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India Rail Holidays

India, land of contrasts and extremes. Where gleaming modern cities sit alongside crumbling ancient forts. A country which has absorbed the influences of many others over the centuries but still maintains a unique character that, once experienced, is never forgotten.

Above all, India is a feast for the senses with vibrant colours, a sometimes frenetic atmosphere and sights and sounds unlike anywhere else in the world.

That's why we have put together a programme of tours that can introduce you to many aspects of this incredible country. Perhaps you've always wanted to see the dome of the Taj Mahal turned golden by the evening light. This is just one of the experiences to savour on our Highlights of India, Mumbai and the Golden Triangle Tour. Or maybe the southern state of Kerala is somewhere that you've always wanted to experience for yourself, in which case this may be the tour for you.

 

 

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It seems especially fitting to offer railway holidays in a country where this form of transport has proved to be so vital over the years. Ever since the 1830s, the railways have helped to open up the vast country and you can still travel along many historic routes today. These include the narrow-gauge Toy Train to the hill town of Shimla as well as the far grander Maharaja's Express that can whisk you in some style from Delhi to Mumbai.

Our Guide to India

About India

The facts about India are almost as incredible as the country itself. Covering nearly 1.3 million square miles in total, it's the seventh largest by area in the world but with the second highest population at around 1.3 billion people. You'll also find that there are an estimated 447 different languages spoken across the country. But don't worry, English is the official language - a welcome relic, for some of us at least, from the country's colonial past.

The days of empire with croquet on the lawn, afternoon tea on the veranda and kedgeree for breakfast may well be long-forgotten. But in many places you will still see other influences that the British occupation left behind. For example, on tours that also involve coach travel you'll notice that the country is one that also drives on the left.

You'll also find countless other kinds of history wherever you travel across the Indian sub-continent from medieval temples to mosques and minarets constructed in the 16th century when the country was predominantly Muslim, compared with the prevalence of Hinduism of today.

In the cities you will also see the great coming together of the ancient and the modern. In the capital, New Delhi, this is certainly the case whose tree-lined boulevards may be very different from what you imagine the city to be in your mind's eye.

Naturally, there is also magnificent wildlife to be sought out and savoured. This may be in the world-famous Ranthanbore National Park, 81 miles from Jaipur, where tigers still roam in the wild or even in the Chitwan National Park in Nepal, a world heritage site and home to the increasingly rare Indian rhino.

This is just one of the breath-taking places that you'll visit on our Grand Tour of India, Nepal and the Himalayas along with Kathmandu, made famous by the 1960s "hippy trail".

Elsewhere in the country, you'll find great diversity, whether you're exploring the Portuguese influences in Kerala and cruising through its scenic backwaters on a traditional kettuvallam, or houseboat, or ascending one of the world's steepest railway lines taking you up through the tea plantations of Nilgiri.

It all adds up to a holiday experience that will stay with you forever. And at Great Rail Journeys we will make sure that it is everything that you hope it will be and more.

Above all, we want to make sure that you feel safe and relaxed while surrounded by a culture that may be very different to the one that we are accustomed to in the UK. We also aim to make sure that you are travelling with like-minded companions who want to explore everything this captivating country has to offer.

The enjoyment of the rich tapestry of history and culture that awaits the visitor to India is also enhanced by having knowledgeable and informative guides, whether you're visiting the wonders of Agra or Amritsar's legendary Golden Temple. So all of our accompanied excursions include this service.

Experiencing the traditional cuisine of India is another element that will make the holiday a memorable one. On some days you may be enjoying silver service treatment on board trains like the Maharajah's Express. At other times there will be lavish restaurant meals of five-star hotels like the Taj Bengal Hotel, Kolkata or the Taj Malabar Resort and Spa in Kochi.

On other days you may be left free to explore the local dining scene for yourself or to follow your Tour Manager's recommendations.

In fact, your Tour Manager will play an important role throughout your holiday offering exactly the level of support you need.

You can also be sure that we have taken great care to choose the perfect accommodation on all of our tours of India with four-star service as a minimum and many hotels achieving five stars. We also have long-established relationships with the hotels in question so any special requests you may have can generally be accommodated.

Sights to See
Taj Mahal, Agra

The Taj Mahal, Agra

Perfectly framed by its immaculate gardens in the city of Agra, the iconic Taj Mahal is a sublime vision in polished white marble, with a sentimental history almost as captivating as the structure itself.

Amber Fort, Jaipur

Amber Fort, Jaipur

A short distance from the pink city walls of Jaipur lies the golden-hued Amber Fort, an extensive palace complex in the 16th century and now a well-deserved UNESCO site.

