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Top 4 Luxury Train Rides In India: What Are They Like and What Do They Cost?

With the fourth largest railway network in the world, Indian Railways is a great option for tourists. Here, we explore the most luxurious train rides in the country for the aspiring travellers.

In addition to the regular rail options, Indian Railways and State Tourism Boards also operate some really spectacular luxury train rides that are nothing short of boutique hotels on wheels. If you are a discerning traveler who wants to travel in style and luxury while exploring the great experiences that India has to offer, these rides are for you. And it goes without saying, that one needs really deep pockets for getting on one of these rides! So, we took a look at the top 4 luxury train rides in India, the areas which they cover and how much they actually cost.

The Best Train To Cover Rajasthan In Unlimited Luxury: Maharajas’ Express

Maharaja's Express train ride in India

The Maharajas’ Express operates four different tours from September to April. The main regions their tours cover are the Western Indian state of Rajasthan and a few Northern Indian cities of New Delhi, Agra, Jhansi and Varanasi. While 3 of these tours last for 7 days, one of them is slightly shorter at 4 days. Based on the accommodation and the tour, the prices start from INR 4,25,900 and can go all the way up to INR 16,87,920 per person, per journey.

Maharajas' Express Packages for Adults Season 2019-20 & 2020-21 (INR)

JourneysDeluxe CabinJunior SuiteSuitePresidential Suite
The Indian Splendour (7 Days/ 6 Nights)4,25,9006,73,7509,82,84016,87,920
The Heritage of India (7 Days/ 6 Nights)4,51,5407,04,3709,82,84016,87,920
The Indian Panorama (7 Days/ 6 Nights)4,25,9006,73,7509,82,84016,87,920
Treasures of India (4 Days/ 3 Nights)2,74,2003,52,5405,41,2809,18,740

The Maharajas’ Express’s highlights include Jaipur,the capital of the state of Rajasthan, Ranthambore’s imposing fortress as well as its Wildlife Sanctuary, Fatehpur Sikri, the deserted city that was once the capital of the Mughal Empire and the Taj Mahal. Making a pleasant change from the dry and dusty cities of Rajasthan is Udaipur - also known as the city of lakes. You can indulge in its cultural scene, explore its palaces and visit its beautiful lakes. Finally, you round off your trip by witnessing the evening worship of the holy Ganga river at the sacred city of Varanasi.

All the stops on this train include local sightseeing tours with guides. A spa facility is also included.

The Best Budget Luxury Train to Cover Rajasthan: Palace On Wheels

Palace On Wheels train ride in India

The Palace on Wheels also covers the state of Rajasthan and pretty much the same destinations as the Maharajas Express. It also operates during the months of September to April. But unlike the Maharajas’ Express, the Palace on Wheels runs only one tour.The prices here are low in the months of September and April which are considered lean seasons. October to March are considered peak seasons and prices are higher. Depending on the season and accommodation the prices can start from as low as INR 2,10,000 and go all the way upto INR 7,56,000 per person per trip.

Palace on Wheels Tariffs for Season 2019-20 & 2020-21 (INR)

Cabin TypePer Person Per NightTotal Cost (7N/8D)
Peak Season-Deluxe Cabin, Single OccupancyRs 51,900Rs 3,63,300
Peak Season-Deluxe Cabin, Double OccupancyRs 39,000Rs 2,73,000
Peak Season-Super Deluxe Cabin, Single OccupancyRs 1,08,000Rs 7,56,000
Peak Season-Super Deluxe Cabin, Double OccupancyRs 54,000Rs 3,78,000
Lean Season-Deluxe Cabin, Single OccupancyRs 39,000Rs 2,73,000
Lean Season-Deluxe Cabin, Double OccupancyRs 30,000Rs 2,10,000
Lean Season-Super Deluxe Cabin, Single OccupancyRs.1,08,000Rs.7,56,000
Lean Season-Super Deluxe Cabin, Double OccupancyRs.54,000Rs 3,78,000

While both Maharajas and the Palace on Wheels trains cover the same destinations, the Palace on Wheels can be considered as the budget luxury option. The prices for the Maharajas are roughly double that of Palace on Wheels.

