Solo Girl's Guide for Surviving Indian Railways

by - August 20, 2020

surviving Indian railways

Travelling on Indian Railways is an experience you must not miss. Being the fourth largest railway network in the world and being such an integral part of India, you must take a long distance train journey to get the very essence of the country. But, being a foreigner in India or someone who has never travelled on it (or are travelling solo for the first time), you must wonder how to survive Indian Railways. Let me tell you, I've always preferred the railways over the airways because they're cheap plus always bustling with people. Indian buses and flights do have people around you but the fun of travelling on an Indian train is different. 

No matter where you go, you'll always have worries of commuting locally. So whether it is taking a domestic flight, an interstate bus or a train. But being someone who has travelled so extensively within India via railways, I have just so many things to share and so many hacks/tips to pass on. 

Surviving Indian railways is not as tough as it seems. The basics are arriving an hour before the scheduled departure, always keeping an ear on the announcements (even though your platform number is announced, sometimes there's a possibility of switching platforms during the last 10 minutes or so) and carrying long distance train train travel essentials like a hand sanitiser and tissue papers. What are other tips? Read further.


I'm an Indian solo traveller and I've been to many places around the country using a train. I've been to 19 Indian states/union territories in total and can say from experience what it is like travelling in the country using the railway network. 


First things first. All right, you'll be able to get on board, find tickets and your seat, you'll successfully get through the journey but what about your safety? If I were travelling solo in some other country, I would certainly think of this. 

How safe is it for a single woman to travel on train in India? The answer is, it's very safe. In fact, the trains are so occupied most of the times that you'll have a family or women around you making you feel protected and safe. And even if there is no family or women around you, nothing wrong will happen. The only major worrisome part would be visiting the loo during the late hours when everyone is asleep and the lights are switched off and I'll cover that point later in this article. 

But don't worry, Indian railways are safe for solo women. 


Another question you might have is the safety of your belongings. I own a MacBook, an iPhone and an expensive camera. I still manage to take toilet breaks and sleep without getting my stuff stolen. So how do I do it? 

Okay, here's revealing my ultimate 'surviving Indian Railways' hack. Choosing the upper berth helps a lot to keep your belongings safe as you can shove everything in one corner. I often use my backpack (which has all my important documents and gadgets) as a pillow. 

And for your main luggage, carry a chain and a lock. Slip your heavy luggage under the lower berth and chain it for a fuss-free travel. A lot of Indians (including me) do that and have been doing it for generations now. 


Taking toilet breaks often seem like a ninja mission. You quickly visit the loo under tough circumstances and check for people around you and rush back to your berth. My tip for taking toilet breaks is to firstly shove your belongings in one corner of the bed, throwing your blanket/hoodie/pillow over it and making it tough for anyone to spot your backpack. This is what I always do. I hide my backpack behind the blanket, hoodie and my pillow so that I believe it is difficult for the thief to steal anything.

However, I always recommend carrying your phone, passport/identification and money in a small sling bag while visiting the loo because you can no way afford to lose that, especially when you're on a vacation.

Apart from the safety of your belongings when you visit the loo, your safety during the night-time is important too. I typically go the washroom when the train is semi-lit. Usually people sleep early on train travel so they gradually start shutting the lights by 8:45 pm. I typically go to the washroom around 10:00 pm because although the lights are off, nobody  is in a deep sleep at that time so you just feel safe that way.

And in case it is late and you really want to pee/poo, then the best way is to stay alert and proactive. I've never carried any Swiss knife or a pepper spray, but if you want, you can carry them. 

surviving Indian railways

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Train essentials can differ from person to person but if you ask me, I'd say:

1. Hand sanitiser
2. Snacks
3. Tissues
4. Identity card
5. Napkin
6. Paper soap/hand wash
7. Hoodie (in winters or if your bogie is air-conditioned)
8. Long charging cable

I have shared my long distance train travel essentials on the blog earlier, so do check it out for an extensive list.


I suggest go for the upper berth. Not only the safety of your belongings is assured but also, you get your personal space. I always choose an upper berth so that I relax peacefully as most passengers prefer sitting during the day time and hop on their upper berths only for their afternoon nap and night's sleep. 

Upper berth, on the contrary, also means not getting the window seat. So if you want to look outside the window, then go for lower berth.  


You can book tickets via Indian Railways official website. Train booking is easy, only that registering there is a pain. But you can always get in touch with tour operators and book via them. 

For a smooth experience while interacting with the Ticket Collector, keep your ticket and your identification ready. Psst! People call them "TC" so if you hear anyone whisper those initials, know that the ticket collector is around. 


The Railway food. What do I say! I end up eating it anyway. The hack here is to carry your own snacks, fruits, sandwiches or rolls. However, I do recommend the tea and coffee. The taste is not the world's best, and in fact, it is watery, but you cannot miss it. When in India, you drink tea twice, once with your breakfast and once with your hi-tea. 

Do you know? You can order food from selected food chains such as Dominos Pizza directly to your berth? You can do it via the IRCTC app. 


1. Befriend the family next to you. Smile at them, play with the kids, talk to the elders. 
2. Wear a pair of flip-flops because it's easier for you to take them on and off. 
3. Wet wipes are must, especially after loo breaks or to wipe your face.
4. Carry socks. Air-conditioned trains can get chilly at nights. 
5. Arrive an hour before the scheduled departure
6. Keep a check on the announcements while waiting at the platform
7. Track your train by putting the PNR number or train number. There are several mobile apps for that
8. Alternatively, check your location using maps
9. For any immediate assistance while on the platform, go to the station master, ticket counter, cloak room or ask any railway employee. Or simply, my favourite, ask the vendors selling tea and snacks at railway stalls. Coolies are a good option too. 

Surviving Indian Railways is not difficult. It's about being proactive and asking help whenever needed. Indians are so excited to help, and if you're a foreigner, then more number of people would be delighted to help you. Just one last tip: Always take help from families, women, urban people in case you don't know whom to run to. 

If you liked this article, please don't forget to leave a comment below! Would mean a lot to me. 

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