For travel from Chennai to Goa, it's been ages, but i recall there's a major train junction at Guntakal, then Hospet, which is close to Panaji, Goa. I just Googled, Indian Railways Map, and there's a good one. Maybe you could reserve a 2nd class sleeper overnighter from Chennai to Guntakal(or Hospet). Check the Indian Railways website, you could make a reservation in advance, if you can manage the website. If you take this route, i would highly recommend checking out Hampi, which is close to Hospet, Hampi is a real trip. Then you're a day bus to Panaji,Goa.
My personal preference for travelling from Mumbai to Goa is by train, as it enables you to see the countryside changing from a big city, to true Indian countryside. We booked 2nd class a/c on the Naverati Express which leaves Mumbai just prior to noon and arrives Goa Karmali station (was Old Goa Stn) around 10 in the evening. This train leaves from Mumbai's Lokmanyatilak station which is way out in the suburbs so allow an hour to get there from downtown Mumbai. This station, in contrast to Central Mumbai stations, is basically a large corrugated iron shed and upon arrival, your taxi will be surrounded by a huge crowd of porters in red jackets wanting to take your bags. I would suggest you negotiate a price before they pick up any bags as the cost of the 500m walk is very negotiable and should be at least 50% less than the opening offer, and even then, you will be paying way more than the locals. We would ask the guys to come back when the train pulls into the station, as to load bags in these fairly restricted corridor trains is quite stressful in the few minutes you have before it leaves the station. They also know where your booked compartment will be on these long trains which still is somewhat a mystery to me and is worth a few more Rupees for the service. Each rail car has a printed list of all travelers in that specific car but for the life of me I couldnt work out how to identify the specific car we were booked on but the porters seemed to have no problem. clearly the detail is somewhere in the ticket but that always eluded me on indian Railways
A suggestion is that you ask for your hotel to book a car to pick you up at the station in Goa, as taxis seem to be few and far between in late evening.
We booked our train tickets in advance through WWW.sticktravel.com or can be organised with India Rail offices in many countries as trying to buy them locally can be a hassel.
Ensure your baggage is not a lot more than 12" thick as they will have to go under the seats which have limited room as there are no luggage racks. Bring a small chain and padlock as the seats have facilities to chain your bags to loops under the seats
Already when I arrived to Hospet I bought a train ticket back to Goa. I got a ticket for Rs 170 (June 2010) in the SL class. According to the timetable the train was supposed to leave at 6.30 and arrive in Margao at 13.54.
In the morning of the departure I took an auto rickshaw from Hampi to Hospet. I booked it through the hotel and it picked me up at 5.30 in the morning. It was Rs 200 and it took 30 minutes to the railway station in Hospet. The train arrived half an hour late in Hospet, and during this time I had breakfast and also tried to find out where my coach S10 was going to stop. The trains only stop for a short while so it is important to be in the right place on the platform. When the train arrived I saw S9 and thought S10 would be the next coach, but it stood S11 on it. Where was S10? I asked someone working at the station and he pointed in the other direction. Unfortunately it was the wrong direction and before I found the right coach the train started to move. I hopped on the nearest coach, a third class coach with many people standing. I stood near the open entrance so that I could change wagon quickly when the train stopped next time.
In the right coach I was sitting next to some friends on their first trip to Goa. I ordered lunch, but when it came it was not as good as on the journey from Goa. There was no chapati, less rice and the lassi did not taste good. The price was the same, Rs 40.
From the train I got a beautiful view of the Dudhsagar Waterfalls (India’s second highest waterfall), but unfortunately my camera was in the bag.
When the train arrived in Margao (Madgaon) I went to the prepaid taxi booth, to the right outside the train station. A prepaid taxi to Baga was Rs 830 and it took over an hour. The taxi dropped me outside the hotel, Cavala Seaside Resort.
We took the overnight option, leaving Ernakulam at 2pm, and arriving at Canacona (the most convenient station for Palolem) at 5.30am. You can take a tuk-tuk from there (there was one there at that ungodly hour!), or you could walk - it's only about a mile, and we managed it with fairly heavy rucksacks... by 8am we'd found a beach hut, had a swim, had breakfast, hired a scooter, and generally settled in quite nicely!
I had looked on Internet for a train ticket, but it didn’t seem to be any day trains running to Hospet. So when I arrived in Panaji I went to the bus companies to ask for a bus ticket, but it turned out there were no buses running during monsoon time. At a travel agent I found out though that there was a train leaving Goa for Hospet a few days a week (on Internet I had searched for a day when they were not running). I was told there were only 2nd class AC left for the train next day so I bought a ticket. I paid Rs 940 (June 2010) at the travel agent for the ticket. On the ticket it said the actual price was Rs 834 and that agents take Rs 10 -20. It is better to book the ticket at the train reservation office at the Kadamba bus stand in Panaji.
