Ultimate Guide to Transport & Getting Around India

Let’s face it: transport in India is intimidating at first. With so many options between trains, planes, cars, tuk-tuks, motorbikes, taxis, rickshaws, bicycles, bicycle taxis, and camels – you’ll feel overwhelmed while trying to make your way around.

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Have no fear! Our partners Goats on the Road are here to simplify the best transport options in India to help you choose the way you travel.

Travel by Train in India

By far the best way to get around India. Trains are everywhere, they’re easy to book once you know how, they’re comfortable (especially in the higher classes) and they’re quite affordable.

There are many different classes of trains, but the most common are:

2S - Second Seating Class: These trains are very cheap, but they don’t offer assigned seating and tend to be hot and cramped.

As the name suggests, you sit (if there are seats available). Some seats are hard wood, while others are comfortable seats. It depends on the train and the journey.

SL - Sleeper Class: With assigned beds that allow you to lie down all the way, these are more comfortable than the seating class, but there is no air-conditioning, and they can be quite dirty.

3A - AC 3 Tier: As the name would suggest, these trains have 3 levels of beds with air-conditioning. They are considerably more comfortable, cleaner and quieter than the SL trains.

2A - AC 2 Tier: The best option for people looking for a balance between cost and comfort, these trains only have 2 tiers of air conditioned beds so you have plenty of room to sit up.

1A - AC First Class: First class trains are far more expensive than other options, but you get what you pay for. Oftentimes, in these trains you’ll have your own air-conditioned booth.

Bus Travel in India

Buses are a good option for short distances, or when there isn’t a train station in the town you plan to visit.

Some of them can be very uncomfortable, while others are luxury buses with air-conditioning.

It’s important that you ask questions about the bus before you book it, and also ask to see a photo of the bus.

Just know that sometimes, the salesman will say anything to get you to buy a ticket, and the bus that pulls up may not be what you’re expecting.

Getting Around via Taxi in India

Taxis in India are affordable, but you’ll have to bargain.

The minute the taxi driver sees you with a backpack on, he or she will typically think that you don’t know the price.

The best way to avoid getting completely ripped off by a taxi is to ask your hotel or hostel how much the taxi should cost, before getting in. Then you have an idea of what price to bargain for.

You can ask the taxi driver to use the meter, but in my experience, the taxi meter is always “broken” when a tourist tries to get a ride – even if it was working when the previous customer got out of the taxi.

Not quite a taxi, but this camel safari in Jaisalmer was a good time. Photo credit: Goatsontheroad.com

Motorbikes & Scooters in India

Sometimes, there will be motorcycle taxis in India. Simply flag them down and hop on the back. Just make sure, like taxis, you decide on a price before starting your journey.

Motorbikes and scooters are also readily available for rent, which is great for travelers.

You can typically get a motorbike for approximately US $3-5/day and it’s a great way to get around. Some of the best areas for a motorbike are around Goa and the south coast.

Rickshaws (Tuk-Tuks) in India

Motor rickshaws work a lot like taxis. You still have to bargain for them, they typically have a meter installed but it never works for tourists, and you can flag them down from the side of the road.

Typically, they’re a bit cheaper than yellow taxi cars, but that all depends on your bargaining skills!

Tuk-tuk in India. Photo credit: Goatsontheroad.com

For a few transport safety tips in India, click here.

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