Traveler’s Guide to Indian Railway Passenger Classes
There are no less than seven classes available in the passenger cars of Indian Railways, and it can be a bit confusing to know which class is the one you want. Read on to find out more about each class and compare the prices between them. We’ll start from the most expensive and move to the least expensive.
First Class AC (1A)
First Class AC (pictured in image above) is the cream of the crop. It offers the most space and the most privacy, but can cost double the amount of AC-2-Tier. There are two-bed and four-bed lockable compartments, but when you reserve seats you can not specify which type of car you’d like to be in. If you are traveling as a couple, there’s a good chance you’ll get a two-bed compartment, but you shouldn’t count on it.
This class is offered only on the nicest trains. A ticket from New Delhi (NDLS) to Mumbai (BCT) on the superfast Punjab Mail train has a base fare of 2605 rupees. Add 35 rupees for the reservation fee and 50 rupees for the ‘superfast’ fee, and you come up with a grand total of 2690 rupees ($55).
First Class (FC)
First Class non-AC used to be what First Class AC is today. They are being slowly but surely phased out, and if you buy a ticket for FC you will be disappointed. The setup is the same as First Class AC, with two-bed and four-bed lockable compartments, but the compartments are dirty and many times abandoned. You may even show up to the train station and find that the First Class car you booked isn’t even attached to the train.
It’s tough to find fares and tickets for first class anymore, so in the words of an Indian Railways Conductor, “First Class, forget about it!” The fares, if they exist, are slightly less expensive than First Class AC and more expensive than AC 2-Tier.
AC 2-Tier Sleeper (2A)
Being an AC car, these cars are nicer than the regular First Class non-AC cars. They are made up of 2-tier bunks and all passengers are provided with linens. There are no lockable compartments, but you will usually be sitting with a group of four people sharing two benches. The two benches then convert into four bunks for sleeping.
A 2A ticket on the superfast Punjab Mail train from New Delhi (NDLS) to Mumbai Central (BCT) has a base fare of 1538 rupees, plus 25 rupees for reservation and charges and 30 rupees for the superfast charge. That makes a grand total of 1593 rupees ($32.57).
AC 3-Tier Sleeper (3A)
AC 3-Tier cars are similar to AC 2-Tier cars. The only difference is that there are three bunks instead of two in each section. This means that you have less space to move around while sleeping and that there are three people sharing one bench while seated. Linens are provided and AC 3-Tier cars are still nicer and cleaner than the old First Class non-AC cars.
On the same train, the Punjab Mail from New Delhi to Mumbai Central, a ticket on 3A will cost you 1109 base fare plus 55 rupees in charges. The total will be 1164 rupees ($23.84).
AC Chair Car (CC)
AC Chair Cars are the nicer non-sleeper cars. Some trains are superior to others. The lower the number, the nicer the train usually is. AC Chair Cars are made up of rows of chairs and are found on shorter routes. As there is no option for the AC Chair Car from New Delhi to Mumbai Central, let’s look at the fare for the shorter route from New Delhi to Amritsar. On the NDLSASR (New Delhi to Amritsar) Express, the total ticket cost is 438 rupees ($8.90).
Sleeper Car (SL)
A regular non-air conditioned Sleeper Car is the cheapest way to travel with a bed. These are not as clean as AC cars, and solo women may want to consider sleeping in an all women’s car in order to avoid unwanted bedfellows during the journey. A ticket on the superfast Punjab Mail train from New Delhi to Mumbai Central goes for 434 rupees ($8.87). Compare that to the cost of First Class AC! You will get to your destination in the same amount of time but certainly not the same amount of comfort.
Second Sitting (2S)
Second sitting is basically the unreserved non-sleeper class. You are not guaranteed a seat on the stiff wooden benches, and you may have to jostle for one. It is by far the cheapest way to travel, but you may feel claustrophobic if you’re not used to traveling in the fashion of India’s masses. There were no 2S tickets available from New Delhi to Mumbai, so we’ll compare this option with the AC Chair Car. Both of these options do not offer a bed, but only a seat. Well, a seat if you can get one in 2S! A ticket on the NDLSASR Express costs only 123 rupees total from New Delhi to Amritsar ($2.52).