Railway stations in India are a carnival like hive of activity, where hundreds of passengers and well wishers blend with a multitude of vendors. Waiting at the wrong end of the platform could spell disaster, particularly when the train may only remain at station for a couple of minutes and you're burdened with a lot of luggage.
Here's how to go about finding and boarding your train.
When arriving at the station, the first thing you should do is find the platform where your train will arrive, and the particular place on the platform where your carriage (coach) will stop. This is very important as standard passenger trains in India have 18 carriages, increasing to up to 24 carriages on popular routes. Don't even try to imagine what it would be like to be stuck at the wrong end of a crowded platform when the train arrives!
Most stations have boards showing the details of departing trains, the platforms that they will depart from, and the order of the carriages on each train. Look for this board, or if in doubt, ask a railway employee.
On the board, above each carriage type, is a number. Check your ticket for your carriage number (for example, A1, B1, or S1), find it on the board, then identify the number above it on top of the board. Also obtain the platform number of the train from the board.
On the roof of each platform, you'll find a row of numbers spread out along the length of the platform. These numbers indicate the points where carriages will stop. Position yourself at the number corresponding to your carriage from the board and you'll be at the spot where your carriage will arrive.
The platforms at Indian railway stations are very crowded, and pandemonium often sets in as the train approaches and everyone wants to get on first. As well as dodging people, you'll also have to avoid large cases, bags, boxes, and sometimes steel trunks. If you're brave, be prepared to push your way on. Otherwise, it's best to stand back and wait for the masses to board.
Inside the train carriage, you'll find that all compartments are numbered. However, don't be surprised to discover that someone's already occupying your place. They'll usually move once everyone else finishes organizing themselves and their luggage.
- If all this sounds too hard, opt to hire a coolie (porter) who will carry your bags and locate your compartment for a fee. They're plentiful at railway stations and can be identified by their red jackets. However, be sure you negotiate the fee before availing of their services.