The train was leaving from Margao at 8.00 in the morning. I took a taxi from the hotel in Panaji and it was Rs 620 and took 45 minutes. At the railway station in Margao I bought some breakfast and then tried to find out where my coach was going to stop. The train was very, very long and I couldn’t find my coach number A1on the signs. I was directed to both ends of the long platform, but when the train arrived (on time) I was luckily not far from where the coach stopped.
I had got an upper berth, which I didn’t like. I absolutely didn’t want to sleep, but wanted to sit up and look out through the window. The man who had the window seat (and thus the lower berth) didn’t want to convert the berth for sitting. When the conductor arrived I asked if there were any other seats and luckily there was a window seat not far away available all the way to Hospet. It was a single seat so no one sat next to me, and the chair in front of me was also empty. Most people in the coach seemed to lay in their berths with the light off and the curtains drawn before their compartment.
In Hubli the coach was cleaned, even the windows on the outside. Shortly after Hubli I got the lunch I had ordered earlier from a man taking up orders. The lunch was Rs 40 and consisted of chapati, rice and three pots, one with lenses, one with beans and one with lassi.
We arrived half an hour late to Hospet. I think the journey took about 8 hours. Even before the train stopped the auto rickshaw drivers hopped on the train trying to get customers. As it was big competition the price to Hampi, more than 15 km away, was Rs 100 (June 2010). As I wanted to buy a train ticket back to Goa the auto rickshaw driver waited for me. In Hampi I was dropped at the hotel.
We were keen to see at least a little more of India than just Goa, so we jumped at the chance to take a two night trip to the neighbouring state, Karnataka. The journey there and back was by train, taking about eight hours. That sounds a long while to spend on a train but we loved the journey and found so much to interest us both on the train and outside the windows that we didn’t even open the books we’d taken along to while away the time.
For one thing, I loved seeing the Indian countryside we passed through. The fields were green with rice and other crops, and dotted though them were the brightly coloured saris of women working there. The village houses, occasional ornate temples, lively markets in the towns – everywhere we looked there was something to catch the eye. And the slowness of the train became a bonus not an irritation, as we were able to see things clearly and even snatch a few photos.
On the train too there was plenty going on, with someone seemingly passing through the carriage every few minutes selling snacks and hot and cold drinks. These sellers were all independent of the railway company, boarding at one station, working through the train and alighting at the next, presumably to make the return journey. We bought some tasty cassava chips and cold drinks from one and enjoyed our little on-board snack.
Talking of the stations, there too there was plenty to observe and photograph, whether at the sleepy countryside ones like the one where I spotted a solitary man taking a drink from a water fountain (photo 4) or the bustling ones in towns full of life and colour.
Do consider a journey like this if you get the chance. Travelling second class the train wasn’t the most comfortable I’ve ever been in (the seats were hard and the plastic covering very sticky in that heat) but what it lacks in comfort it makes up for in interest and in photo opportunities.
Got on to that site and it was much easier to understand. Do I then have to go to the indian rail site to book, and do I have to book singles each way or can I book return journeys... Did not see that option.
Is there a big difference between First Class A/c and First Class etc. On the booking form you have to book an upper or lower berth... Do you still sit on long 'benchs' in First Class or is there an 'armchair' type seating... Just looking for max comfort for the long journey. Looking forward to the views and scenery.
Most of the small travel agencys on the main street in Palolem village will book you a train elswhere for a small commision.
When we left Palolem we took a taxi to Cancona train station, which is a rural village set back from the beach. We had purchased our ticket through an agency in Palolem village.
Check out my Mumbai transportation tip on how to buy a ticket down here. The journey from Mumbai took us around 12 - 14 hours, and we got off of the train in Madgaon. Luckily there were stacks of other backpackers and we shared a cab down to Palolem, usually there are buses but they were on strike when we arrived (we thought they were bluffing but it was true!). There are alson trains on the local line to Cancona.
When we left Cancona we went south to Kochi (Ernakulum station) and this journey if I remember correctly was slightly longer than the one from Mumbai.
The superlatives keep on coming with the Konkan railway. The Indian government undertaking (I never understand why they use that word - it sounds so negative), is considered to be breathtaking example of Indian Engineering and organisational skill.
It cuts through mountain ranges and bridges hundreds of rivers, and all built within about seven years. A prime example of a 'can-do' mentality.
As a tourist, this means that you get access to very good connections up to Bombat (mumbai) and down to the Kerala coast. As always on Indian railways the red-tape involved in booking still casts its shadow over the experience.
Travelling by train to Goa IMO is the best way to travel and see more places. Make sure you take the day train and not the night train. Lots of places to see on the way. It looks fabulous after the rains have fallen. Lots of greenery, rivers valleys, waterfalls. Its also the cheapest form and you can stretch your legs instead of getting cramped unlike the bus. Also lots of local food to sample on the way. The special being BATATA WADAS which are potatoes cooked indian style and deep fried in a batter. Also plenty of of fruits like gauva, mango, tamarind and fresh cucumbers with salt and chilli. YUM.
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