Ranthambore National Park

Ranthambore National Park

One of the best places in the world to spot wild tigers, lucky visitors to Ranthambore National Park can spy the elusive Bengal tiger basking in the sun or sauntering through the wilderness.

Culture

Indian culture is widely known, yet little understood. Obviously for such a large country, there will be diversity as you travel from province to province but there are still few key factors to bear in mind.

Traditions

Often-times in India, traditions are honoured through age-old festivals and holy days. Holi is the country's festival of colour, and is one of the biggest events in the calendar for Hindus.  Diwali is marked in late autumn on the night of a new moon, and is the Hindu festival of light. 

Haggling in India

Indian markets have a thriving bargaining culture which is not just accepted, but welcomed. When negotiating with a street merchant never accept the first price you are offered, which could be ten or even twenty times the price they will settle for.

Key Facts of India

  • Language - Hindi
  • Currency - Rupee (INR)
  • Visa Requirement - Yes
  • Time zone - +5 hours 30mins
  • Flight Time - 8.5 hours approx
  • Vaccinations needed - Yes
  • Climate - Tropical/Humid
  • Tipping - Yes
  • Best time to visit - October to March
Currency and money

The Indian Rupee is the official currency and one rupee is worth a little over 1p in sterling. As a closed currency, you can't take in any rupees to the country, or leave with any either.

US Dollars are also widely accepted in the country, particularly in the cities, so it's a good idea to take plenty of these to exchange when you're there, or simply to use as currency.

Visa and Mastercard are both widely accepted in India and there are also plenty of ATMs, including in many hotels. It's worth noting, however, that using credit cards in shops can attract transaction charges of between 2% and 4%.

Dollar traveller's cheques can also be cashed at all major banks, exchange bureaus and airports. You may also be able to use them at some shops providing that you also present your passport.

When buying food or drink, tipping is expected, but not compulsory. The standard amount is 10% of the total bill. For taxi drivers 100 rupees is generally considered to be about the appropriate amount per journey.

When shopping in markets and smaller shops, bargaining is very much expected. So be prepared to haggle if you don't want to risk offending the owner. But in more up-market outlets, it's very much a case of paying the advertised prices.

Food and eating out

In the UK we may all think that we know all about Indian food and, although chicken tikka masala may be our favourite Indian curry, it's fairly different from the sorts of dishes that you'll find being served. Like many countries, there are certain regional flavours and ingredients and here are just a few of them.

Northern India

The cuisine of Northern India is perhaps the closest to that which we enjoy in the UK. It uses many dairy products including milk, paneer cheese and ghee as well as the yoghurt that forms the base of sauces like the mild korma. In fact, hot and spicy curries hardly feature at all in this part of the country. There's also extensive use of the tandoor clay ovens that are used for everything from roasting chickens to baking naan bread.

Western India

The combination of geographical position of Western India and its Portuguese occupation dating back to the 16th century means that there is a crossover between the two country's cuisines. Pork and beef feature more than in other parts of the country - and so does vinegar, a key ingredient in the vindaloo. It's also a region very well known for its fruit and vegetable chutneys.

Southern India

While many people associate fish curries with coconut-based sauces as being typical of southern India, this isn't strictly accurate. That's because the curries from this region tend to be of the drier kind and generally they're vegetarian too. But one southern Indian speciality that most of us will know about is the poppadum.

Some Indian specialities to look out for:

Dal Makhani: a classic Northern Indian vegetarian curry that combines lentils cooked in a creamy sauce of tomatoes, onions, mango powder, and garam masala.

Pani puri: a classic Mumbai street food, pani puri are flat breads that puff up impressively when fried and which are then filled with a mixture of chickpeas, potatoes, onions, chutney and spices.

Dosas: these are large, wafer-thin and crepe-like rice pancakes that are usually filled with vegetables, chutneys, or masala curries. Utthapams are similar but thicker with the filling spread on top like a pizza.

Rasgulla: Indian desserts tend to take sweetness to a whole new level, and rasgulla is no exception. It consists of semolina and cheese curd balls that have been boiled in a light sugar syrup.