Of course, the flip side of this reduced price is that a lot of options which are included as a part of the tour in the Maharajas Express are provided as pay-and-consume extras in the Palace on Wheels. For instance, certain monuments charge the tourists for carrying video cameras. In Maharajas, you don’t have to pay for it. The tour ticket price includes it. But if you are travelling in the Palace on Wheels, you need to buy a video camera ticket as an extra.

The Best Luxury Train to Explore the Deccan Plateau: Deccan Odyssey

Deccan Odyssey train ride in India

Deccan plateau covers parts of western, central and southern India and these are the places where the Deccan Odyssey takes you. For sheer variety, this train gives the best options to a traveller. The routes cover culture, wildlife sanctuaries, ancient temples, historical fortress towns and even modern cities with awesome shopping and urban sightseeing. Its prices start from INR 4,27,000 and can go up to INR 9,24,700 per person per journey.

Deccan Odyssey Tariffs for Season 2019-20 (INR)

Per Cabin Price for 7 Nights / 8 DaysPrice in INR
Deluxe Cabin-Single OccupancyRs. 4,27,000
Deluxe Cabin-Twin/Double OccupancyRs. 6,12,500
Deluxe Cabin-02 Children (in a separate Cabin)Rs. 4,59,550
Presidential Suite-Single occupancyRs. 9,24,700
Presidential Suite-Twin/Double OccupancyRs. 9,24,700
Presidential Suite-02 Children (in a separate Cabin)Rs. 4,59,550

While some of the cities of the state of Rajasthan are also covered by the Deccan Odyssey, the real highlight of this train are the cities in the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Karnataka. You start off with the rock cut temples of Ajanta and Ellora with their mesmerizing sculptures and beautiful cave paintings. You can then enjoy shopping for traditional handmade footwear in the town of Kolhapur. From Kolhapur, you can go on a wildlife spotting adventure at Ramtek and Tadoba reserve forests. The chilled out state of Goa then welcomes you with its beautiful beaches, churches, spice plantation tours and delicious seafood. Aihole, Badami and Pattadakal give you a glimpse of the ancient Indian sculptors’ skills with their beautiful temples. You can then explore the glories of a bygone era in Hampi with its palaces, monuments and museums.

Besides their main tour, the Deccan Odyssey also provides a separate tour called "the Hidden Secrets of Gujarat" for those who only want to explore Gujarat and do not want to explore the other highlights of the Deccan plateau. This tour starts from Vadodara, the cultural capital of Gujarat, where you can really get to know the culture of the state through its various museums, palaces and folk dance performances. Afterwards, you can go on a jungle adventure chasing after the Asiatic Lions in the Sasan Gir wildlife sanctuary. Little Rann of Kutch then welcomes you with a unique and offbeat experience as it is a vast salt desert. At the end, you are treated to a village safari where you can explore the way of life of the hardy folk who live in this harsh place.

The Best Luxury Train To Explore South India: The Golden Chariot

Golden Chariot train ride in India

The Golden Chariot is a great option for those who are looking to explore South India. South India has its own unique cultural scene and this train lets you catch all these different experiences in style. To cater to the different experiences that tourists look for, the Golden Chariot operates two tours. Highlights of these tours are the famous South Indian temples, some really beautiful beaches, backwaters and some fantastic wildlife sanctuaries. The prices can range from INR 1,26,000 to INR 2,59,000 per person per tour. While the packages and routes for 2019-2020 season have not yet been announced, we can generate a list of fares and sites covered based on past tours.

