This is the main train station (Varanasi Junction) in Varanasi. I came here from Allahabad on train No.2562 which left Allahabad at 06:05 and arrived in Varanasi at 08:45. I reserved my onward train to Gaya (in Bihar) in order to visit Bodhgaya from a Foreign Tourist Bureau which is located near the front entrance on the left.
I booked a boat trip at sunrise on the Ganges from my hotel for Rs150 which included transportation to/from the hotel (Surya), the boat trip itself and a guide who took us to a couple of temples such as the New Vishwanath Temple. We were first taken from our hotel through the maze of small streets that were deadly quiet at 6am to the ghats along the Ganges. Our driver told us that many people get up at 4.30am in order to bathe at daybreak and then go back home to do other things before having breakfast at 9am. We met up with our guide who took us down to out boat at the Kedar Ghat where our rower/guide met us. There were loads of other tourist around in similar boats taking pictures of men bathing. We made our way along the river as the sun was coming up and it was one of the most memorable and unique experiences on my India trip. We passed by different ghat with temples and palaces built on them. We finished at the burning Manikarnika Ghat which is where they cremate the dead in full public view. Our rower rowed us back to the Kedra Ghat and along the way back we saw Dhobi Wallahs (washermen) washing clothes in the river. The whole boat tour lasted about an hour or so and is a most do thing when you're here.
SpiceJet is one of the airlines serving Varanasi from Delhi. And SpiceJet is also on of the only indian low cost carriers that you can book only and pay with a non-indian credit card. We flew from Varanasi to Delhi for just Rs 0.99! Including Fees it was 1225.99.
Airport: Very small and very bad organized. You have to scan all your luggage before checking in, but the scanners are just somewhere in the middle of the room. Everything in that airport is very confusing....
It was a good and exciting idea to go to Varanasi from Delhi on road (train and taxi) stopping at Agra, Gwalior, Khajuraho and all at all the places of our interest but I was not willing to make the return trip to Delhi on road (or rail) as well. The conditions in the state of Uttar Pradesh can be very depressing after a time.
The good news is that you don't have to. Low-budget airlines (e.g.: Spicejet or Kingfisher) have flights from Varanasi to Delhi. If you make your reservation early and stick to the low-budget airlines (not Jet Airways or Indian Airlines) they are a real bargain. I paid less than 5.000.- Rs (for 2 persons incl. taxes!) for the one-way flight from Varanasi to Delhi. The more than 850km journey on road lasts only 90 or 100 minutes by air.
You're encouraged to make half of your trip (onward or outward) by flying, the other half on road (so you can stop at places of interest on the way).
The best way to see the Ganges and Ghats is a road ride just before sunrise. If you are wishing to take a boat ride independently of any group, you would be best to ask a few different boatmen. Some will be willing to negotiate a lower price, some will just go for the jugular trying to extract a much as they can while an odd one will even allow you to pay what you consider reasonable at the end of the trip. Most tourists take their boat rides from Dasawamedh Ghat. There is a ferry crossing which costs just a few rupees and will take you to the east side of the Ganges.
Getting around Varanasi can be a hair raising experience with traffic traveling up either side of the road. There are cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws which can be hired at a fixed fare and are probably the easiest way to get around. These however are not allowed inside the old narrow lanes of the city but they can drop you at Godaulia in the city’s centre or at the Dashashwamedha Ghat. As with any of these local means of transport, always agree on a fare beforehand.
The Babatpur airport for Varanasi is around 22 Kms from the city. Several Indian Airline flights provide shuttle services between Varanasi, Agra, Khajuraho and Delhi. Some flights also come via Mumbai, Calcuttta and Lucknow.
Varanasi is a major railway junction for the Cant railway which connects to major cities in India.
If you are traveling by road then you will find a good network of roads which travel good roads to the major towns both of Uttar Pradesh and other major cities in India.
My plan was going on from Varansi to Nepal. I wanted to save some time and I read that there is a dirct fight connection for some 74 USD and that you even get some 20% off if you are younger than 30.....that was the theory.
In REALITY I found out, that flights are restricted to main season, which was still some weeks ahead, plus prices have changed to 165 USD. Well, the time was what I could not waste, so I had to think about the other way:
I took the train to Gorakhpur over night (sleeper was 87 Rs), jumped on a bus to the bordertown, walked over the border, jumped in a shared taxi and went all the way to Kathmandu in a complete 23h ride....
Of course there were the typical transportation experiences like my seat broke down, everything was was over-crowded, the shared taxi ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere and so on.......but hell yeah, I made it!
