways sails through time everyday. It is the cheapest and fastest mode of transport which can ensure that you can reach even the remotest of locations in this big country. While the not-so-hassle-free bookings, late running trains and hygiene can sometimes be a bit of an issue, trains can also be one of the most enjoyable experiences in India.
Here are a few tips to ensure your tryst with Indian Railways gives you a bagful of wonderful memories:
1) Be the early bird:
Indian trains are usually overbooked weeks in advance. Plan your itinerary sooner than later and book your tickets immediately. Several sites like irctc.co.in, cleartrip.com & yatra.com let you make reservations online.
2) The number game:
Indian trains have quite a few numbers associated with them. Each train, each carriage and each seat has a number of its own. And then there is the platform number! A pandemonium is set on the station as soon as a train arrives. So just figure out these numbers in advance so you can join the fun!
3) Chart away the inconveniences:
Make sure that you check your name on the reservation chart. Indian Railways accepts that as the only proof that a seat belongs to you for a few hours! And especially with free upgrades, your seat number might be different from the one printed on your ticket.
4) Lock and chain your worry:
Once on your seat, immediately put away your luggage underneath. This space for luggage fills up quickly, and your bags might not find space here if you rest them on your seat.
Though trains are a very safe and secure mode of transport even for single women and children, luggage thefts are not unheard of. Carry small locks for your bags. Also, make use of the hoops provided under the berth to secure your luggage with chains. A must-do for sound sleep! Locks and chains are available for very small rates at all stations, in case you forget to carry them.
5) Get the taste of India:
While on a train, you will never go hungry. Tea, soup, pakoras, omlette, cutlets, biryani, thali, as well as a lot of local specialities in sweets and snacks – you can see hawkers selling all these and more inside the trains and on platforms. Enjoy all these during your journey, and get a flavour of India. BUT! Keep thoughts of hygiene miles away from your mind when you sample these Indian delicacies. If you are a germ-a-phobe, we suggest you carry your own food!
6) Put your senses at work:
A train journey is the best way to sample the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of India. Open your eyes and observe the large variety of people from all parts of the country. Enjoy the ever changing landscape outside. Listen to a multitude of very interesting sounds. Smell the various good and bad smells that make India what it is. Take that risk and taste the food!
7) Walk and talk:
Talk to the stranger sitting next to you. He will tell you some of the most interesting stories. Walk down the aisle to the other end of the carriage. You will see some very interesting people doing fascinating things. Hop on to the connected carriage. It might just get more interesting. However, Beware! Don’t get too involved with strangers, do NOT eat anything offered by any passenger under any circumstance.
8) Now, be quiet:
By now, you have explored mini-India. You still have all the time in the world. Use it to think, to talk to yourself, to read, to listen to some music. Enjoy this slow world. Do everything that your fast life denies you.
For a few hours, live the Rail-way. Happy Journey!