It has been nearly 10 months now since I experienced luxury train travel in India, with The Golden Chariot. And after reading my first blog post on it — the review of The Golden Chariot — a lot of people wrote to me asking how do I actually rate it “off the record”. Do I really recommend them to try a similar journey? Do luxury trains in India really worth their price tag?
Well, attempting the answer today in this blog here – publicly, and honestly too — if I were to summon up in a few words, I would say: Yes. Luxury train travel may just be the best way to travel to India, provided, you can afford it.
How Much A Luxury Train Ride In India Costs
India has a total of 5 luxury trains, out of which, only four are currently operating. This includes The Golden Chariot, The Maharajas’ Express, The Deccan Odyssey and The Palace on Wheels. And they all cover a different itinerary, covering a different part of India.
And speaking of the price, they all have a different tariff! For an instance, if I talk about The Golden Chariot, its Pride Of South Circuit (PS: there are two different routes for The Golden Chariot) costs Rupees 3,85,000 (approx USD 6135 ) for single occupancy for non-Indians. For Indians, it costs Rupees 2,45,000.
If we talk about another luxury train in India, say, the Deccan Odyssey, it costs Rupees a whopping 4,27,000 for single occupancy for Indian nationals (or a little higher for non-Indians). And then, some of the trains have a better and a more superior cabin too that comes with an even mind-boggling price tag. Eg, the Rupees 4,27,000 price tag for the Deccan Odyssey, that I’ve mentioned above, can go to a whopping Rupees 9,24,700 for single occupancy if you choose the presidential suite.
So yea, if you look at the price, it’s certainly big money for a (nearly) one week tour in India. But with that price, comes not just luxury, but ‘royal luxury’.
My Experience of Luxury Train Ride In India
Where travelling in India, and travelling in India in trains, in particular, can be highly unorganised, confusing and ticky, travelling on the Golden Chariot was totally different. It was safe and highly organised way of travelling. And well, at that price, you must be wondering how can it not be… so it’s a fair question!
But the thing is, there’s was more to it than just organised travel. The entire experience of travelling in a luxury Indian train is crafted in a way that it makes you feel like a royal personality.
To say the least, it kind of time-transports you back in the golden days of kings and queens — because of the way The Golden Chariot (and the other luxury trains) looks from inside, and the way you’re treated on-board.
From your dedicated room butlers to the waiters, everyone on board is ready to literally serve you like a maharaja with anything you might need – even if it’s at 2 o’clock in the night.
Unlike my experience of travelling in commuter trains in India, on the Golden Chariot (and I am sure that same applies to other luxury trains in Inda too) everything seemed safe and secure, including myself. Cabins were lockable and doors to the main carriages were always kept locked. When stationed (why stationed? You will find out in the next part where I discussed the itinerary!) open doors were protected by the staff on the train. Wherever I went during the entire 7-day trip, someone was always accompanying me and keeping an eye on my safety, in a very discreet way.
The food was of high quality and conditions onboard the train and in the kitchens was clean and hygienic. An onboard gym, a spa, and comfortable private rooms and bathrooms, with a butler on hand, moreover means that you cannot ask for more in a train.
The Golden Chariot Itinerary
So the Golden Chariot’s itinerary (and other luxury trains’ too) is designed in a way that other than covering the frequented places, they take you to destinations that many people have never heard of in India, including a lot of historic places.
The Golden Chariot, as I’ve mentioned before, covers two itineraries – the
“Southern Splendour” and “Pride of the South”. I travelled on the Pride of the South, that started and ended in Bengaluru, with the major cities being Bengaluru, Mysuru, Srirangapatnam, Bandipur, Belur, Halebidu, Shravanabelagola, Hospet, Hampi, Badami and Goa.
All of the luxury trains, including the Golden Chariot, operate on a set, seasonal schedule, which you can check on their respective websites.
Now, what really sets apart the experience of a luxury train ride from the usual tours is the fact that your train actually acts as your hotel on a pair of wheels, and transports you from one destination during the time that you otherwise waste sleeping in a hotel.
Understand it this way: the train moves from destination A to destination B in the night. During the day it stations at the platform at destination B, that you explore in a bus. In the evening, you return to your train and it starts its journey from destination B to destination C, followed by a day bus tour at destination C, and the same thing repeats throughout the journey.
You explore a new town during the day and sleep in your moving hotel in the night. Saves you time! Keeps the comfort!!
And all the logistics are taken care of from bus travel to lunch and dinner locations off the train, tours and sightseeing.
It would take a lot longer to do this itinerary by yourself or even by booking a regular tour. Taking the train is a brilliant way of exploring a country so big and full of experiences.
It’s moreover a perfect trip for those who love trains. It’s also a good fit for the more non-adventurous travellers or for people who are nervous about travelling in India. Though with the price tag, it’s not going to be appealing to those travelling on a budget, nor will it be for the highly free-spirited.
And then, there were other areas where I felt a little scope of improvement that could make the journey better. This includes the constant shaky motion of the train (unlike trains in Europe that always run smoothly) but this was more or a less a technology issue that you will always find in third world countries, not to mention the tiny bathroom for the usual big-built Europeans.
A Few Pictures Of Train Interiors
I know I know, you are dying to see how a 6000 dollar train ride actually looks from inside. The pictures below are from The Golden Chariot. The other trains have slightly different interior but the ambiance they create is equally royal.
The Final Verdict: Do I Recommend A Luxury Train Ride In India?
As I said before, I do recommend travelling on a luxury train in India. And I believe it may just be the best way to travel across India, provided you have the budget.
If you can spare 6000 dollars for a one week tour, and if travelling in luxury and feeling pampered is your thing, then go for it without a second thought. Because not only the trip is well organised and comfortable, this is by far the quickest way to travel around in India. Any other tour (that makes you sleep in a hotel) cannot cover as many places as these luxury train cover in a little time.
As part of the itinerary, these trains also organise special events on board. For example, we had a Heena Night and a cooking class as special events.
And then, travelling together with a big group is an added charm. Imagine it as a group of strangers hiring an entire train to themselves. The same group of strangers will soon become friends.
And last but not last, for a country like India, that is so vast and culturally rich, a train or a road journey is the best way to travel. It allows you to not only see more but also calculate the cultural shift you experience more closely.
So speaking of it again, for those who can afford it, luxury trains are certainly the best way to travel around India.
Disclaimer: I was on a blog trip with The Ministry of Tourism of India to experience The Golden Chariot. While my trip was sponsored by tourism, all recommendations are solely personal. I wasn’t paid to write a biased report in any way. I only recommend what I personally try and find worth appreciating.