Are Luxury Trains the best way to travel and see India for you? Recently, I had the opportunity to be aboard one of the five luxury trains in India. You heard it correctly, India does not have one but five luxury trains. Some of them have even won awards for the World’s top luxury trains and are considered to be some of Asia’s most luxurious form of transportation.
Here are 30 things to know and consider before booking your very own luxury train journey.
1. There are five different trains to choose from and each train has a different route, or even several routes to choose from, though some depend on the season/time of year.
Make sure to pick the train which best fits the things that you would like to see/do in India. In my case, I traveled aboard The Deccan Odyssey Luxury Train around the states of Maharashtra and Goa. My train had a more off-the-beaten-path route which I totally loved!
List of luxury trains in India
- The Deccan Odyssey (Mine!)
- Maharajas’ Express
- The Golden Chariot
- Royal Rajasthan on Wheels
- Palace on Wheels
2. Trains are luxurious but do not think in terms of North America/European luxury.
While the trains are 5 stars, this is in terms of India’s standards. Maharajas initially boarded these trains and eventually they became trains for regular passengers. The décor has a different feeling from what is considered modern for many of us, but they are lovely, cozy and they all offer fantastic amenities, great service and more.
3. You will have a personal butler. All Cabins/cars have a butler or, as I prefer to call them, a personal assistant to help you for the entire journey.
4. You will have a special mobile phone in your room. This phone lets you call your assistant to come to your rescue immediately. Do not get yourself in too much trouble, but nice to know it’s there just in case.
5. It will remind you of a cruise, because you just need to check in and everything else will be taken care of for you. You will get on/off of the train only for the day. You won’t need to pack/unpack, check-in/out every day, since the train will be your home for the weeklong journey. And, no worries, you will have plenty of closet space to hang your clothes and the luggage can be easily stored under your bed.
6. If you are fitness freak or a beauty addict, do not worry, there is not only a gym aboard, but also a spa and even a beauty parlor for your needs.
Note: This is based on my own personal experience aboard The Deccan Odyssey, so you should confirm the amenities once you select your train.
7. There is a bar and dining rooms too.
You can just enjoy a cocktail by the bar while watching the sunset or the beautiful landscape passing in front of your eyes, or you can simply pick your favorite car for eating your meal. There’s enough space for you to sit wherever you feel most comfortable. NOTE: All meals include soft drinks. Keep in mind that alcohol is not included in the pricing.
8. Attention Foodies: There are Indian and western meal options to choose from every day. I personally love to embrace the culture, so I tried to stick mostly with the Indian food options.
9. There are vegan, vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. You can explain to the train crew if you have any special, dietary restrictions or allergies and they will customize the dishes to your needs. Also, make sure to specify if you prefer mild, medium or super spicy meals.
10. The desserts are to die for! You will totally be satisfied with all of the selections. They offer amazing Indian and International desserts. You can always order ice cream, a fruit bowl or just simply a natural smoothie/juice. But spoil yourself! And if you feel guilty, as I mentioned above, there is a gym!
11. Not every meal will be on board. So many days you will have lunches at Palaces, Hotels and beautiful places while enjoying special performances and other surprises.
Photo by: Travel with Pedro
12. Each train stop has a performance from that area or city waiting to welcome you as the train arrives. You can expect colorful outfits, energetic dancers, wonderful instruments, and flower garlands/traditional accessories to wear around your neck and more. It really is a delight to start your journey every day like this.
13. After each performance at the train stop, you will board an air-conditioned bus/van. This bus/van will take you comfortably to the places that you will visit each day. They have water and even snacks for you. And each time you reboard the bus, they give you hand sanitizer (which is much appreciated).
14. They will take care of any bathroom needs before seeing sites, especially if the drive was a long one from the train. All is arranged for you, so there are planned rest stops or you can always ask. Stops included places like hotels, and we were always treated as VIP by the train staff.
15. You mostly explore the cities during the day. Some days are shorter than others. These trains usually cater to people who like to explore the city during the day and then have time to return to the train to relax, freshen up, nap, read, drink or just chat with others. There are many short days and the journey usually starts early in the morning, right after breakfast. You do get to see some of the highlights but this type of trip is just meant to give you a taste of the cities visited. There are some of them that you’ll want to definitely return to (like I do), to explore them more thoroughly.
16. The Train will travel during the nighttime. On the one hand, evening travel is good because you will be at your next destination in the morning, but there are some people who sometimes have problems sleeping due to the moving train. I personally felt some nights were better than others, but I am also a deeper sleeper. Hint: If you are a light sleeper or cannot sleep with noise, bring an eye mask and some earplugs.
