You've probably seen movies about the chaotic scenes that take place on trains in India with people on the roofs, hanging off the doors and so forth. Turns out, the images you've likely seen are true - travelling by train in India is chaotic but there are beautiful experiences to be had beyond the confusion.
World Nomads' Caroline Pemberton took a ride on India's Northern India railway. Starting off the journey with some reservation and trepidation, once the crew had settled in they found the journey to be not as bad as they thought it would be.
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Travelling in the different carriages gives one insight into how the people of India get around the country via rail. One way is in 'sleeper class' which is essentially the economy class of Indian trains, offering travellers some space to move around but doesn't offer much in the way of comfort. That being said, there is no air conditioning but the windows are left open.
Make sure to grab a bicycle lock and use it to lock your luggage to your seat if you want to wander about comfortably without worrying if you'll have clothing when you reach your destination.
Pemberton and crew also travelled at night on a '2 AC' carriage which is a more quiet, personal and air-conditioned experience. With fresh linen being given to travellers to sleep under and a relatively more comfortable journey, this is one of the better ways to travel inexpensively in relative comfort in India.
The trains are popular so be sure to book tickets well in advance. You can do so online and e-tickets are accepted so fret not if you haven't printed one out.
When it comes to grabbing a bite to eat, it's a good idea to look out for the uniformed staff and order food that comes from the pantry rather than getting something from the vendors who board the train at its various stops. You do not want a case of the Delhi Belly while being on the train.
One of the greatest lessons that can be gleaned from a trip on a train in India is to not be afraid - be smart and cautious but step out of your comfort zone and you may find yourself pleasantly surprised with what you find. If you hop on with an open mind and an open heart you may disembark with great stories and perhaps even an eye-opening, life-altering experience.
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