Trains are the most preferred means of public transportation in India. The country has more than 12,000 trains carrying about 20 million people every day. Together, these trains cover a distance of about 60,000 km (37,000 miles). Many Indians find trains to be the fastest and the cheapest means of commute from one place to another. This is true both with local and express trains. In fact, many prefer a train journey over a car or bus ride just for the fun of it. Although Indian trains aren’t the greatest in the world, they offer a unique and unforgettable experience.
The first passenger train in India carried 400 people from Bombay to Thane in 1853. It was only a 34-km journey. The start was mediocre but Indian railways has never looked back ever since. Today, with 1.3 million employees, Indian Railways is one of the largest employers in the world. The quality, number and speed of trains have only gotten better each year.
When foreign travelers visit India, they experience great locations, delicious food as well as exhilarating activities. But they usually miss out on the train journey. A train journey offers an authentic glimpse of Indian crowd and culture. So if you want to experience India at its core, you must try the train journey at least once during you trip in this incredible land.
Here are some of the most significant reasons why you must try a train journey when you visit India.
An airplane window can only offer a view of a thick layer of white clouds under a blue sky. But the window in a train offers much more. You would see vast stretches of fields with a variety of crops, sun rising from behind majestic hills and winding roads with cars and bikes looking as tiny as ants. When your train rides on a high bridge and the window overlooks the glittering lake, your jaws drop automatically. These are but only a few of the beautiful things you would get to see from the window of you train.
When compared with a car, plane or bus, the train is a lot more spacious. So if you have a small group of friends, the train actually becomes your home. You can stretch your legs all you want or climb up on berths that are nothing less than bunk beds. You can actually try any random position your body is comfortable with and play games or sing songs with friends. So although the train keeps shaking your body to the rhythm of its movement, it’s surprising how comfortable it can be.
Friendly fellow passengers
Even if you’re not with friends, you will find one or two almost as soon as your journey starts. The passengers on Indian trains are the friendliest people in the world. They want to talk about their lives, ask about yours and even share their food. And if your fellow passengers are a small family, you’re in luck. They’re going to give you so much food that you’ll probably end up eating more than them. Here’s a fair warning. You have to say ‘Enough’ at least three times if you want them to stop giving you food.
Bustling station atmosphere
Each station in India has a unique crowd. All of them are usually bustling with activity. If you notice carefully, you will also see that they have a distinct aroma. In the stations at Assam or Kerala, you would smell tea everywhere and if you’re in Nagpur, the scent of oranges fills the air. You can’t experience this on a plane or bus ride. Railway stations are also the best place where you can buy souvenirs or food items that are famous in that particular town or city. You can get your hands on them at a very low cost.
If you’re a couple travelling on a train, you would obviously pick the side berths. Even if you didn’t get those berths, you can always switch seats with fellow passengers. As you sit opposite each other and enjoy the views through the window, you realize that the experience is strangely romantic. It’s amazing what Indian trains can do.
We found an interesting blog written by a woman about her first train experience in India