The 90 day booking window for the first train is almost upon us. They’ll be taking reservations for berths on the 9005 Saurashtra Mail out of Mumbai departing 18th February in 1 week’s time. Having discovered only at the point of booking that the journey is actually covering 16 calendar days, even though it’s only scheduled at 24*15 – 2 hours, I’m pretty glad we’ve got past the point of getting everyones passes sorted out. As a result of this oversight, the £128 15 day IndRail pass everyone had paid for wasn’t enough. Fortunately, we had two guys arrive the week before we were due to put the IndRail requests in, which took us up to 16 people, and yours truly was bagging himself a free ticket. *jumps for joy*. The upgrade to 21 days is just another £8, which my free ticket just about covers.*sob*.
This price difference between the 15 and 21 day pass is actually an anomaly in the pricing, see the graph below and the kinks between 15 and 21 days. The gradient between 15 and 21 days is the shallowest on the graph, it should be at least 10 quid more. Anyway, all you lucky people who signed up and sent yer dosh off to Shankar when you were told all get a 21 day pass for the even more sensational price of £128. Anyone arriving late will have to pay the full £136.
IndRail Pricing – Days versus Dollars
A full 90 day pass in AC2 (the full length of your tourist visa) costs less than one day on one of India’s luxury trains. That’s the red line on the graph.
If you are doing anything more than a few days travel, the IndRail is hard to beat. For our purposes it makes the trip about a half of the price it would be if we booked it as individual tickets. You can get a “Circular Journey Ticket”, or CJT, and in theory it’s about the same as the IndRail. But you then have to make numerous trips to the station to get your reservations booked as there is no way of doing that online with a CJT. It’s this booking aspect which makes the IndRail a sure winner for anyone doing anything more than a few trips. You simply cant hand your problems over to an agent to sort out these days unless you are an IndRailer. The agents got banned from booking regular tickets for punters because they’d just buy up all the tickets in advance and resell them. It’s a case of do it on the Internet (OK for just the odd trip), or go to the station (only recommended if you have lots of time on your hands and you like being told that there aren’t any trains available for days). With an IndRail, not only do you just have to email the agent to make your initial itinerary, but you can mail them again to tell them that you’ve changed your mind. Your itinerary has to make sense, they wont let you book trains you couldn’t possibly get , e.g. because you surely got the one earlier in the day that you’d also booked. Furthermore, as an IndRail pass holder, if you do get into a fix and miss your train, you are more likely than anyone else to get any seats that are going.
India isn’t the only country that offers foreign tourists the benefits of cheap rail travel. But you’d be surprised how many people go to India intent on doing extensive railroading and don’t realise what a pass can do. I have read numerous reports of people complaining that “they didn’t realise getting a train in India isn’t like getting one out Euston”. Well, next time you are in Euston, go up to the counter and ask for a ticket on the next day’s Highland Express, one of only 2 over night trains that Britain’s railways can be bothered to run. Take a video camera with you so you can record them laughing at you. If it’s the summer season you’ll be lucky to get a bed on that train anytime in the next week. Bear this in mind when you are complaining about having to work out what you are going to do in India before you intend on doing it.
We’ve just had another recruit, who is based in Delhi. Obviously at this stage anyone new is likely to be either already in India, or about to arrive any second. If you are such a person and have just bumped into this and are thinking “hell yeah”, then for £136 for the 21 day pass, you can make it from anywhere in India to Mumbai, do the trip, and get back again to anywhere else. You don’t need to worry about the 90 day thing, there will still be beds on all of our trains for weeks to come. On one of our trains, the Bhatinda-Jammu express that we catch from Amritsar, we’ve already eaten up the AC2 quota for foreign tourists. But it’s only one night in AC3 (in which there is bags of space reserved for foreigners who can be bothered to book in advance), and we’ve a nice chill out spot worked out for the following afternoon in Udhampur.
Nothing much to report. It’s been Diwali of course so I’ve been laying off annoying people. Our Mumbai operative, Ryan, has gone up to his friends at Lord’s this weekend to ask them what they might be able to do for us. Those of you who are up for ending the trip in the nearby hill station of Matheran, rather than the hustle and bustle of the ever so big city that is Mumbai, please let me know.
We’ve also realized that we can get out of the Kaniyakumari area earlier by getting a cab, after day break at The Cape, up to nearby Nagercoil, and the 07:55 train up to Trivandrum. From there it’s just 10 miles to Kovalam beach, where we can spend a good 6 hours or so before being back to the evening train in plenty of time. So we’re planing a real splash and dash on the last day. There doesn’t seem to be much point trying to book ahead, we’ll just get charged full rate and wont be able to septuplet up in the rooms. But I am reliably informed that by the first week of March that Kovalam is running at < 30% capacity. All we need are decent seafront rooms for an afternoon. So we’ll see what we can get.
But my main message in this post is