Travelling by train in India will probably be one of the most interesting things you will experience on your India trip. Not only will you pass through village areas and other non-tourist towns, you will also get a chance to experience travelling with the locals. So this option is highly recommendable if you have time to make the travel arrangements and some sense of adventure to make it enjoyable. Bear in mind too that train delays are not uncommon, so plan for this.
The most convenient station to reach Rishikesh is the Haridwar Junction station, about an hour away from Rishikesh. Although Rishikesh has its own station, it is a small one with no direct connections from Delhi. Go to Haridwar instead.
Types of train seats
Choose either a 2AC, a chair care or executive chair car seat for more comfort. These are mid-priced tickets with less people in the open cabin areas and they come with good sleeping berths (2 on each side, therefore it's called '2AC') for overnight trains. First class trains are a lot more expensive and may not be such a safe travel option for solo female travellers for overnight travels if the area is more empty. Travelling with more people around you also means you get to experience more of India.
So how to book a train ticket online with your international credit card? You will need lots of patience and time to do this. Although India is well-known as an IT country, the online train ticket booking system is anything but easy. Through many tries and experiences, here are the most direct steps:
Click on 'Register' at the top right-hand corner. Fill in the form and register with your foreign mobile number in order to receive an OTP confirmation after registration. You will need to confirm the registration when prompted. Foreigners need to pay a registration fee of 100INR plus G.S.T. which can be done with the foreign credit card option that pops up.
Once you are registered, use the Cleartrip website here, a travel service agent, to buy your ticket. The service fee is only about 50INR to save you from all the frustrations of using the main Indian Railway website. On this website, you will be required to put in the user account and password you just registered for above. Then you can purchase your ticket with an international credit card just like with any online purchases. Print out the ticket which will be emailed to you from the Indian Railway itself.
Many other online ticket purchase sites have been tested and Cleartrip is the easiest to use. The others, at the time of writing, all had some kind of issues like the requirement of Indian mobile numbers, rejection of international credit card numbers, etc. So save the headache and use this tested site.
Although the Indian Railway website has a foreign ticket purchase option, it never seems to work. If you still prefer to try this option instead of using an online agent, then good luck!
There a few ways to buy tickets directly in Delhi if you plan to stay there for a few days first:
- through the tourist ticket office - the New Delhi train station opposite Parhaganj has a foreign tourist office on the second floor of the main building. You need to take a queue number and be prepared to wait.
- get your hotel to buy for you for a small fee while you enjoy the sites of Delhi
- at regular ticket booths at the stations - a very challenging option due to the crowds
But buying tickets on the spot can mean that you are on a wait-list for the train you want to take. This means you need to show up on that day and check the physical list pasted on the side of the train coach or on the digital platforms on your platform to see if you have a confirmed seat. There is also train apps for checking. If your ticket is not confirmed, it will be cancelled and you will need to go to the office again and try to get on another train.
Here are websites with tips on how to understand your Indian train ticket and what to do:
There are few trains throughout the day that will depart from different stations in Delhi that passes through Haridwar. Take a taxi to get to the train station if it is not near your hotel. It doesn't cost much and it saves you the hassle of trying to get there on your own.
Delhi train stations are very chaotic and crowded at all times of the day, so go there early and stay focussed. Avoid the touts or anyone approaching you to divert you from your intended journey. These could be scams. You can check for the platform on the electronic boards usually found in the main building. If you cannot locate this or your platform, one easy option to get to the correct platform is to use the service of the porters who will not only carry your luggages but also bring you to the correct platform. They have all the train schedules memorised and will bring you there quickly, with each luggage costing plus minus 100INR. Bargain if it is more. The porters are easy to identify as they are all dressed in red coloured shirts with a towel wrapped on their heads. They walk very fast, be sure to follow closely in that crowd before you lose them and pay only when you arrive at the platform.
Haridwar train station is about an hour away from Rishikesh and there are several ways to do it:
- book a car through your hotel to fetch you - the most expensive but most comfortable way. It should costs not more than 1000INR (2020 price)
- bus from the bus station opposite the train station, then change at Rishikesh bus station to a shared autorickshaw to get you to Ram or Laxman Jhula - cheapest option, costs about 35INR for the bus and another 20INR for the shared auto.
- private autorickshaw (not shared) - faster and more direct than the bus, it brings you at least till Ram or Laxman Jhula and should costs not more than 500INR. Quite a noisy option but an interesting experience nevertheless.
Not all hotels/guesthouses are directly accessible with the public transports. It largely depends on which side of the Ganges you stay on. Most places will need some walking to reach. Check out the basic geography of Rishikesh to know more on how to decide where to stay.