Holiday ideas for India

Taj Mahal, Agra
Booking Offer
4.7 stars(15 reviews)
2023FebMarAprSepOct...
2024JanFebMarAprSep...
14 days from
£1,995 pp £1,895 pp
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Tigers, the Taj Mahal and Mumbai
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2023FebAprSepOctNov
2024JanFebMarSepOctNov
11 days from
£1,695 pp £1,595 pp
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Darjeeling & the Last Himalayan Kingdom
Booking Offer
2023MarOctNov
2024FebMarOctNov
16 days from
£3,795 pp £3,695 pp
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Kerala & Exoctic Southern India
Booking Offer
2023FebOctNov
2024JanFebOctNov
16 days from
£2,295 pp £2,195 pp
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Grand Tour of India & Nepal
Booking Offer
4.4 stars(18 reviews)
2023FebAprOctNov
2024JanFebMarOctNov
18 days from
£3,245 pp £3,145 pp
View Details
India's Palace on Wheels
Booking Offer
4.3 stars(19 reviews)
2023FebOctNov
2024FebMarApr
14 days from
£5,395 pp £5,295 pp
View Details

13 results matching: India

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Taj Mahal, Agra
Booking Offer
4.7 stars(15 reviews)
2023FebMarAprSepOct...
2024JanFebMarAprSep...
14 days from
£1,995 pp £1,895 pp
View Details
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  • Starts / EndsLondon Heathrow
  • AccommodationHotel
  • TransportFlight, Rail, Coach
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Tigers, the Taj Mahal and Mumbai
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2023FebAprSepOctNov
2024JanFebMarSepOctNov
11 days from
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View Details
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11 days from
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£1,595
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  • DestinationIndia
  • Starts / EndsLondon Heathrow
  • AccommodationHotel
  • TransportFlight, Rail
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Darjeeling & the Last Himalayan Kingdom
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2023MarOctNov
2024FebMarOctNov
16 days from
£3,795 pp £3,695 pp
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16 days from
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£3,695
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  • DestinationBhutan, India
  • Starts / EndsLondon Heathrow
  • AccommodationHotel
  • TransportFlight, Rail, Coach
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Kerala & Exoctic Southern India
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4.5 stars(8 reviews)
2023FebOctNov
2024JanFebOctNov
16 days from
£2,295 pp £2,195 pp
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16 days from
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£2,195
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  • DestinationIndia
  • Starts / EndsLondon Heathrow
  • AccommodationHotel
  • TransportFlight, Rail
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Grand Tour of India & Nepal
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4.4 stars(18 reviews)
2023FebAprOctNov
2024JanFebMarOctNov
18 days from
£3,245 pp £3,145 pp
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18 days from
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£3,145
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  • DestinationIndia, Nepal
  • Starts / EndsLondon Heathrow
  • AccommodationHotel
  • TransportFlight, Rail, Coach
Map and accommodation
India's Palace on Wheels
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4.3 stars(19 reviews)
2023FebOctNov
2024FebMarApr
14 days from
£5,395 pp £5,295 pp
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Booking Offer
14 days from
£5,395
£5,295
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  • DestinationIndia
  • Starts / EndsLondon Heathrow
  • AccommodationRail, Hotel
  • TransportFlight, Rail, Coach
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10 days from
£1,795
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  • DestinationIndia
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10 days from
£1,825
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11 days from
£4,795
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  • DestinationIndia
  • AccommodationHotel
  • TransportRail, Coach
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tour map
  • DestinationIndia
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Our customers love our India tours
India’s Golden Triangle, Tigers and Shimla
3/Nov
M Royle
5 stars
“Excellent trip.
Collected by Trustpilot
Discover Southern India and Kerala
24/Oct
Jan Fereday Smith
5 stars
“A fantastic and full on tour. A well organised and enjoyable tour with nice hotels by coach and rail..
Collected by Trustpilot
Ultimate Rajasthan and the Palace on Wheels
21 Dec 2018
Mrs A Liggett
5 stars
“The tour was absolutely excellent. The accommodation, the restaurants chosen, the itinerary, were all superb as were the guides everywhere.
Collected by Great Rail Journeys
India's Golden Triangle and Tiger Safari
29 Dec 2019
Mr T Beddows
4 stars
“Over all the holiday was excellent but felt it was a bit full on with no rest period especially at the beginning of the tour,and was not keen on having to be at the restaurant for evening meals so early after a day of touring,sometimes only an hour left from getting back to the hotel and then rushing down to the restaurant
Collected by Great Rail Journeys
Grand Tour of India, Nepal and the Himalayas
24 Apr 2019
Mr D Wakeling
4 stars
“It was a superb trip - India is a fabulous country could never disappoint, Nepal is also a great place to visit. However, a crammed itinerary with long coach journeys, long train journeys and many internal flights - not much time to catch your breath! I think the Itinerary needs to cut down on coach time in Nepal - an internal flight would help. Also, the long dirty train journey into Varanasi was unnecessary when there's a high speed alternative! Travellers to Kathmandu need to be aware how dusty the city is and the need for nose and mouth masks. Loved the extension to Kerala for a much needed rest! All in all a brilliant trip.
Collected by Great Rail Journeys
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