Lessons learned from first time (successful) train booking; hotel, itinerary planning

#1 Feb 6th, 2008, 19:10
Join Date:
Jan 2008
south east UK
  • gp3 trainee is offline
First time post on this forum.

Thanks to all the great people on this website who have provided so much advice to all of us India first-timers. We couldn't have done it without you.

Thought it might be worth passsing on a few of my experiences/conclusions gathered while booking, to assist anyone else who feels daunted by it.

Due to arrive Delhi airport from London in mid-March, for just over a fortnight. Me, wife and two children (13 & 10). We've planned (yes, I know, it might all turn to rats) to visit Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Taj Mahal, Varanasi and Darjeeling, in that order.

I've spent time in developing countries, but not India. Wife and kids have never been outside Europe. After reading just about everything written by you Indiamikers, I started booking and this is how it turned out:
- the Man in seat 61www.seat61.com/India provides a great introduction and a good potted tourist guide, for when you're initially overwhelmed by the sheer scale of India

- a map of Indian railways, a coloured pencil and the website www.erail.in were handiest for finding what routes were possible, what classes of carriage would be hitched on, prices and ongoing availability of all tickets. Went to IRTC website only for booking.

- we'll do "real" India travelling next time, maybe. For this time, given the inexperience of my family, we'll travel AC1 (or AC2 when not available) on all trains overnight.

- booked the train tickets first, then went back afterwards to do the hotels for each leg.

- TripAdvisor, IndiaMike and VirtualTourist provide huge help in choosing mid-budget hotels with character.

- Wife felt much happier with idea of family room or suite, with us all together . Found this could easiest be sorted by telephoning hotels chosen from TripAdvisor etc and booking or paying in advance. Some had credit card facilities, some used Paypal or similar.

- Have allowed for at least two full nights in hotels between overnight trains, apart from...

- Flying visit to Agra, train in 10.30 am, train out 23.30 pm causing initial concern. What do do with two probably knackered children, during long evening in difficult Agra? So, booked twin-bed only hotel room for one night as a retreat during day and evening. Will depart hotel late evening for overnight train. Got to be worth the money

- AC1 and even AC2 tickets got booked up very quickly. So, was up at 2.30 am GMT (8.00 am India time, when booking opens) several times on the 60th day before travel to improve chances of getting the tickets we wanted. Even so, it was sometimes tight.

- Arranged, through hotel in Jaipur, to be picked up in middle of night by aircon car from Delhi airport to take us to Jaipur. Hopefully this will minimise transfer problems for a tired family and prevent freak-out.

- For journey from NJP to Darjeeling, have planned taking pre-arranged car/driver on first leg up to Kurseong, stop for lunch and then steam pulled Toy Train (yes, steam on this leg!) from Kurseong to Darjeeling. We can't get to NJP in time for first Toy Train. If we miss TT at Kurseong, then we'll get car all way up to Darjeeling. (BTW, I found it easy to book Toy Train on IRTC site, after looking at "erail" for available classes).

- The IRTC payment gateway worked well with a Visa debit card by choosing "Credit Card" (not "Credit Card EMI", whatever that is)and then the Citi or Citibank option.

- Map of Indian railways helped us find alternatives for some routes (like Tundla instead of Agra for overnight train to Varanasi)

- Finally, chose to fly back from Darjeeling (Bogdagra airport) to Delhi to hook up with BA flight home. The alternative would be 24+ hours of train travel, prior to a long haul flight. Nice!
I realise this is not the budget option for a holiday and it has certainly cost a bit more than we anticipated. Some of you experienced hands may think I've taken soft options, but I figured I'd rather play safe for the family's first visit, thereby increasing the chances of further visits in future!

It works out at about £50-£60 per night maximum all-in for hotels, and about £50-£70 per night all-in for overnight trains, depending on whether its AC1 or AC2. Ignoring the long-haul flight, its still no more expensive than renting a holiday cottage in Cornwall in high summer!

Of course, some of you might think its a lunatic schedule and completely unworkable.

