The damn travel agent could have easily checked the FTQ on his PC, and in my experience, it's very unlikely that there'll be a place to book FTQ in Varkala, in the past I would have said I'll eat my hat if there is somewhere, but I need it for a Garth Brooks concert.
Just throwing out an alternative here.
I agree that the route of the Duronto is more scenic, though a big part of me thinks that all train journeys in India are scenic, especially if you're new to the country.
But all it takes is a bad window to ruin the journey (many are slightly darkened).
The BIG problem with the Duronto is that you can't get down at the various stations for a walk on the platform, and believe me, this is needed on long journeys, not just to stretch your legs, but to buy drinks, snacks, newspapers and magazines, and just to witness life on an Indian platform, it's all part of the overall experience.
The Duronto does stop for changing staff, but as it's not a passenger stop, very often the train halts at sidings away from the station, or at almost deserted platforms.
You could get a taxi from Munnar to Madurai, not cheap, but the train I will suggest costs almost Rs1700 less than the Duronto.
Train 12651 departs Madurai at 23:55 on the 12th and gets to Nizamuddin (Delhi) 42 hours later at 18:00 (almost the same times as the Duronto, but 2 hours faster), in 1A, you can get WL1, this will get confirmed.
One massive advantage of going from Madurai, you could get there mid afternoon and go to see the awesome Meenakshi Temple, then relax and enjoy a great meal and a few beers before boarding the train.
I think there is also 2A seats (just 2 left) on FTQ on the Rajdhani for 13th May.
The Rajdhani is the train you'll need, it's your only chance of 2A (via the FTQ), I hope you can book it at Varkala, if you can, let us know, if not, you'll need to go to Ernakulam Jn station to book.
(if you do book from Varkala, send me a private message containing the PNR number of the ticket, it's a 3 + 7 digit number, sometimes booking staff can sell you a ticket from the general quota, and this would be a waitlisted ticket that's very unlikely to get confirmed, but I can check quickly to make sure the ticket is OK)
EDIT, you need 10 posts to send a private message (and there's a minimum time limit as well), so just reply with the PNR number, and an indiamike member will check if the ticket is ok, there's no risk involved in posting the PNR number, but Dave (or another moderator) will edit the PNR number from your post after it's been checked.
Now the question is Munnar to Ernakulam. Bus? Taxi? Train?
Good stuff. Your ticket looks good to me.
I have forwarded the PNR to Steven who is the expert on this.
Just to clarify. Were you able to buy that ticket at Varkala?
ADD - The official site for checking PNRs is here http://www.indianrail.gov.in/pnr_Enq.html
The best option would be a taxi. Board from your hotel and get down at the train station.
A bus would involve going to the bus stop and then from the bus stop to the train station. Also you will have to leave when the bus is scheduled which may be not in time with the departure of your train.
There is no train connection from Munnar to Ernakulam.
That's a confirmed foreign tourist quota ticket.
Berth 37 is a lower 'inside' berth (not a side berth), this is an equal first choice, the other being an upper inside berth.
The inside berths are better than side berths in 2A, especially on a Rajdhani, they feel longer, and because only 2 people share a seat 6 feet wide, there very spacious, you will notice this most when food & drinks arrive, plenty of room, look across to the side berths at meal times and see the hassle they have trying to cope with food and drinks.
A lower berth gets the window seat (away from the aisle) and there's no need to climb up to your berth to sleep.
An upper berth has the advantage of being able to climb up to the berth to sleep/escape at any time of the day. (leaving you to stretch out/sleep in the lower berth)
You'll be in a bay of 4 berths (facing each other), 2 lower and 2 upper, a curtain can be drawn across to get more privacy in the bay, though each berth doesn't have their own curtain.
If another foreign tourist books (using FTQ), they'll get berth 38 (the upper berth), if not, that berth will go to someone on an RAC or waitlisted ticket, either way, see how you get along with that person, they may allow you to use their upper berth during the day, and if the person looks like they may struggle to get up to an upper berth, offer to swap, most tourist I've met still prefer the upper berth, you could also offer to swap with the upper berth passenger opposite, but if you do swap, find out where they'll be getting off the train.
Can you give us details of where you purchased your ticket at Varkala?
At Varkala train station?
Was there a special window for foreign tourists?
One question, are there areas where you can stand and look outside, like in between the boxcars? I went on a train once and had my feet dangling outside, not sure if it was safe or not, but kinda want to experience it again.
Thanks for the Varkala info, good to find out about a new place, and so pleased I never offered to eat my hat, they don't taste as good as they used to.;)
Sadly, and for a number of reasons, the Rajdhani trains are the worst for 'sitting by the open carriage door', there's 4 main reasons.
1, no Sleeper Class carriages, these are non-AC carriages with removable windows (many people don't know that there is a glass window in Sleeper Class because they're almost always moved out of the way), and it's common to find people sitting by the open carriage door.
2, the Rajdhani's are fast trains, and once you get past about 40kmph, it's less fun sitting by the open carriage door, and other people are more likely to ask you to close the door, and they're only thinking of your safety.
3, one of my biggest concerns on Rajdhani trains is, the catering staff seem to completely block about 25-30% of carriage doors whenever meal time is approaching, they have a lot of food/drinks to arrange and distribute and they block many doors with their equipment.
4, Rajdhani trains are classed as premium trains, and it feels like the staff are under strict instructions to stop people sitting by the open carriage doors.
I'm certainly not saying that you can't open a door and sit there, but it may be easier to walk down to the 3AC carriages, and if the staff request you to close the door, smile, close the door, go back to your seat for a little while, then find another door to sit by.
It feels great to have your legs dangling out of the door, but it's dangerous for 4 reasons.
1, station platforms can seem to appear out of nowhere.
2, it's not unusual to find a tree branch scraping along the side of the train.
3, the carriage doors are heavy, and can swing closed as the train speeds up or slows down, the first time one of these doors hits you unexpectedly, you know about it.[shock]
4, if it's a Sleeper Class or unreserved carriage, people throw rubbish, food and drinks out of the windows (and sometimes they spit), and this can all land on you.
The best thing to do is, open the door fully, then sit on the floor (cross legged works best for me) with your back firmly against the door, then watch the world go by.
Remember that doors at one end of the carriage open the opposite way the those at the other end, meaning that at one end, you'll be facing the direction of travel if sitting with your back against the open door, at the other end, you'd be facing the direction you just travelled from.
Another problem with Rajdhanis, the train staff can be a real pain towards the end of your journey (they know where you're booked to get off), they come looking for tips, and seem to expect big tips, as a foreign tourist, I find they look real disappointed if I give Rs100, but I've never seen an Indian give more, and very often they give considerably less.
Don't let any of the above put you off the Rajdhani trains, they're great trains, very comfortable and punctual, it's just nice to know a few of the negatives before you travel.
One last worry, I am assuming the train makes other stops, and I have been told there is time to get off and go for a bit of a walk, pick up some snacks. Is that true? How do you know how long you have? Better to just ask an attendant?