Travel books warned of cyclo/taxi drivers refusing to pick up passengers from the train station to their respective choice of accomodation UNLESS the passengers agree to the driver's choice of hotels etc...
Just walk out to the main road from the train station and try to hail for drivers from the road. Most will conspire with the drivers who gather in the train station. However, you may find some independent ones whom will agree to drive. Be warned though, as these drivers are limited, more likely than not, you would need to share the same transportation with the rests of your gang.
We did and there's 4 of us altogether... A great experience... harrowing but fun!
Tut-Tut or Cyclos
This is a modified motorbike with a covered "carriage" for passengers.... similar to the Tut Tuts in Thailand and Cyclos in Vietnam
They may look flimsy and weak to us but are literally their version of 4-wheel-drive/SUV!
As most drivers work independently, they would try to squeeze as many passengers as possible. Our limit is, 4 adults with an assortment of backpacks and duffels.
One way to save costs tho!
the streets in and around varanasi are CHAOTIC!!!
Everything under the sky can be found here, be it human, cars, trucks, bicycles, motors, trickshaws, animals, street vendors etc...
Crossing the roads as well as walkin along is a big challenge... imagine being rammed into by a cow just because you're in its way.. haha.. happened to me! :P
Varanasi RS is the one I need. The distance between the ghats and railway station is 30-40Rs of rickshaw. If I were to buy the ticket myself, I need to pay 70-80Rs plus queueing. Therefore I paid the hotel 75Rs service fee for them to settle everything, and I got my train ticket the next day. Picture is the Varanasi RS.
Get to Sarnath cost 120Rs return by autorickshaw. Never ask where to take autorickshaw, you only have to stand on the street in less than 10 seconds, at least 2, 3 or 4 guys would ask you for a ride. For Sarnath is about 10km, rickshaw is not a good choice, autorickshaw is probably the best and they will wait at Sarnath up to 4 hours to take you back to hotel for only 120Rs.
293Rs per ticket for second class sleeper non a/c. I saw a foreign couple ticket cost 1000+Rs in first class a/c same train with me. So if you don't want to meet too many local peoples, just buy the 1000+ ticket.
If you are in New Delhi, go to the ND Railway Station, walk up first floor to the International ticket bureau, fill up a form and queue. That's all you need to do. And if you are in Varanasi, better to pay 75Rs for your hotel to buy you the train ticket, because if you take autorickshaw to Railway Station, it cost you some 40Rs and another 40Rs come back, so better to let them do for you, and the ticket cost the same, 293Rs from Varanasi to New Delhi.
Toal time 20 hours but claimed 15 hours by railway guys. So you can always add 20% to what they told you and expect something bad.
No need to worry about foods on train, you can buy as many foods as you like on train, cost less than 10Rs while hot tea cost 5Rs per disposable cup.
If India were a person India Rail would be its circulatory system. This is how important it is. Most of India's rail network is from the period of British Colonial rule. Unfortunately some of it is definately that old.
The India Rail operate the fifth largest Rail network in the world (after USA, Russia, Canada and China) and connect all major tourist and business destinations across the length and breadth of the country. The Indian Railways operate nearly 7800 passenger services a day covering almost 63,000 kms. Everybody travels India rail, and it is India's largest employer.
The railways have one of the most efficient communication systems between 2 stations. The types of class available are 1st class, AC 2tier, AC 3tier, 2nd class sleeper & chair car. The 1st class being phased out being converted in to AC 2 tier/AC 3 tier (recently being introduced in some of the trains).
The 1st class is mainly for 6 persons in day and converted in to a cabin for 4 persons for night travel. The AC 2tier class is mostly recommended for comfortable travelling for long distances as movement of persons in the compartment other than reserved people is not permitted. Also you travel pollution free and bedding is provided at night from an attendant. However there are only 2-3 coaches of AC 2tier per train of 15-17 boggies, hence ticket availability is difficult if not booked well in advance. 2nd class sleeper is the cheapest and most common way of travelling in India in which 3 sleepers are provided for night travel. The chair car is the most comfortable way of travelling for shorter distances in daytime. E.g. Mumbai-Pune, Mumbai-Nasik, Mumbai-Ahmedabad.
The aproximate fare comparison is given below to give you an idea.SECTOR - MUMBAI - BANGALORE (KM-1210/750 Mile) (Aproximate)
AC First Class- Rs. 2800/- , AC 2-Tier Sleeper-Rs.1400/-, First Class-1000/-, AC 3-Tier Sleeper-900/-, 3tier Sleeper-300/-.