The whole plan may well unravel still, but I'll let you know how it went when we get back. And thanks again everyone for the invaluable tips.
Last edited by machadinha; Feb 6th, 2008 at 21:26.. Reason: adjusted title
#2 Feb 6th, 2008, 20:59
Join Date:
Jan 2005
  • machadinha is offline

Thumbs up

Ask and ye shall be given. Great feedback! Thanks. And welcome to IndiaMike
#3 Feb 6th, 2008, 21:14
Join Date:
Sep 2001
  • steven_ber is offline

Hello gp3, and welcome to indiamike.com

Very useful feedback.

Originally Posted by gp3 trainee View Post - a map of Indian railways, a coloured pencil and the website www.erail.in were handiest for finding what routes were possible, what classes of carriage would be hitched on, prices and ongoing availability of all tickets. Went to IRTC website only for booking.
I know what you mean about maps, absolutely essential when planning itineraries, so as a way of saying thanks for this feedback, I just done the following post about rail maps.

Indian Railway maps (and other maps).
#4 Feb 22nd, 2008, 18:31
Join Date:
Feb 2008
  • slpparish is offline
oh man, wished i had known about that www.erail.in site a few days ago before planning out my trip! so useful! hope the person who developed that site makes some good money off the ads on the right hand side. they deserve it!
#5 Jul 19th, 2011, 15:08
Join Date:
Jul 2011
  • latzie is offline

Is this a ridiculous itinerary?

Sorry, not entirely sure where to post this...

My boyfriend and I are planning a month in india in january. This is our first time there. Our planned itinerary is:

Calcutta (spend a day or two, and train to)
NJP to do the Darjeeling Train
Spend a few days in darjeeling
Train to Varanasi, spend a few days
Train to Agra, see the mandatory Taj and the fort.
Train to Delhi (possibly bypass if we can train straight to..)
Udaipur, spend a few days.
Then to mumbai (not really interested in spending heaps of time here, so will probably just get an overnight train to...)
Mangalore, where we are here for a three day wedding
Then back up to Goa for a number of relaxing days,
Finally flying out of Mumbai

All of this in a month. Is it crazy? Would leaving out delhi be wise?
#6 Jul 19th, 2011, 15:45
Join Date:
Dec 2008
In the land of awesomeness
  • aarosh is offline
How many days in Darjeeling? If you are thinking about a week then it will be too long for Darjeeling, spend a few days in Sikkim.

It might not be possible to book a ticket from NJP to Varanasi, you will have to book a ticket from NJP to Allahabad and get down at Varanasi / Mughal Sarai.

Apart from the mandatory Taj Mahal and Fort, there is Sikandara, Mehtab Bagh and Fatehpur Sikri, which according to me are not be missed.

Train from Agra to Udaipur by passing Delhi.

Instead of spending a number of relaxing days in Goa, check out Hampi. Good enough for 3-4 days. The only problem is you may have to go via Bangalore or Hubli.
#7 Jul 20th, 2011, 12:56
Join Date:
Jul 2011
  • latzie is offline
Thanks aarosh, will will go the NJP - Mughal sarai train and look into Sikkim.
Considering missing delhi.
Would definitely still like to go to goa at the end of our trip for some beach time (even though i know its very western and touristy), but maybe Hampi aswell.. it looks beautiful. Bit worried about adding more destinations, should be eliminating probably.
Do you think we are doing too much for a month?
#8 Jul 20th, 2011, 13:12
Join Date:
Jul 2011
  • latzie is offline
Also, will probably be on our way through mumbai getting to Mangalore on the 26th - Republic Day. Have read that it is hard to get trains etc at this time. Any truth in this? Or is it just when travelling into Mumbai?
#9 Jul 20th, 2011, 14:05
Join Date:
Dec 2008
In the land of awesomeness
  • aarosh is offline
There should not be any problems regarding trains on 26th January. Hard to get trains might translate in getting last minute confirmed seats on trains. Only shops might be closed, but they will open in the evening.

I think you can do the above places in a month.

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