Contact Information Communication & Travel
Travel in India
Air: The government-run domestic airline is Indian Airlines (http://www.indian-airlines.nic.in/). This airline network connects over 70 cities. Indian Airlines also operates regular flights to the neighboring countries of Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Maldives, Singapore and Thailand. Private domestic airlines include Archana Airways, Gujarat Airways (http://www.gujaratairways.com/), Jagson Airways, Jet Airways (http://www.jetairways.com/), Air Sahara (http://www.airsahara.net/) and Alliance Air, a subsidiary of Indian Airlines. Many domestic airlines offer special fares, excursion fares, and time-contingent passes.
Rail: The Indian internal railway system is the largest in Asia and the second largest in the world. There are over 43,500 miles of track, 7000 stations, and 11,000 locomotives. India's trains carry more than 12 million passengers every day. The network covers much of the country and is a quintessential part of the fabric of India, as well as being relatively inexpensive.
The Railway Atlas (Indian Map Service, Jodhpur Edition: 1999) is the best printed resource for information on train routes and timings. See the government's official web page at: http://www.indianrail.gov.in/.
There are many classes of travel on Indian trains, though all may not be available on the same train. For example, the most common classes are first-class air-conditioned, second-class air-conditioned, three-tier air-conditioned, air-conditioned chair car, first-class sleeper, second-class sleeper, first class chair car, second class, and third class.
First-class air-conditioned (when available) is as expensive as flying, so you should check whether a flight goes to where you are visiting. Second-class (non-air-conditioned) can be quite crowded and uncomfortable.
There is a special Indrail Pass consisting of a single non-transferable ticket, which enables a visitor to travel on any train without restriction within the period of validity. It is sold only to foreign nationals and Indians residing abroad holding a valid passport, and replaces all other concessional tickets. Payment is accepted only in foreign currency (U.S. Dollars or Pounds Sterling). Reservations can be made for rail voyages with some travel agents and at the railway stations themselves. Often large railway stations will have special tourist windows and offices, and will offer "tourist quota," seats reserved on popular routes, such as the Rajdhani Express between Mumbai and Delhi, specifically for last-minute travel by foreign tourists.
Bus: India has a large network of private and public bus services. Travel arrangements for buses can be made at travel agencies in India and at bus stands in heavily visited areas. However, beware of the "video coach" unless you enjoy Hindi films played loudly during your bus journey.
Tourist cars: There are a large number of chauffeur-driven tourist cars (some air-conditioned) available in larger cities. One can find almost any kind of vehicle, from Indian-made to imported, from compact cars to full-sized buses. The unmetered tourist cars are run at a fixed rate system dependent on mileage and time. These services are approved by the Government of India Tourist Office. There are also many private tourist cars available. See a travel agent in India to arrange a private car.
Rickshaws: Rickshaws of various kinds are ubiquitous in India and provide an inexpensive means of traveling short distances, especially in heavy traffic. Auto rickshaws are three-wheeled vehicles that seat up to three passengers plus the driver. Some cities have vehicles called "tempos" that are similar to auto Rickshaws, but are larger and fit six or more passengers. One may also find bicycle rickshaws and pull rickshaws.
Most auto rickshaws and tempos will have meters that display a fare based on distance traveled. Rarely, however, do rickshaw drivers use these meters unless the passenger insists. And even then, the rickshaw operator may not agree to use the meter. If they do agree, the meter must be read with a tariff card that translates the meter's figure into the actual amount to be paid. However, in many cases, one will have to bargain for the fare.
Taxicabs: Most large Indian cities will have a plethora of taxis plying the roads. Like auto rickshaws, taxicabs run on a meter, and most cab drivers will use the meter, though you may have to remind them. In Delhi, Bombay, and other large cities, one can find air-conditioned taxis, often called "cool cabs" and painted blue. The fare is significantly more for these vehicles. When arriving at a city by air, the airport will often have a "pre-paid" taxi stand nearby where one pays a predetermined fare, dependent on the destination in advance, and thus the fare is not metered but rather pre-paid.
Driving: Self-drive rental in India is not widespread, but it does exist in larger cities. One can rent cars and two-wheeled vehicles, such as motorcycles and scooters. You must have an International Driver's Permit and pay a substantial deposit (or leave a credit card number). While some of the traffic rules in India are similar to those in the U.K. (eg. driving on the left side of the road), one should mind the specific traffic patterns in each region before renting a vehicle.