India - taking bikes on train?

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
toontra
Posts: 598
Joined: 21 Dec 2007, 11:01am
Location: London

India - taking bikes on train?

Postby toontra » 13 Jan 2019, 10:38am

I'm flying into Chennai and cycling round the south coast to Kochi (with a few detours) and will need to get the train back to Chennai for the flight home.

Anyone know what the procedure is for getting your bike on the train you're travelling on? Plus, any other general advice on cycle touring in India would be welcome.
5 & 6 day solo LEJoGs - http://6-daylejog.blogspot.com/

Thehairs1970
Posts: 98
Joined: 11 Aug 2018, 9:30am

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby Thehairs1970 » 14 Jan 2019, 5:21pm

I don't know and it's a long time since I was in India. However, if the trains are anything like they were, you couldn't take your bike on a passenger compartment. It's too damn busy. You might have mor luck if you went first class. This is just like second class with less people. I wonder if you might be better talking to a freight company out there who could 'post' it back for you?

simonhill
Posts: 2326
Joined: 13 Jan 2007, 11:28am
Location: Essex

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby simonhill » 14 Jan 2019, 5:42pm

I've only done it once and that was about 20 years ago.

It was a local train and we were able to book it in at the freight office and it was carried on our train in the Guard's van.However, I don't think this is what happens on the major 'express' trains.

I've read from a few people that you have to take it to the freight office and it is dispatched on a goods train. Most people also get it wrapped in canvas, but I can't remember if this is compulsory.

You can try posting here as a few of the posters have done it https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/ ... -your-bike

I also remember someone called Bill Weir who writes detailed reports on crazyguy posting about it. You could search his crazyguy entries to find it.

A couple of other points:

I found the much of the coast route south of Chennai to be pretty boring. There are a few highlight towns,eg Pondi but most of the time you are a long way from the coast and rarely see the sea and the landscape is nothing to write home about, particularly south of Rameswaram. A diagonal route down through the middle via Trichy, Maduari, etc is much more interesting. Riding up into the Ghats is pretty good as well.

Have you already booked your flights? If not you can now get major carriers eg Emirates, Gulf flying out of Kochi (and plenty of other southern cities). A flight in to Chennai and out of Kochi is normally no more expensive.

Enjoy

hufty
Posts: 499
Joined: 28 Jan 2011, 7:24pm

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby hufty » 14 Jan 2019, 5:46pm

My knowledge is out of date but bikes + express trains used to be a complete non-starter. A better bet will be the buses, with the added bonus that you won't have to get a ticket months in advance you can pretty much turn up at the bus stand on the day. Rickety state buses will have roof racks, luxury and executive coaches will have luggage room underneath.
Please do not use this post in Cycle magazine

toontra
Posts: 598
Joined: 21 Dec 2007, 11:01am
Location: London

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby toontra » 14 Jan 2019, 5:53pm

Thanks Simon - that's all really useful info and I'll follow up your links.

Yes, flights booked! One of the reasons for flying back from the same destination is that I will be leaving all my flight bike-packing gear in Chennai (bag, pipe-lagging, styrene blocks, etc). This has worked well on past trips. Also, I try where possible to get direct flights - not only for speed and convenience but also you are minimising the opportunity for baggage "handlers" to destroy your bike!

Regarding the route - I hear what you say about the boringness of some of the coastal roads so I'll have another look at the south-eastern section. Accommodation (already booked!) can be altered without charge until a few days before departure. Sadly there is no Google street view in India so I have absolutely no idea what any of the roads actually look like (other that a very blurred satellite view).
5 & 6 day solo LEJoGs - http://6-daylejog.blogspot.com/

toontra
Posts: 598
Joined: 21 Dec 2007, 11:01am
Location: London

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby toontra » 14 Jan 2019, 5:55pm

hufty wrote:My knowledge is out of date but bikes + express trains used to be a complete non-starter. A better bet will be the buses, with the added bonus that you won't have to get a ticket months in advance you can pretty much turn up at the bus stand on the day. Rickety state buses will have roof racks, luxury and executive coaches will have luggage room underneath.


Thanks huffy. Don't really fancy being on a bus for the 450 miles from Kochi to Chennai though :shock:
5 & 6 day solo LEJoGs - http://6-daylejog.blogspot.com/

rualexander
Posts: 2318
Joined: 2 Jul 2007, 9:47pm
Contact:

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby rualexander » 14 Jan 2019, 6:36pm

Fly back from Kochi to Chennai must be the easiest solution?

24 years ago I cycled from Madras (as it was then) to Goa via Mahabalapuram, Pondicherry, Trichy, Madurai, Kodaikanal, Ooty, Mysore, etc.
Great trip, apart from first week when I was pretty sick.
Towns and cities pretty chaotic for cycling but once out in the countryside the roads were relatively quiet and enjoyable cycling.
Probably busier now though.

toontra
Posts: 598
Joined: 21 Dec 2007, 11:01am
Location: London

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby toontra » 14 Jan 2019, 6:39pm

rualexander wrote:Fly back from Kochi to Chennai must be the easiest solution?


All the gear for suitably packing the bike for flying will be in Chennai.
5 & 6 day solo LEJoGs - http://6-daylejog.blogspot.com/

rualexander
Posts: 2318
Joined: 2 Jul 2007, 9:47pm
Contact:

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby rualexander » 14 Jan 2019, 7:22pm

toontra wrote:
rualexander wrote:Fly back from Kochi to Chennai must be the easiest solution?


