Indian Railways Passenger

Passenger rushes to catch one of India’s numerous daily trains. Catching Indian rail is a great travel experience.

by Jamie King

Indian Railways Sunrise Arrival at a Rural Station

Early morning arrival at a remote station. Railways criss-cross all of India transporting 9 billion passengers every year.

Indian railway networks are some of the largest in the world, with certain areas of track running for over 71,000 miles through 7,500 stations. As of December 2012, Indian railways carried over 25 million people every day, and nearly 9 billion on an annual basis. Most of these passengers were travelling from the suburbs to the cities; however, many of the trains that run on these tracks also carry freight – some 3 million tons daily.

Introduced in 1853, the first Indian passenger train ran from Bombay (Mumbai) to Thane, but these days the rail networks in India are able to take people across much larger distances. Although the thought of being stuck on a long haul train can be quite alarming, we have a number of tips to ensure your journey is as hassle-free and enjoyable as possible.


Indian Railways Train

One of around 10,000 daily trains awaits departure

If you’re a reader, it’s advisable to bring a book on your railway journey across India. Not only will you have lots of time on your hands, but it will also keep you distracted from the terrible sanitary conditions. Music is also advisable, however due to the large amount of thieves that look to profit from clueless tourists on these trains, keeping your iPod out of sight is advisable.

If you’re a talker however, and you like to socialise, then an Indian railway journey will keep you entertained for hours. Not only will there be hundreds of commuters that are usually up for a chat with budding tourists, but this will be your chance to find out everything you can about your journey and India itself. Furthermore, take some time out to experience the passing landscape – you never know when you’ll get the opportunity to see it again.


Indian Railways Typical Meal

Indian Rail meals are nourishing but don’t always look very appealing

Meals are usually providedon Indian railways, its best to bring your own food if you have special requirements – or if you’re a fussy eater. The meals served are less than awe-inspiring to say the least, and if you’re a westerner, it’s highly unlikely you’ll fancy anything on the menu anyway. If you do want to try some bites from the menu however, a member from the catering team will come and serve you in your seat.

Indian trains can be extremely busy at times, but when there is some space, food and drink vendors will try and make their way through the carriage. Most purchases require small change, so make sure your pockets are full because the vendors won’t take notes.


Sleeper trains are very popular in India. Due to the vast distances they travel, backpackers and tourists alike can get on at one side of the country and wake up in another! However, bear in mind that you’ll be sharing the train with Indian locals, and they like to hit the hay pretty early. It’s advisable to take a pair of ear plugs with you too, seeing as the law of averages will most likely leave you in listening distance of a snorer.

Traveling on Indian trains is one of the great travel experiences of the world.

Photo Credits: basket, sunrise station, blue train, food,



6 Responses to Tips for Traveling on India’s Railways

  • George says:

    Actually the food provided by the train cafeterias on Indian railways is very much below in terms of hygiene. I once had an opportunity to have a look at the pantry and was amazed to see almost all types of small animals (rats, cockroaches, lizards) running over the pantry area and food items. So better avoid food supplied from the trains in India.

    • Mark H says:

      I ate on Indian trains half a dozen times and was fine for the experience though I’m sure there are enough experiences like you describe.

  • Laura says:

    I’ve always preferred the food sold by the vendors to that provided by the railway system. Lots of times I also got offered food by local passengers when I was travelling in Sleeper class. At some stations the trains stop for a while, so you can also quickly buy something there. I definitely never felt hungry for long, even though I didn’t bring my own food.

    I just love taking trains in India, I think it’s a great experience!

    • Mark H says:

      Couldn’t agree more – part of any experience in India. I too sampled the various wares of the vendors at the stations and on the trains (they often travel a few stops with their food). Some of the curries etc cooked up in big pots on the stations are excellent.

  • This is the major Budget travel mode of Indians

  • I agree with Srinath Jayaram, its actually a major mode of transport for Indians and help them big time.But surely Indian railway should take care of the hygeine the cleanliness around .

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Welcome to Travel Wonders
My name is Mark and I’m a keen traveller. In fact, over the last 25 years, I’ve travelled to every continent and over 80 countries. This blog is about the most memorable destinations – the places I regard as the travel wonders of the world. I’m also a keen photographer, and have taken nearly all the photos you’ll see. During my travels, I’ve met some incredible people, seen inspiring places, viewed extraordinary wildlife and scenery and had some amazing experiences, and I’m writing these stories not only to entertain but primarily to inspire others to discover their own travel wonders.
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