My experience traveling to Jaipur from Delhi by train.
Taking a train in India has always been on the bucketlist, no thanks to music-fuelled Bollywood movies. Dancing on top of a chugging train with a handsome hero? Heck yeah. So when my friend asked how I feel about taking a train to Jaipur from Delhi, versus our initial plan to driving there, I said HECK YEAH!!!
The Tourist-Impenetrable Booking Process
Booking trains is somewhat of an enigma for tourists. The stories I hear from foreign travelers taking the train are rare. When I was googling this, the few solid resources I found were: this and this. For the female traveller’s point of view, Hippie in Heels makes for great reading.
From what I skimmed through, it seems like a lot. Based on the resources above, it’s definitely possible to book train tickets online, but as of this posting, the booking page for tourists can’t seem to load.
Thankfully I didn’t have to deal with any of that. I had the luxury of my local friend who took over the painstaking process of booking us trains. As a local it was a lot easier (and cheaper) to make train bookings online with a local bank card.
Apparently trains are notoriously difficult to book. They require months in advance to book and the online system isn’t the most foolproof, which was why I didn’t even consider train travel. Since my time in India was flexible, my friend played around with the dates until he found two open spots for us.
The Delhi to Jaipur train that we were on is the 12015 Ajmer Shatabdi Express. It leaves at the early hours of 6.05am, and is slated to arrive into Jaipur at 10.40am.
Our seat class was the AC Chair Car Class – by it’s name you can guess that it’s an air-conditioned seated train. There were meals provided with our ticket. Our seats were also pre-assigned.
The Delhi Train Station
There are two train stations in Delhi, the New Delhi Railway Station (NDLS) and the Old Delhi Railway Station (DLI). Our train departed from New Delhi station.
We woke in the early of the day and booked an Uber to get us to the station for our 6.05am train. The railway station is a bit of a mess. Lots of people will be sleeping around the main lobby, they maybe homeless or they may just be passengers on layovers.
Like anywhere else in Delhi, we had to go through security which was a chaos of people dumping bags onto a belt and going through a beeping gate. The gate never seems to stop beeping, but no one was stopped – so it’s actually a quick process. Once in, we checked for our platform number on the electronic board. We were about 30 minutes early and waited at the platform, in chilly 6am weather in Delhi’s winter. A wafting of pee stench is permanent wherever we stood.
The Train Ride
It takes some 4 hours to get to Jaipur from Delhi by train. If you go by car, like most tourists typically would, it would take about 5 to 6 hours at best. If you include mealtimes, mandatory toilet breaks, getting stuck in jams to get out of Delhi, it could amount to 8 to 9 hours easily.
Our train tumbled through some 5 to 10 minutes before departure time. Along with my luggage we rolled through the cabins to find our seats. The only luggage storage seems to be the overhead railing, bear this in mind if carrying heavy suitcases.
The train left on time, on the dot at 6.05am.
The train ride itself was surprisingly very comfortable. The air-conditioning was nice – not too hot or cold – and the cabins smelled clean. The seats were dated and have some wear and tear, but at least upholstered and a decent size.
Halfway through the ride, the train conductor will come round checking for your ticket… somewhat. With a stapled stack of papers on hand, he would ask for your name, and check it against his record.
The toilet situation was clean. The trains still had old school squat toilets, and I was quite happy with that, having had to deal with unsanitary toilet bowls in Delhi city prior to this.
There were deskspaces that you can clasp on and off when needed. Such as when you’re playing Monopoly Deal to past the time, and eating.
Speaking of which, perhaps the best thing about the train ride were that people selling food and drinks will come round the carriages. I had so many chai lattes – with a touch of chai wala (tea man) thumb in. India. Roll with it. They were all deliciousness. Sometimes meals are included with the ticket. Otherwise you can easily purchase meals when they come round. As mentioned earlier, our ticket came with a meal. The options for that morning was simply “Vegetarian” or “Omelette”. I opted for the vegetarian which was a delicious spiced potato patty.
SO was it worth it?
I think my answer is obvious – if you can get past the booking process and actually score a seat, for sure. It’s cheap, the ride was comfortable, and you arrive quicker than if you’d drive up.
However, would I do this all over again by myself? Honest answer, no. Just the booking process alone turns me off. When I took the car with my friends to Jaipur before, I enjoyed that experience. The hours may be long, but what stuck in my mind more were being able to make random pitstops along the way. We also had great conversations with our driver and listened to a lot of Bollywood (at full blast) while in the car. Somewhere along the way we even ended up at a movie theatre watching a Bollywood movie though none of us spoke a lick of Hindi. I think our driver regretted his recommendation; half the movie duration was him translating.