We didn’t spend much time in New Delhi before deciding to get far away from the big city and the best way to do that is to hop on the Indian Railway. The extensive railway system covers all major parts of the country and is a very cheap way to travel, especially when taking overnight trains, thus saving on accommodations. But first, we needed tickets!
In New Delhi, we were approached by an overly helpful English speaking Indian that out of the kindness of his heart organized a rickshaw ride to the government tourist agency so we could get maps and buy train tickets. The important part is we wanted to go to the government tourist office and of course the half price rickshaw dropped us off at a fake one, a very very common problem in New Delhi. We allowed the fake tourist agency to help us plan our trip and drank their chai before denying their overpriced package deal. We knew it was fake and maps.me showed the real office right around the corner. The good news is, we didn’t get scammed, we drank free chai and picked up some great information! They were not very happy with us but we had a fresh itinerary and were on our way to the real government tourist office.
The real office had a true government feel. They don’t want to help you anymore than they have to and certainly do not try to sell anything as they get no commission. The lady at the real government office gave us a map and instructed us to go to the tourist office in the New Delhi Train Station. At the train station office, we could buy train tickets especially for foreign passport holders. Her instructions included to ignore everyone, don’t pay anyone to get into the train station and elbow them out of the way if they try to stop you. Simple enough.
We made it to the tourist office at the New Delhi Train Station shortly after but not without several people trying to take us to another fake tourist office or telling us we were going the wrong way. Inside the New Delhi train station office there was a very similar feeling as the government tourist office that we were previously at, clearly we found the right place. Within a couple of minuets we had our train tickets in hand, tickets that the fake tourist office said were sold out. Funny how that works.
Our train ride was from Old Delhi Station to Jaisalmer, an 18 hour overnight train, and we chose the sleeper class. Knowing that the non-AC sleeper class is about the lowest you can go, we were prepared for things to get interesting. And It did indeed. At one point there were 22 people in an area where there was only 8 designated seats. A very heated card game was well underway right where we were suppose to be sleeping. Nobody seemed to care much, just when you think one more person couldn’t possibly fit, one squeezes in. At every stop a man selling chai would come down the isle yelling ‘chai chai’ repeatedly and would then be followed by various food vendors selling street food wrapped in newspaper. I suggest a chai and a bag of masala chips!
To escape the crowd I walked to the front of the car and sat in the train doorway to watch the world go by. I was then informed that it’s not advisable as on average 9 people a day die on the Indian Railways, some of which fall out the door. Without questioning why they don’t simply close the door, I returned to my lovely vinyl upholstered seat. Luckily, after about 3 hours, most of the extra people had gotten off at various stops. It seemed like a lot of them were commuting from Delhi to outer cities.
Earlier in the day when I was preparing for the train, I made the assumption that sleeping on the train wouldn’t be the most comfortable nights sleep. To take care of this, I picked up a small bottle of whiskey from the local English Beer & Wine shop in New Delhi. A couple of shots of that and I was fast asleep.
Of course it wouldn’t be India without a delay, 20 hours after leaving Delhi we had finally made it to Jaisalmer! It is quite the experience, bring on the next one!