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Do you want to travel to India by train? At least one train ride is a must for many travelers. However, the Indian train system is very complex. There are various train, compartment and seating options. You quickly lose track of things. India Someday therefore introduces you to the different train classes and gives you tips on which is the right train class for you.

Riding a train through South India past palm trees and green landscapes is a special experience

First Class (AC1 / First AC) - First Class (air-conditioned)

The compartments of this class have a classic ("old school") charm. A compartment consists of four beds with bedding and a door that you can lock. The berths can be converted into normal seats. The windows are lightly tinted, making the view a little more difficult, but the changing landscape is still recognizable. Each bed has a reading lamp and a socket for charging cell phones, iPads, laptops etc. The washrooms have a western-style toilet and are usually equipped with toilet paper (although it is always advisable to bring your own toilet paper for safety). As a rule, the rooms are clean and in good condition. You even have a train attendant who makes your beds and offers personal service. So AC1 is a very comfortable way to travel by train in India. But this class is only available on the most important long haul routes and it is roughly twice as expensive as AC2.

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In first class, a train ride in India becomes an adventure like a bygone era

AC 2 Tier (2 AC) - Second Class (air-conditioned)

This class differs only slightly from the first class (AC1). The main difference is that there is no lockable door and no additional space for luggage. The seats / berths are very comfortable and bedding is also provided (pillows, blankets, sheets). The air conditioning and thus the temperature in the compartment can vary greatly. But overall, it's a pleasant way to travel. If you are taller than 190 cm, your feet may protrude a little over the edge of the bed.

In the AC 2 tier class, too, the berths can be converted into seats. There are reading lights for the beds and a gathering point with sockets for the four beds together. The washrooms have a western style toilet and an Indian style toilet. Usually the toilets are very clean, but of course the condition depends on the other passengers.

The lower bed in the AC 2 tier class can be converted into seats by folding the bed surface to the backrest

AC 3 Tier (3 AC) - Third Class (air-conditioned)

The third class is the cheapest variant of the compartment options with air conditioning. The lower level of comfort compared to first and second class is that there are 3 × 2 seats / berths grouped together instead of 2 × 2.

In the AC 3 tier class, the backrest is folded up into a lounger - like here on the night train from Agra to Varanasi

There are 3 levels for the bunk beds (top, middle, bottom) on one side and two levels (top and bottom) on the other side of the aisle. It is usually more crowded than in the second class and there are no separate curtains and reading lamps for each individual bed as in the second class. Nevertheless, bedding is available on the night trains and there are sockets, even if these are not always entirely reliable. As in the second class, the washrooms each have a western and an Indian-style toilet. They are usually clean, but here too the condition depends on the handling of the other passengers.

Indian style toilet in AC 3 tier

Sleeper Class - sleeping car

The Sleeper Class is not air-conditioned and consists of 3 seating groups in 3 × 2 format as in third class. This is the most popular option to travel by Indians and every train in India, regardless of the route, has a Sleeper Class. Bedding is not provided here, so don't forget to bring a blanket / sleeping bag with you for long trips. The sleeping class can be very full (even if in theory all bunk beds have to be reserved to avoid overbooking) as the locals use the sleeping class for their everyday travel.

This class is very simply equipped and the washrooms are less hygienic and clean than in the higher classes. But on the other hand, you get a much better view than in the air-conditioned car, where the windows are locked, tinted and often dirty. Traveling in this class in the summer can be pretty hot.

The rainy season is probably the best and worst time to ride Sleeper Class as the windows often have to be closed because of the rain and it can get very stuffy, but the views of the landscape are breathtaking. Driving in winter can again be quite cold, so it is advisable to dress warmly for the nights and use a warm sleeping bag or blanket.

Sleeper Class is often used by the more adventurous backpackers who want to experience traveling with the crowds in India. Regardless of whether you are traveling with or without a train or which class you choose, we will book for you. Write us!

The sleeper class is often full and lively with chattering women, children playing and men laughing - ideal for socializing with the locals

AC Chair Car (CC)

The so-called AC Chair Cars class have shorter train routes and a few busy routes. These are similar to the seating areas on a train in Europe and have luggage storage space above the seats. They have assembly points for electrical outlets, usually one outlet for three passengers together. This class is quite comfortable for day trips. The washrooms are kept simple and clean and also have a western and an Indian toilet.

This class is particularly suitable for shorter trips and day trips

Non AC Chair Car (SS)

The non-AC Chair Car option for the train classes is a bit more limited than the air-conditioned variant (AC Chair Car) and has no power sockets. This variant is more recommendable for everyday travelers and is less used by tourists. But if other tickets are hard to come by, a 2-4 hour journey can be fine. The washrooms are not necessarily perfectly clean and for shorter journeys we recommend that you take care of the relevant needs before the journey.

The advantage of non-air-conditioned classes is the view - doors and windows are often open here (Credit: Arfan A - Unsplash)

Unreserved trips

This variant is only suitable for the experienced backpacker who can cope well with the crowds, pushing and squeezing. There are wooden seats or padded plastic seats and is therefore definitely not recommended for long trips. Before the train leaves, you can watch a large group of Indians fight to get a seat in this compartment. Because this is the cheapest option and no prior booking is required. Only a few get a seat. The rest of them have to drive standing for hours. You will be surprised that more and more people get into this compartment from station to station and somehow actually fit in there.

India's trains - a world of its own!

Overwhelmed with booking trains in India? India Someday is happy to help you with the planning and implementation of your individual trip to India. Write to us without obligation.