India: Transportation & Navigation

India’s transportation system might seem a little hectic once you get there. You will notice random mopeds dodging cars left and right while tuk-tuks (cabs) are squeezing through tight spaces between vehicles. One of the biggest things that became a massive shock for myself when I arrived was how big and spread-out the country is. I was taken back, and my concerns about getting to places and cities to cities did rise. Thankfully, I made mistakes and learned how to navigate.

thumbnail_Transportation NavigationAdvices


Rideshare Services

Coming from Los Angeles, I am accustomed to using Lyft or Uber to get to my destinations. I was afraid that I was going to spend a fortune on cabs, but thankfully, India has an app called Ola that works precisely like ride-sharing services app. The only important thing is that it must be registered under an India Phone Number. Either way, I would suggest in getting a sim card for your telephone needs while spending time there.

There are different levels of cabs you can order on the app. My favorite one that I loved using was the Tuk Tuk version. It was the cheapest, and also, it allowed me to dive into the culture. It’s the type of cab that doesn’t have doors or AC. It’s usually scorching in India, so I didn’t mind it. If that’s not your kind of way of transport, then luckily, they have options to order conventional vehicles up to an SUV. Lastly, the best part is that versus with USA ridesharing apps; you must always pay with a card- with Ola, you can pay with cash at the end of your ride.

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Photo by Humphrey Muleba on


Here is the sad news I have to tell you about booking trains in India: it’s hard. But, no worries! I got you. Passengers book advance and most of the time waitlisted. My biggest tip for you is to book in advance. I made the mistake of not doing that, and I was stuck twice having to do either sleeper class or taking a bus. With gratitude, I didn’t mind it at all. But, it would have made my trip easier if I had a better class than the sleeper edition or faster route to my location versus bus.

The following are options for booking a train:

  • IRCTC IN Govt. Site
    • This option is the most difficult to book. It most often doesn’t allow foreign cards to purchase. It’s not user-friendly since you have to know your train number in advance to book and it’s usually slow. I provide this option for those who feel capable of going this route. Thus, every traveler I’ve talked to state, stay away from this site.
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Photo by Burst on
  • Cleartrip
    • This option is smooth and easy. Could be confusing in the beginning but once you complete the registration process, it will be seamless. You must register with days’ in advance to book a ticket. You are required to input your Indian Mobile # and have to wait for your account to be approved. You will be sent a couple of verification emails to verify your account including a one-time password.
      • My experience-I waited three days before leaving for India to register an account. Once I registered, I had to wait at least three days. I made sure I didn’t need to take a train during my wait time. Just because you register, it doesn’t mean you will get an immediate response and approval. I never got an approve or reject email from them to purchase a ticket. I was stuck having to get my hosts’ book my tickets for me. (Don’t let this happen to you). BOOK IN ADVANCE.
    • Avoid my experience mentioned above- prepare your trip days in advance. Once you have your account registered, make sure to download the app so you can book through your cell phone.


I took the bus once from Jaipur back to New Delhi when it was time to come back home. There are local buses that assist with transportation from your pick-up to drop-off location. However, those are the ones you want to avoid. The times that I would see the local buses, they were always overpacked and mostly looked out of date or too unsafe to be in. Luckily, I was assisted by the residents to find the right buses to take me where I needed. Note, taking the bus, will prolong your trip. So, this option is recommended if you don’t mind the long drive.

This website is user-friendly and made it easy to book a seat on a bus with comfortability and AC. Just like the trains, there are various classes to choose from. If you are looking for something comfortable to travel in especially if your trip is long, choose along the lines of an AC Seater / AC Sleeper. Secondly, which is more important, always go for the option that says Volvo. This advice is not only from experience but also, the same information I received from locals. The Volvo bus brands are usually clean and have AC… I can guarantee, you won’t be complaining about going this route.

ganga aarti varanasi benaras prayer india
Photo by Prabhala Raghuvir on

From my experience, it’s not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. The only reason why it could be challenging and frustrating to understand when you are trying to get somewhere is unfamiliarity. It’s utterly understandable that there will be times where you might feel hopeless when needing to book a train and there are none available to you.

One piece of advice I would have to pass along: be patient and don’t be afraid to ask. Remind yourself that you are in an unfamiliar place and the best tour guides are the locals. Don’t rush into things because it would be even more inconvenient if you end up in the wrong place and at the wrong time. Once you fill yourself with a lot of information after doing research, you can be at ease, that once you get there, you will at least be somewhat familiar with their transportation system.


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