Diana Syrett, Managing Director of one of our top South India railway vacation suppliers, Kerala Connections:

Carriage comfort

“When we organise your rail journeys in India, we will book the best seats available which will usually be in an air conditioned (AC) carriage, unless you choose a different option. AC carriages need to have glass windows and the downside of these is that they are tinted and also can get very dirty meaning you don’t always get the best view. However, you can wander throughout the train and return to your AC carriage when required. If you do this, we advise you take your valuables with you.”

Daypack necessities

“We recommend that you take drinking water, toilet paper (as this is not supplied) and soap or liquid sanitiser. You may also consider taking a packed lunch. Although food and tea are offered on most trains and it is also possible to get off the train and buy delicious things at the stations. You usually have time and trains hoot loudly before departure so you are given a warning to hop back on. Note, however, that you have less time at stations on sleeper trains, so we advise you to bring food with you just in case. ”

Night trains
in India

“Most people don’t change into nightwear on the sleeper trains; you simply sleep in your clothes (so wear comfortable trousers and a T-shirt). When you are asleep (or away from your berth) we recommend that you padlock your luggage to the train; hoops can be found under your seat for this purpose. A small chain is useful for this.”

Ticket costs & seating

“The service of railway porters is included in the cost of your vacation, so there is no need for you to struggle with your bags at the stations. Please note that the booking of seats/berths on Indian trains is an automated system which sometimes means that the seat numbers are allocated randomly. This may mean that your allocated seats are not always together (or even in the same carriage). But do not worry, this is the same for everyone and there is much swapping of seats to ensure families or groups sit together. Priority is given to children and foreigners.”

Rachel Wasser is from our supplier G Adventures. They are experts in the country’s epic rail journeys such as the all India circuit:

culture tips

“India has one of the largest rail networks in the world and it’s used every day by millions of people as means of transport. I love that we get to jump on those trains and travel the same way as the locals. It just feels like you’re really getting the true experience of traveling slowly around this massive country instead of sheltering yourself inside a private vehicle.”

Scribes & screen

“Paul Theroux has written some excellent books about rail travel, like his most famous book, Riding the Iron Rooster. I also love the film The Darjeeling Limited. Before Sunrise is a classic for me too.”

Packing tips

“A few solid pieces of advice; pack a quick dry face towel for the trains as it helps to stay feeling fresh. A head torch is useful for finding your way around or reading in bed. Slip on sandals are great for wandering around. Earplugs and toilet paper are essential! Pack everything you will need for the journey in a day pack so you can stow your large luggage somewhere out of sight and you won’t have to dig around for anything. Bring lots of books and playing cards. I also have an abundance of plastic bags I collected along the way for trash, tissue paper, etc.”

Passing the time on board

“My main piece of advice is to explore. Don’t lock yourself in your cabin and just emerge at the next destination. Wander the train, hang out in the dining car; some of my best stories are from meeting friendly locals in the dining car. And be open-minded. Things might not run to schedule, someone might be hard to understand, a friendly local might be trying to get to know you and maybe you just want to read your book. If you’re flexible and open you’ll get a far more enjoyable experience out of it and you’ll be a far better representative of your home country. Mostly, just enjoy the ride!”

Rail travel in Karnataka tips

Sanjay Oberoi, from our railway vacation supplier Bespoke India Travel:“Visits to city markets in Bangalore or rural markets in places like Coorg, Kabini, Badami, Hampi, and Bijapur provide some excellent opportunities to interact with local people. Aside from driving on the scenic Konkan Highway, the best way to enjoy the coastline of Karnataka is to take the train which features around 10 stations from Kerala to Goa. It really is a lovely route and a great way to have an authentic Indian experience, if you have the time.”

India rail vacations travel advice


At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travelers are often... other travelers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do – and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful India rail vacation travel tips that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your vacation – and the space inside your suitcase.
“Don't worry, the local travel agent are very thorough and competent…we are very satisfied our vacation met all our expectations. The local organisation gave us the feeling of security and good planning. Like a "guardian angel" by our side. But not too close, we felt as we were on our own when we wanted that.” – Gustav Jagner

“An amazing way to get an insight into the many sides of India. Trains are a brilliant way to see the countryside and talk to Indian people. The tour company was the most helpful travel company I have ever dealt with and I highly recommend using them. Towns are exhausting and many of the amazing temples are in towns/cities, so factor in some peaceful time in the countryside too. The most memorable part of my vacation? Sitting with the train door open looking out over paddy fields as the train made its way south to Kanyakumari. Watching the sunset over the boulder fields and temples of Hampi. Walking in the tea covered hills near Coonoor.” – David Jelley

“No need to take too many clothes so easy to get things washed. Had thought we would be dressing up for dinner so took clothes to cover this eventuality.” – Clair Butler
Photo credits: [Carriage comfort: Felipe Skroski] [Night trains: Sharada Prasad CS] [Train culture tips: Kiran Koduru] [Packing tips: Sam Hawley] [Karnataka tips - market in Bangalore: John Hoey] [Review 1 - David Jelley: Navaneeth KN] [Review 2 - David Jelley: Aditya Karnad]
Written by Catherine Mack
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