Welcome on the board of one of the most luxurious trains in India – The Golden Chariot!
My journey through Karnataka state in the southern part of India continues, but it’s time to reveal the secret and show you how luxury traveling around India looks like.
India is a very culturally diverse country with turbulent history. Each state is different – the reality, food, landscapes or cultural vibes vary across the country. This is one of these directions that require time, many visits, an open mind and heart for diversity.
5 trains and different routes
There are many ways to travel in India – from cars, to buses and regular trains. However, nothing tastes like traveling onboard of luxury Orient Express style train. There are five different trains to choose and each of them has different routes. Typically, the journey takes a week. The trains differ with decor and onboard attractions.
They run from September to April on different dates, so before you decide to go, check the dates and the travel plans on their websites.
Also, have a look at the route options:
Royal Rajasthan: Delhi – Jodhpur – Udaipur – Chittorgarh – Sawai Madhopur – Jaipur – Khajuraho – Varanasi – Agra – Delhi.
Palace on Wheels: Delhi – Jaipur – Sawai Madhopur – Chittorgarh – Udaipur – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur – Bharatpur – Agra – Delhi.
Deccan Odyssey: Mumbai – Nashik – Aurangabad (Ellora Caves) – Ajanta Caves – Kolhapur – Goa – Sindhudurg – Mumbai.
Maharajas’ Express: Delhi – Jaipur – Ranthambore – Fatehpur Sikri – Agra – Gwalior – Khajuraho – Varanasi – Lucknow – Delhi.
The Golden Chariot: Bengaluru – Mysore – Srirangapatna – Kabini – Hassan – Belur – Halebid – Shravanabelagola – Hospet – Hampi – Gadag – Badami Pattadakal – Goa – Bengaluru
or Bengaluru – Chennai – Mahabalipuram – Pondicherry – Tanjavur – Trichy – Madurai – Trivandrum – Aleppey – Kochi – Bengaluru.
If you would like to learn more about each of the trains and compare them with each other, then this table may be useful (click HERE).
I had a pleasure of making a week’s trip to The Golden Chariot as a part of INCREDIBLE INDIA #IndiaBlogTrain trip in the southern part of the country – Karnataka (a route including the ancient city of Hampi).
How does the train look inside?
Trains in India usually have a quite bad fame, but not this one. This is not just another train but a hotel on rails. The Golden Chariot represents the luxury and style of the eternal dynasties that ruled Karnataka. The train itself has 19 beautiful coaches, including 11 passenger coaches that have been inspired by the Mysore and Belur-Halebid style.
The standard room has very comfortable beds (two single or one double), a large mirror, a table, which can also be used as a shelf for a suitcase. There is also a surprisingly large bathroom with a hot water shower (okay, sometimes it was lukewarm). In addition, there is a plasma TV with a selection of channels and movies (I have not tested this, so we need to trust the opinions of other travelers).
There is also a large window in each room. Believe me, waking up with a view on the moving landscape is priceless!
However, the rooms are only a part of the pleasure. There are also beautifully designed: two restaurants, a bar open 24/7, even a spa and a gym (small, but you can do some cardio or at least do jogging from one part of the train to the other :P) .
Honestly, the restaurant was my favorite place. Firstly, because of the decor – elegant, with oriental vibes, white tablecloths and silverware. Secondly, the food was amazing, a brilliant menu of both Indian and European cuisine. And the chef, who constantly gives you another portion… Mainly, because, in his opinion, you always eat too little :)
How much does luxury cost?
Probably everyone is interested in the price. In short, such a luxury is not cheap. On average, you have to pay between $600 and $1,200 per person per night (depending on the type of room, train, etc.).
However, it’s all inclusive. The price covers: accommodation, meals, open bar for alcohol (in some trains), guided tours, entry fees, bus trips and additional attractions on board.
In fact, the tipping is the only additional cost.
Is this trip for everyone?
