Agness and Cez, two best friends from Poland, have been traveling the globe since 2011, sharing their travels with the world via social media platforms and blogs. This adventurous pair have journeyed to dozens of different countries on several continents, each one exciting and educational in their own ways.
Through their travels, these sightseers have learned a thing or two about traveling on budgets, as well as preparing for safe travels, having respect for different cultures, and taking off-the-beaten-path opportunities to see and explore the sights that tourists typically miss out on. This time, they are taking you on a journey through India!
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Is Traveling by Train in India an Extreme Sport?
India is known as a culture-rich country, where you never know what kind of people you might meet or things you might experience. Which explains why traveling in India is often a mixed bag of reviews. The Indian Railways are some of the most popular in the world, as many are long-distance rides that stretch for hundreds of miles in either direction. You could travel for days by train and only see half of what the India countryside and cities have to offer.
In some ways, many travelers have likened traveling through India by train an extreme sport. One that you have to mentally and physically prepare yourself for, because while everything is an adventure, some of those experiences are definite adrenaline spikers. Regardless, train travel through India is something every hardcore adventurer or explorer should try at least once.
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Need-to-Knows About the Indian Railways and How to Book a Ride
Extensive and often booked solid, the India’s Railways are crisscrossed through the cities and countryside, with bookings open up to 3 months for departure for long-distance rides. Seats are filled fast, with over 17-million people opting for train travel on a daily basis.
So, the best advice we can offer is have your route mapped, your dates set in stone, and a travel plan in place that allows you to go ahead and book your train tickets. The most common and effective method for booking train tickets is through online travel agencies that are specific to India travels. There are also spur-of-the-moment train services available in most cities, like Mumbai and Delhi, but these are often overcrowded and difficult to book during peak hours (in the mornings, around lunch time or noon, and when people are leaving work in the late afternoons).
Regardless of where you go, traveling abroad requires paperwork and proper documentation, like a passport and a VISA. Both things that you should acquire months in advance of actually going on your trip.
Need an Indian Visa? The application process is simple and takes less than a few minutes to complete online. You can pay with your credit card, fill out a VISA application with your required information, then send it off to the Indian government for authentication. In most instances, the Indian government will process your request in 24 hours—then, if there are zero problems, you will receive an official, authenticated Indian Visa in 3 days.
Some Things You Should Bring on Your Trip, Especially When Traveling Long Distances
When you travel anywhere, you know to pack the essentials, like a change of clothes, shoes, your passport, and authenticated documentation and route. That said, there are specifics to that you should bring for a long-distance train ride through India.
- Something to read or entertain yourself. Sure, looking out the window at the passing landscapes is a great way to get beautiful views of India—but, eventually, you may get bored with just staring out the windows. A good book will help you stave off boredom.
- Small change for on-the-train food and drink vendors. Most food and drink vendors will come up and down the carriages during meal and snack times, giving you ample opportunity to quench your thirst and refuel.
- Earplugs for bedtime. With so many people on the train, complete silence is hard to come by, even at nighttime. Bring a good pair of padded earplugs to catch your 40 winks despite the noise.
- A chain and anti-theft padlock for your under-the-seat luggage. Unfortunately, thefts can happen anywhere you go. The under-seat luggage has a bar where you can secure your valuables and suitcases with your own padlock and chain.
- Anti-bacterial gels or hand sanitizers. This is a safety precaution for ANYWHERE you go, as you’ll want to protect your immunities from whatever germs could be floating around.
Prepping for Your Train Ride with a Dip into Indian Culture
For some travelers, especially introverts, the outright friendliness and curiosities of Indian locals can be a bit unnerving. Locals are talkative and curious about their fellow travelers, so you can expect lots of bold questions, open conversations, and beaming smiles. You can give the same in return, as most Indians LOVE learning about new people and they LOVE having those same new people learn about them too.
Respect is a big deal in India—or, really, anywhere you go. Do your research about the different cultural requirements throughout the multiple cities and prepare for them before you even land in the country. You would want the natives to respect your lifestyle and culture as much as they expect you to respect theirs while you’re visiting their homeland.
The Precautions for Traveling India via the Railway System
The precautions of traveling India by train are the pretty much the same as the precautions you would take traveling anywhere.
- Do your research and map out your route beforehand. One of the worst things you can do in Indian, or anywhere, is go unprepared. You could end up lost, turned around, or stranded, so it’s important to know the places you’re going and how you aim to get there.
- Leave your super-valuables at home. There’s no reason for you to travel with a diamond necklace, so don’t bring unnecessary items with you. Theft can occur anywhere, so avoid inviting that kind of negative attention in your direction.
- Download a translation app or bring a translation book. If you don’t speak the language, aim to learn while you’re there. It’s common courtesy, and the locals will appreciate your efforts.
- Don’t expect train services to cater to your food, drink, or lifestyle needs. Millions of people travel India by train daily, which means the conductors and vendors have more important things to contend with. Take care of yourself when it comes to food allergies. Bring your own snacks.
Traveling through India by train doesn’t have to be a scary, daunting experience. In fact, you should psych yourself up for a fun adventure. Just remember to be respectful, do your research, prep for everything you know you need, and strive to learn all you