All the gear for suitably packing the bike for flying will be in Chennai.


Get some more.
Still easier than getting a train or bus

toontra
Posts: 598
Joined: 21 Dec 2007, 11:01am
Location: London

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby toontra » 14 Jan 2019, 8:08pm

rualexander wrote:
toontra wrote:
rualexander wrote:Fly back from Kochi to Chennai must be the easiest solution?


All the gear for suitably packing the bike for flying will be in Chennai.


Get some more.
Still easier than getting a train or bus


Certainly worth considering. 25kg checked baggage allowance on Air India domestic flights apparently (not sure about bike policy). As that would be at the end of the trip I'd be less concerned about damage to the bike at that stage.
5 & 6 day solo LEJoGs - http://6-daylejog.blogspot.com/

tmac100
Posts: 35
Joined: 13 May 2016, 1:47pm

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby tmac100 » 16 Jan 2019, 6:58pm

I just came back from India a couple of weeks ago, and travelled a LOT by train. I even left my Samsung S3 tablet behind at an air-conditioned waiting room, and noticed it was "missing" as the train was leaving the station. I contacted 2 railway police on the train and the ticket inspector. They contacted the railway police at the station where I left my tablet. Within minutes the police at the station retrieved the tablet. It was put on the next train to my destination and after waiting for that train I saw the station manager who had it. He said "This is Indian railways and we take care of our passengers". I have heard similar stories. The only issue for foreigners is waiting in the line ups...

So with that in mind, you will be able to book the wrapped/packed bicycle on a train to your destination - if it has a brake van for luggage. You would have to ask ahead of time at the station - and don't be put off by evasive answers. Get to ask the Station Manager if necessary. Remember to start the process earlier rather than later, and get there at least 4 hours before leaving the station. Best to have a 2AC reserved seat. Here is a link. At the bottom of it is another link with some details about rules for bicycles.

http://www.indianrail.gov.in/luggage_Rule.html

FWIW, a number of years ago I purchased an Indian bicycle from the BWI factory in Ludhiana. The box went into the 1st class compartment under my "bed" Porters took it on and off the train. Cheap and fast. Might want to look at reserving a 1st class seat.

toontra
Posts: 598
Joined: 21 Dec 2007, 11:01am
Location: London

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby toontra » 16 Jan 2019, 7:07pm

Thanks tmac - that's really useful info. 2AC overnight is probably what I'll go for.

When you say "wrap" the bike, what is the best way to do that and what materials did you use? Are there any specific requirements.

Also, do you reckon it would be necessary to book the train in advance?

I'm erring in favour of train over plane. I quite like Asian sleeper train journeys and saves a hotel bill for the night. Also less stressful and less chance of damage to the bike, and the time difference is compensated for my being asleep for most of it!
5 & 6 day solo LEJoGs - http://6-daylejog.blogspot.com/

tmac100
Posts: 35
Joined: 13 May 2016, 1:47pm

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby tmac100 » 16 Jan 2019, 7:18pm

My bicycle was in the cardboard box supplied at the factory. In India there are folks who will "wrap" your bicycle and even sew burlap around it. Ask at the railway stations. It seems you will have lots of time while on your bicycle trip to stop and ask - and even to reserve a 1st class ticket in advance if they are not sold out Seriously, tickets do get sold out, BUT you can always buy a cheap seat - which is crowded. 2AC is easy enough to get a few days in advance. I SERIOUSLY mean it when I say to book in advance. There may be several different trains leaving at different times so be flexible.

I edited my response a bit since I first posted it, but the basic info is still the same. Here is more info from the Indian Railways website regarding luggage....

http://www.indianrailways.gov.in/railwa ... uggage.pdf

toontra
Posts: 598
Joined: 21 Dec 2007, 11:01am
Location: London

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby toontra » 16 Jan 2019, 7:22pm

Thanks again, tmac. Really helpful.

Any other general observations about cycle touring in India - what to expect or things to avoid?

Cheers.
5 & 6 day solo LEJoGs - http://6-daylejog.blogspot.com/

Eman Resu
Posts: 93
Joined: 4 Aug 2016, 5:04pm

Re: India - taking bikes on train?

Postby Eman Resu » 16 Jan 2019, 7:30pm

toontra wrote:Regarding the route - I hear what you say about the boringness of some of the coastal roads so I'll have another look at the south-eastern section. Accommodation (already booked!) can be altered without charge until a few days before departure. Sadly there is no Google street view in India so I have absolutely no idea what any of the roads actually look like (other that a very blurred satellite view).


Just returned from touring Tamil Nadu. My experience suggests avoiding the national highways (shown in Google maps within a yellow icon): these are largely bereft of trees, so no shade, and lots of truck traffic causing all manner of organised anarachy. The state highways (shown within a white icon) are much less busy given that they traverse villages with speed brakers every few km to dissuade fast traffic, have good road surfaces (in Tamil Nadu anyway), some better than the country roads I've encountered in France and Spain, and have good tree cover. The East Coast Road is a national highway and tedious to cycle on but a little way inland are interesting state highways and country roads where you're more likely to encounter langur monkeys than 4 wheeled vehicles.

Had to return from Pondicherry to Bengaluru by bus due to a bout of exercise induced bronchitis. The only way to take person and loaded bicycle from Pondi to Bengaluru was by private sleeper Volvo a/c bus (cheap at £10 all in), bike in the rear luggage compartment. Not as far as Kochi to Chennai but comfortable. You could break journey halfway I guess to reduce the tedium.