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Join Us for a 12,000km Circumnavigation of India

by Globetrooper Todd | 20 Responses
Circumnavigation of India

Want to do an epic Indian train marathon with a touch of style? Then join the Great Indian Circular Railway Challenge. All it costs is £200 (US$320) plus airfare and whatever you want to spend for a night in Darjeeling.

Start: Mumbai Cent. – 6pm, 18th Feb 2011
Finish: Mumbai VT – 8pm, 5th Mar 2011

In 15 days flat, we’ll cover over 12,000 km of track, and a further 500 km of road. Most of the rail is in the comfort of AC2, but you get to do a fair bit of SL and even some AC3.

Why is it so cheap? Why so many people? What’s the plan? Read on…

Why So Cheap?

Well, you don’t stop moving for a start; just 2 nights in a motionless bed. In order to achieve that, we cheat at several points and get the road back to the common railhead. In a group size of mid teens this works out a lot cheaper than doing it yourself. Also we will be sharing rooms every time we get off a train in order to scrub down. Again, if you do that on your own, the choice is to spend a packet on brief stops in hotels or stink the train out.

Indian Train

The busy morning train in New Delhi - Honza Soukup

Why So Many?

The group size is mid-teens (about 15) of which a third of who are female. There may be a few others, but at this stage, we’re only counting those who’ve paid for their IndRail pass. Some of the group have been doing India since the 70’s, some won’t have seen India till a few days before blast off. So we have a very diverse group of males, females, veterans and complete newbies. Unlike most group trips, in this case, we think the more the merrier. This isn’t a relaxing week on a beach, it’s an adventure race of truly epic proportions.

What’s the Plan?

  • Tiffin box full of Mumbai specialities (about £8-£10 extra including the top of the range tiffin box, which you will want for the trip)
  • 4 hours at the Dwarkanish temple at Dwarka including sunset (most western point)
  • 12 hours in Amritsar, including the Grand Trunk Road border at Wagah, and the Golden temple at night
  • 8 hours getting some mountain air in Udhampur (most northern point)
  • 6 hours absorbing Delhi
  • A whole day visiting Tipong colliery and other railway bits and pieces in deepest Assam. (most eastern point)
  • A ferry across the Brahmaputra
  • A ride on the Arunachal express
  • A night in a posh hotel of your choice in Darjeeling (worth splashing out on)
  • Steam train back to Ghum, (highest point)
  • Tram ride and morning in Kolkata (other end of the grand trunk road)
  • A couple of hours in Chennai, but that’s now all 4 of the great cities
  • An afternoon in Rameswaram and the Rama’s temple (most coastal, it’s actually an island)
  • Sunrise at Cape Kanyakumari (most southern point)
  • An afternoon with coffee in Trivandrum
  • A party back at Mumbai

The Great Indian Circular Railway Challenge Official T-Shirt & Itinerary

Full details of the route here:

Sign Me Up!

Firstly, this is the last call. If you’re interested, you must purchase your IndRail ticket now to ensure you have a seat on all of the requisite trains. For more information, contact Mark Lester at

Once you’re ready to jump aboard (needs to be ASAP for reasons aforementioned), you can buy your IndRail pass by contacting Shankar Dandapani at Just mention “The Great Circular Indian Railway Challenge”, and give your full name, passport number, nationality, and age. You’ll then need to ring Shankar with your credit card details and part with £128, plus some extra for postage if necessary. That gets you the rail ticket, and the all important berth reservations.

For the road sections, Mark is stumping up a deposit to nail the vehicles, as hawking them on the spot will be time consuming and possibly catastrophic.

Most importantly, DO NOT DELAY. Booking is underway, we’re just doing a last shout for anyone who might just happen to be in India at this time and fancy the adventure of a lifetime.


Featured image by Heather Buckley from Flickr’s Creative Commons

Posted in Adventure Travel, India | October 9th, 2010

20 Responses to Join Us for a 12,000km Circumnavigation of India

  1. I had seen this space the date it got published and was interested to join though I have some reservations as there is very little time allocated to some of the places to be seen.

