Buses, and more so trains, are the most common method of public transport for visitors to India when flights aren’t available or you just want to experience an Indian train adventure.
Trains are a fun, comfortable, and economical way to travel between cities. A smooth train ride through the deserts and villages of Rajasthan is very charming.
Likewise, on bumpy buses, interactions with locals will bring a smile to your face.
In this post, I’ll explain how it all works and what you can expect from buses and trains in India.
Indian train classes 101
When buying train tickets, you must choose your class: AC-1, AC-2, AC-3, AC Chair, Sleeper and Second Sitting. The main difference between them is that your privacy decreases and nearby passengers increases.
- The first four air-conditioned (AC) classes are all comfortable and recommended for a foreign visitor.
- Sleeper class does not have AC and is the area where stowaways will enter to hitch a free ride.
- Second Sitting is for locals on short journeys and not suitable for long trips as there are no beds.
Indian train journey safety tips
- Always lock your suitcases to the train with a cable lock.
- Sleep with your handbag and valuables beside you.
- If slightly dirty sheets make you squirm, bring a sleeping bag. In winter it gets cold at night, especially if you’re in sleeper class (you can always ask for extra blankets too).
- The toilets of the Sleeper Class and sometimes in AC-3 can be unclean. Always carry with you toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Also, try to use the bathroom in the early morning before everyone starts to crowd near it.
- And finally, trains are social places in India. Talk to your fellow passengers. You never know who might be of help to you and what you can learn about India from them.
Indian bus types & tips
There are local non-AC buses that you can catch any time of the day from the nearest central bus station and then there are sleeper AC buses that can be booked by travel agents or online via RedBus.
- Buses are fine during the day but I’ve found bus drivers on overnight journeys more dangerous, to the point where I won’t take overnight sleeper buses anymore.
- The local non-AC buses between cities are a more authentic and cramped experience.
- The non-AC buses are not very comfortable but bearable and safe for short day trips.
- In AC buses, you can book a bed birth or a standard reclining seat. It’s much easier to sleep in a bed birth if you’re under 5’5″.
- When travelling by bus remove all valuables from your luggage and carry them in your backpack on the bus.
- Your luggage will be stored either on top of the bus or below it during the ride.
- Beware of counterfeit water being sold at train stations! It’s everywhere.
Or maybe you want to drive yourself in India? It’s completely possible!
If you want to take a motorcycle, here’s my tips for hiring one too.
India Survival Guide Table of contents
- Travel Essentials: Before You Travel to India
- Arriving in India: Getting to Your Hotel & Airport Amenities
- Tourist Scams to Avoid in India
- Avoiding Fake Money & Ripped Notes in India
- Avoiding Bad Accommodation
- How to Bargain, Get Refunds, and How Much Rickshaws Cost
- Avoiding Counterfeit Souvenirs in India
- How to Be Street Smart in India
- Buses and Trains in India Explained
- Food and Drink Safety for Travellers
- What to Do If You Get Sick in India
- How to Deal with Air Pollution in India