Travel to DHR by Rail
Gone are the days when one boarded the steam-hauled “Darjeeling Mail” in Sealdah Station (Calcutta) and travelled north, overnight, through what is now Bangladesh to reach the station of Siliguri Town. Then, after breakfast, one would board the little DHR train to Darjeeling itself.
Still, assuming you wish to avoid the dangers of the road system, there are two choices: rail (see below) or air. The first step is to get to New Jalpaiguri (for Siliguri) at the foot of the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway. Siliguri is the gateway to Assam and the other North East states of India, as well as Sikkim and Bhutan.
Advice for first-time Indian Railways passengers
India’s rail system is the second largest in the World and trains are in great demand. You are advised to pre-book rail tickets well in advance or purchase the Indrail Pass available to foreign tourists. This ticket allows you to make advance reservations before leaving your home country. Reservations are mandatory for sleeping accommodation in most overnight trains and it is essential to confirm these in advance if you are on a tight schedule. If your plans change, the Indrail Pass will allow you to access the ‘Foreign Tourist Quota’ on trains and this will often deliver berths when the train is, to all intents and purposes, full.
Most long distance trains have some air-conditioned coaches with at least 2-tier (2AC) or 3-tier (3AC) reserved sleeping accommodation in the form of pull-down bunks, which convert to seats during the day. Hawkers will tour the train with food whilst ‘chai wallahs’ (tea vendors) appear at every station. However, it is wise to equip yourself with enough bottled mineral water for the journey – but check that the tops are sealed to ensure you are not buying tap water!
The fastest prestigious trains are the Shatabdi (all-seated day trains) or Rajdhani (overnight) services which also include First Class air-conditioned accommodation. These services, in all classes, have meals included in the fare.
Trains to New Jalpaiguri
There are trains to New Jalpaiguri from all over India, not necessarily on a daily basis – including a weekly train (12507 / 12516) from Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) which takes 53 hours.
From Kolkata the main trains are the ‘Darjeeling Mail’ night service (12343 / 12344) (daily) and the ‘Shatabdi’ day service (12041 / 12042) (not Sundays).
From New Delhi the principal train is the ‘Rajdhani’ overnight service (daily) (12424 / 12423).