Photo by: Alexandra Kovacova, Crazysexyfuntraveler.com
17. You get to explore long distances in a short period of time. This is an advantage of train travel, since, with public transportation, or even when hiring a driver (because of traffic), might be hard to see this much in just one week. Also, some places are quite remote. These luxury trains definitely save you time.
18. There is high speed wifi on board, but…Wifi works amazingly well (during stops or passing through), but in certain areas, where there is no 3G/4G network, or when the train is moving, many times it can be difficult to find connectivity. Be prepared to be disconnected at times. In the end, this is supposed to be your royal vacation so, enjoy being a little disconnected and live in the moment.
19. There is not enough time for much shopping during the stops. If you love to shop, I would suggest that you to plan to come a day or two earlier, or leave a few days later, in order to do things like shopping. It is hard when you are in a group and you have an itinerary to follow. Also, the days you come back earlier to the train, you cannot just stay behind for your own safety. The train crew won’t really leave you behind in cities. It is part of their job to ensure the whole group returns to the train as scheduled.
20. There are special performances that are only arranged for the train passengers. If you visit the same place alone, you might not get to see the same things. For example, we got to see a special martial arts performance while in Kolhapur, but these were all especially arranged for us. We had seats, with a first-class view, and some of us even got to be part of the performance.
21. You might meet a queen / A once in a lifetime fairytale for sure. While we were visiting the Sawantwadi Palace in the Sindhudurg district, the queen was there to welcome us and joined us for lunch. This definitely does not happen every day. A real treat!
22. You get a red button to pin on your clothes that gives you access to all the sites and even helps you skip some of the lines. Access to the sites is included with the price of the train and also you get to skip lines and attend private activities. It is also used as a way for the staff to keep track of everyone aboard.
23. Some trains have doctors on board. While nobody wants to get sick on vacation, things happen. In case that this is a must have for you, for your health safety, pick the train accordingly. You may just want to be better safe than sorry.
24. Make some new friends. What I loved the most about train travel, you get to bond with other passengers on board. We told each other jokes, shared travel stories and spoke about our “regular” lives. By the end, we were more like a family than strangers. Especially for our final night where we really received a special surprise.
25. Some of the trains will have special henna parties. This was the case on the Golden Chariot where they brought a person to put henna designs on the ladies. It was a lot of fun.
26. Some trains might give a sari for the women and/or a kurta for the men to keep as a gift. On our last day aboard the Deccan Odyssey, the train crew put saris on each of the women’s beds and kurtas on each of the men’s beds. It was an amazing surprise and we go to wear it for our final evening together.
27. All Trains have a special, final Bollywood night. This is one of the best activities of the trip. They set up the room with special lights, have a DJ, and you get to drink, dance and even the train crew joined in and showed us their best moves (aboard The Deccan Odyssey). But each train will have a Bollywood night.
28. Trains are certainly not cheap, but worthwhile for the treatment you get and what you get to see. As I mentioned previously, you get to see a lot in a short time, you also somehow save money by not having to check-in/check-out of hotels, pay taxis, meals, sites and more. Also, you do not need to hassle or plan itineraries. All is readily arranged for you. You are also as safe as you can be for international travel. Some good things in life cost a fortune. You pay, for what you get. Luxury ain’t cheap!
29. Not all trains are priced the same way. You can pick trains depending not only on the route, but also on your budget, and of course room selection. Don’t assume it’s out of your price range until you’ve done your research.
30. While most things are included in the train price, there are some things that are not. For example, I previously mentioned alcoholic beverages on board. Tips are also not included in the pricing. It is good to always keep in mind what is included and what is not. Here is a common breakdown:
· Accommodation in double / twin bedded cabin with en suite bathroom
· All meals (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
· Soft beverages during the journey
· Valet service
· Still camera fees
· Guided off train excursions and game drives as illustrated in the itinerary – inclusive of entrance fees, park fees, transport and services of an English speaking local guide
· Taxes including a 5.00% (subject to change as per Govt. directives) Goods and Services tax, Insurance, gratuities
· Laundry and alcoholic Beverages
· Video and professional Still camera fees
Overall train travel, especially on one of the top luxury trains in Asia, was truly a special and unforgettable adventure. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and definitely I discovered for myself that luxury trains in India are the best way to travel for me. After reading all of the things to consider, and 30 things to know before booking your train journey, now you tell me… Are luxury trains in India the best way to travel for you? Have you ever been aboard a Luxury Train? If yes, share with me your experience below.
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