Life on Indian Trains from a Backpacker's Perspective -- Train Travel in India

by Amanda/Backpacking Tips Asia
(Oslo, Norway)

Photo courtesy: Caroline M.

Photo courtesy: Caroline M.

Photo courtesy: Caroline M. Train station in Kerala Sleeper class

Train travel in India is an adventure itself. Every time I'm going to take a train, I get butterflies in my stomach. "Will the train arrive on time?" "Will I meet people?" "I hope I will find my seat".

I arrive at the train station with my 40 liter backpack. It's busy. Very busy. I have to find out which platform the train will stop, so I track down the information desk. Not to my surprise, there's dozens of locals trying to force their way to the information counter.

I stand in a line, but it's not moving. I get pushed aside. So I push back and stare the sneakers in the eyes. They let me through.

I track down the platform and the stench of urine hits my nostrils. Finally the train arrives. But which coach? It says "S3" on my ticket. That would be Sleeper Class coach 3. The train is slowly driving to the platform. People are already jumping out of the train.

I finally see the white painted "S3" on the coach. I jump in and hope to find my seat.

There it is. But my berth is taken by a family of 8.

Oh, well. I smile to them and they realize it's my berth. They ask if it's OK that they sit there for a short while. Why not?

The head of the family looks me in the eye. I know he's curious about me. He asks where I'm from, and what I'm doing in India. I answer politely, and ask where he and his family is going. He tells about himself and his family -- they're teachers, who are on their way to Goa to visit family. A very nice family.

The train starts moving. A local man walks around the train, shouting "Kappi, Kappi" (coffee, coffee). I hear his voice every 10-15 minutes. Up to today, I still hear it in my head. It's become a mantra.

I look around the train. Lots of families and friends traveling together. Relaxing and looking out of the window, listening to the sound of the railway track. And the soft breeze coming from the opened windows, makes you want to sleep. It's packed with people, but yet it's peaceful in some kind of way.

Every time the train stops, the same stench of urine opens up in the coach. But I'm used to it now. The only thing that's bugging me is the garbage floating around in the coach. It makes me sad to think about it.

It's just minutes before I arrive at the destination. I know my backpack is in the upper berth. I pick it up, and prepare for landing. The train is slowing down. People are staring at me like they want to know my next move. I feel like a celebrity. That's OK. This is India.

People are jumping on the platform, and some onto the tracks. Where are they going? Isn't that dangerous?

It's my turn. I jump out of the train. With a big smile on my face.

Train Travel in India

How to choose berths on Indian trains (Rail Travel India)

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