Golden Chariot Tariffs for Season 2018-19 (INR)

Per Cabin Cost for 7 NightsPride of South TourSouthern Splendor Tour
Occupancy TypeNumber of PersonsForeign PassportIndian NationalsForeign PassportIndian Nationals
On Single OccupancyOneRs.3,85,000Rs.2,45,000Rs.4,34,000Rs.2,59,000
On Double OccupancyTwoRs.6,30,000Rs.3,50,000Rs.6,58,000Rs.3,78,000
On Triple OccupancyThreeRs.6,30,000Rs.3,78,000Rs.8,40,000Rs.4,20,000

While some of the sites are common to the Deccan Odyssey, the Golden Chariot takes you to many offbeat and unique places as well. For example, your journey starts from Mysore, the cultural capital of Karnataka and its famous palaces, art galleries and a fantastic zoo. The town of Shravanabelagola then welcomes you with its statue of the Jain monk Gommateshwara, the largest monolithic statue in the world. Mahabalipuram awaits you with its rock cut temples built in the form of chariots. Next up is Thanjavur which is the home to the massive Brihadeeswara temple. You can also explore the cultural highlights of Thanjavur which include the beautiful bronze and copper sculptures and the Thanjavur style of painting.

Kanyakumari is next on the list and it is the southernmost point of peninsular India. Do not miss the sunrise and sunset at the town of Kanyakumari as it happens at the meeting point of three oceans. The town itself is named after the beautiful Kanyakumari temple. The state of Kerala then welcomes you with its beaches and backwaters. You start with a visit to the state capital of Trivandrum which has a massive temple dedicated to Lord Padmanabha. There are also cultural shows which are organised as part of the tour and these include dance, music and demonstrations of the traditional Keralite martial art form of Kalaripayattu.

Getting There:

All of these trains start and end at prominent cities like New Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore. So we are including the approximate economy class air fares to these cities from other prominent cities in India.

From\ToNew DelhiMumbaiBangaloreChennaiKolkata
New DelhiINR 3,000INR 4,000INR 5,000INR 3,000
MumbaiINR 3,000INR 2,500INR 3,000INR 3,500
BangaloreINR 4,000INR 2,500INR 1,500INR 4,000
ChennaiINR 4,500INR 3,000INR 1,500INR 4,500
KolkataINR 3,500INR 4,500INR 4,500INR 5,000

Few Tips To Save On Train Tours:

For those of you who want to be able to afford these luxurious experiences a bit more easily, we've prepared some tips below to help:

  • Book your travel during the lean seasons, as these tickets could cost about 25% cheaper. In general, lean season is during the months of September and April.
  • Always check out the official website of these trains while booking as they often have seasonal discounts and offers. For example, Deccan Odyssey often has a “Travel for 7 days and pay for only 5 days” discount going. This easily translates to about 15-20 % savings.
  • Book your tour with a credit card with rewards on railway bookings. For example, cards like IRCTC SBI Platinum Credit Card provides 4-10 % of your bookings as reward points.
  • If you are travelling in a group of ten or more members, ask for group packages. These are often cheaper and allow a little more flexibility in sightseeing options.
  • When you go shopping, try and get your guide to accompany you. They will often know the local specialties and will be able to get you good deals on souvenirs and handicrafts.
  • If you are looking to visit Rajasthan and outstanding luxury is not a must have for you, then go for The Palace on Wheels rather than the Maharajas’ Express. As we mentioned earlier, the Maharajas’ Express is roughly twice as expensive as the Palace On Wheels.

Footnotes

All these prices are not inclusive of taxes. Also, these prices are valid for the year 2019. The prices are revised every year. All tours include stay on board the train, food and local sightseeing with guides. Some trains have different tariffs for Indian and Foreign travellers. The departments which operate these tours often provide extra services or sightseeing options at very reasonable rates. Smart travellers can definitely get a few customised experiences which can make their journey even more special.

Duckju Kang

Duckju is the CEO of ValueChampion. He covers the financial services industry, consumer finance products, budgeting, and investing. He previously worked in the financial services industry, including at such hedge funds such as Tiger Asia and Cadian Capital.