Despite the popular image of luxury travel, the retired people are not in the majority on the board☺
During my trip, there were young and old people in the train. Starting from the families with kids, people in 30’s and also travelers 60+.
It’s a journey for all who value convenience and don’t have enough time or willingness to plan an independent journey.
Everyone will have a good time during this type of trip.
Imagine, how nice is not to worry about anything. The bus drives up to the door of the train, the guides are waiting to share their knowledge, and lunch is served on silverware.
I’m sure that traveling with the luxury train in India is a “must do in a lifetime” experience.
Anyway, I have to admit that it was a very intense trip. The program is jam-packed so everyone will find something for himself. From the ancient Hampi temples, through hunting (with the camera!) for tigers during jungle safari to the chilling on the beach in Goa.
After a day like this you actually dream about coming back to your home on the rails and get some rest ☺
What do you need to be prepared for?
Poor Wifi + can be loud + sometimes there is no hot water + it shakes
Despite the fact that the level of comfort is really high, it is still traveling by train in India (tractions are the same for everyone), so expect some shaking.
Something for girls – putting mascara on a moving train is almost a mission impossible;)
The good part is that the episodes are rather short, mostly in the evening for 3-4 hours or at night. Only once, on the last day, we traveled constantly from 8p.m. to 11 a.m. on the next day (from Goa to Bangalore’s final station).
In addition, as train moves, it’s quite loud and from time to time it beeps the signal of approaching to the next station. For those who have a light sleep, I would recommend to use the earplugs.
The issue of shower and hot water. Usually, after 10 minutes of switching on the heater, I had a hot shower, but sometimes I washed in lukewarm (towards cold) water. I’m just saying, so you will not be surprised then.
Everyone who likes to be always online, I warn you – this may not work. The train route goes through various parts of the region, including those less developed and far from civilization, so the onboard Wifi is quite slow. In The Golden Chariot it was only available in the restaurant and the bar, but with such a number of users it was very slow.
It’s always best to have your own solution, i.e. to buy a local SIM card. The price is really affordable. You will pay 250 INR for 10 GB in the shop whereas 1200 INR at the airport in New Delhi. Sure, the signal will not always be guaranteed, but definitely better than the on-board wifi.
What you do not have to worry about?
Service + care + full organization
Nothing really. This is one of those trips, during which you will be completely taken care of.. Everything is organized in details and implemented according to plan.
A printed detailed plan for the next day will be delivered to your room every evening.
The train service is excellent. Starting from a private butler, who takes care of your cabin. He is always ready to help you. And in the morning, he will serve the best masala chai in a silver teapot straight to your room.
The train manager will check repeatedly whether you are having a good time. The chef who is passionate about the food and will encourage you to try every dish (my advice is: don’t try to say NO – you will never win with his argumentation!).
In the train, you can order a massage at the spa, delegate a laundry (which will come back to you on the same day).
Your only task will be to enjoy the moment and soak up the attractions of the day.
In fact, you won’t spend much time in the train (we left about 8am returned around 8-9pm). Every day we had some surprises waiting for us. A cooking show or henna painting session. There was even a party with the DJ, who I believe, felt like in clubs in Amsterdam ;)
What can I say – comfort, leisure, a lot of sightseeing and experiencing the best of India.
A new face of traveling
It was my first train trip of this kind and I simply loved it!
Isn’t it incredible that every morning you can wake up in a different place? My train trip around Karnataka let me visit so many different places. There was a time for some architecture, culture, history and nature.
Each morning during this trip I jump off the train ready for another beautiful experience.
Additionally, the whole concept of returning every evening to a comfortable cabin, your own room with a hot shower and enjoying the best Indian dishes onboard of moving train is really genius :)
It’s a perfect solution for all who don’t like to be bored. Who want to see and discover as much as possible in a very short time.
And no matter whether it is a first visit in India, it is one of those trips that you can write down on your list of “dream travels”.
*Photo credits: Ministry of Tourism, Govt of India / Jinson Abraham