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First things first: India is immense. More than a country, it’s considered a subcontinent — it even rests on its own tectonic plate.
With major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore situated as far as 310 to 1,243 miles from each other, moving within such a large country can be a challenge for travelers.
The key is to embrace trains and cheap domestic flights, buying tickets in advance if you can. Within cities, the options get more creative. But be sure to keep rupees on hand, as cash is the predominant payment method for private transportation within India.
India hosts six major climates within its 1.269 million square miles. Here’s how to experience the delicious diversity of different regions:
In a country as large as India, air transport is a good option for covering long distances over short periods.
Air India has a large number of domestic routes, connecting about 70 cities.
Other internal carriers include:
Major airports are scattered around the nation, in cities like:
Depending on the length of your journey, expect economy class fares to range from $40 to $200.
For short and medium journeys in India, buses offer great flexibility. You can almost always find a seat when booking a day in advance. But longer journeys on bumpy roads can be fairly uncomfortable.
For the most part, there are two types of buses in India: cheap, standard ones and costlier, air-conditioned tourist buses. These are operated by numerous bus companies.
A good place to start searching for your bus options online is Bus India.
India has one of the largest rail networks on earth. Trains cover long distances and are a reliable, comfortable method of ground transport in India. Traveling in air-conditioned coaches is highly recommended, as these cars tend to be less crowded, with better comfort and more safety overall.
There are three ways to book train tickets in India:
On Indian Railways, there are three types of reservations:
If you plan to travel extensively through Indian Railways, you can buy an Indrail Pass, which offers international tourists the flexibility of unlimited travel on any route. This pass doesn’t guarantee you a seat and you still have to make an advance booking. But it might save you money if your route is long enough.
Whether you’re exploring the beach vibes of Mumbai or navigating the capital of Delhi, here’s how to get around within Indian cities:
Individual train and bus tickets must be purchased using cash. For intra-city travel, all cities with metro and local trains have their own passes.
In every major Indian city, buses connect the city center with the airport. Other typical options include:
The official Indian Railways app IRCTC Connect lets you book and cancel tickets, check your ticket status and get live location updates.
Taxis are available for private transportation in most cities. In some places, like railway stations and airports, there are prepayment booths to ensure you’ll only be charged the stipulated fare. If you hail a taxi from the street, insist the driver restarts the meter. Otherwise, it’s best to negotiate and agree to the fare for the trip in advance.
The auto rickshaw, also known as tuk-tuk or simply auto, is a cheaper alternative to taxis and ideal for connectivity in urban areas. Auto rickshaws are three-wheeled vehicles the size of a golf cart — but with the hustle of a taxi. Just beware of auto drivers persuading you to book a hotel or buy goods from a specific shop.
These are becoming rarer and rarer in India, though some cities like Kolkata still rely on cycle rickshaws as part of intra-city transportation.
Uber is available in most major cities within India. But don’t count on it unless you’ve double-checked in advance — for instance, Uber’s not available in the coastal city of Goa.
In India, you can pay for an Uber with cash (rupees) or card.
It’s unlikely you’d want to drive in India’s chaotic traffic. Also note that India’s roads have some of the worst fatality statistics in the world.
However, if you’re so inclined, car rental desks for major car hire services like Avis, Budget, Hertz, Sixt and Thrifty are available at the major airports in India.
You can book a private transfer in all major Indian cities for hassle-free transfer from the airport to your location.
The safest way to navigate cross-country in India is likely plane or train, while intercity options like auto rickshaws hold the thrill of a new experience. After plotting your passage around the nation, read our guide to must-try Indian foods so you can stay sated along the way.
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