We love to ride the train. It’s our favourite form of transportation, and in Sri Lanka we used it whenever possible. One thing we hadn’t yet experienced was taking the train overnight. Vero and I have taken a night train before in Thailand, and we loved it. As you can imagine, doing it with kids is a whole other story.
One of our early concerns was where we would put our bags and how to keep an eye on the bags and kids while still getting some sleep. We inadvertently discovered a fool-proof method to watch everything. Sleeping, not so much.
For those who have been following our travels, you may by now have gotten the impression that we don’t plan ahead very far. Our preferred method is to get to a place and then decide how long we want to stay, and where to go next. The problem with that in India is that the trains are very often booked full.
We only book three bunks because we’re budget travelers, and the Little Fella has to have someone with him to keep him from falling out of bed and plummeting to the floor. To get 3 beds together in 2nd or 3rd class A/C you need to book a week ahead of time. We are not good at that.
For people like us, there is what’s called the tatkal ticket (tatkal means last minute) which actually costs more than booking ahead of time. It seems like they block off a certain number of tatkal tickets in order to maximize the number of surcharges. It’s the opposite of the airlines, where a last minute deal can be an amazing value.
Our first overnighter was from Kochi (actually Ernakulam) to Bangalore. The ride is around 13 hours, depending on which train you take and what time you leave. The different overnight trains don’t have the same number of stops, so the total time can vary by a few hours. Because we booked last minute, we didn’t have any choice of class or bunks.
A brief word on train classes. Sleeper classes are divided into 1st, 2 tier AC, 3 tier AC, and Sleeper. We’ve never seen 1st class (and probably never will).
2 tier AC is called that because there are 2 tiers of bunks, and it is air conditioned. If we booked far enough ahead we’d be able to have all three of our beds in a curtained off compartment, with one stranger.
3 tier AC is similar, but with 3 tiers of bunks and no curtains. Best case scenario for us in 3 tier AC is to have two lower bunks and one middle. I don’t mind sleeping high off the floor, but if you have to get up several times in the night (more on that later) it can be inconvenient.
Sleeper is just like 3 AC but with no AC. If it were just a question of temperature, we would probably opt for sleeper class, but without AC there are no sealed windows, just bars and metal shutters. Those don’t do much for cutting the noise of the train rolling on the tracks.
Overnight from Kochi to Bangalore
We boarded the train at 6 PM to discover that our bunks were Side Upper, Side Lower and Upper. That means that two bunks are separated from the third by the aisle; less than ideal. The side bunks are also a little narrower than the others. That’s not good when you’re sharing with a little monkey who likes to flail in his sleep.
At first the kids were over-excited. Then they were over-tired. By the time they were ready for bed, everyone was exhausted and out of patience. The parents didn’t sleep well, and the kids didn’t sleep enough.
Overnight Mysore to Hampi (Hosapete)
On our second overnight train we unintentionally found the perfect way to supervise our kids and luggage on the train.