    Nonetheless I wanted to mingle with the group. The problem is I am an Indian residing in India and I don’t think IndRail pass is applicable to me. In that condition is there a possibility of me joining the group?

    • Hi Nisha, Mark has been trying to work something out for those who can’t get an IndRail pass. I’ll get in touch with him and ask him to leave the details here.

      The rest of the itinerary is over at: On this page you can leave a message or question and the whole group can respond. We’d love to hear any words of advice :) Also, wed love if you could join; the more the merrier.

      I’ll send Mark a message now to ask about the IndRail ticket.

      All the best, todd

    • Hi Nisha,
      So on the first issue,. of why such a stupid trip itinerary. the group is essentially made up of 2 kinds of people. About half the group are generally middle aged blokes who have visited india half a dozen times or more, or who are actually Indian. As such we are all grown up and dont have much time on our hands, and would like something a bit different, or just so daft that their wives and family will let them do it without brining them along.
      The other half are generally people who have never even been to India, who see this as both a way to do a kind of crash course in India, and also do an epic train ride that will shut up anyone who wants to moan on about the trans-sib. You are right, you wont get much more than a blink anywhere we are at, but you do get to eat something in a completely different part of the country every day. And there are a few bits that you will get to at least spend a good few hours at, e.g. temples at Dwarka, amritsar & ramswaram, also wagah border, DHR, Kaniyakumari and a fw things in Assam. 6 hours in Kolkata can be enough for many people anyway ;).

      Right, as for the tickets. The best way to do this is to get a circular ticket. For that you’ll have to take the itinerary on the route page here
      and take it to your local station and brave the Indian Railways bureaucracy. Once you’ve got the ticket you then need to get the reservations worked out, which I think you’ll need to do on a daily basis once we get inside the 90 days. You should be able to do that on line.
      Are you in Mumbai and contemplating doing the whole gig ?.
      We really do want you on board. We have a couple of Indians but it is understandably very difficult for Indians to do, not just the money but the time, and of course the complication of getting the ticket. If you buy the tickets one by one it will cost way more than it’s costing us. The circular ticket should actually be cheaper than the indrail.
      If you are serious then please join IndiaMike and comment on the thread we have there
      where there are several people, on the trip and just following it, who know more about Indian railways than anyone you are otherwise likely to meet.


  2. We’re flying into Goa in Feb, so my husband might take this trip… while I sit on the beach with the baby. (Sounds like a fair trade-off to me).

    What’s the last possible date to sign up for stragglers?

    • Great to hear from you Christine; we’re big fans of AlmostFearless over here at GT HQ :) We’d love your husband to join us. I’ve contacted Mark (one of the train experts) to find out when the cut-off his. But since we uploaded this post, he hinted there’s probably more time than I originally eluded to. Give me a day or two and we’ll have more detailed info. Take care, Todd

    • Hi Christine,
      Well, the issue is the Indian Railways quota system, and when booking starts, which is 90 days before departure. The only easy way to get the seats booked for 18 trains is using an IndiRail pass, which we are all getting from the guy in London, We are issuing the booking requests next week, whereby we’ll go through a cycle with IR and the requests will be in place. So in that sense the deadline is right now.
      But you can actually get this sorted just weeks, even days, before we set off, but at that stage you are unlikely to get AC2 everywhere, and in the worst case you might end up on what’s called the waiting list, which means you have to wait till either people cancel, or the train turns up, to find out if you are on board. So if you are flying out just to do this, which the bulk of the people are doing, you need to be in operations mode now, not in January.
      You can also do the whole thing with what’s called a circular journey ticket, or CJT, but then you will have to get all the berths booked yourself, and generally be a black belt in handling Indian bureaucracy (even Indians squirm at the thought of getting a CJT) With an IndRail you just shove in your itinerary and your requests are waiting in an in tray. When the 90 days comes around they just open up the requests from the IndRailers (before they start taking requests from the online booking system or elsewhere) and make the reservations. You can still change your plans, but you get your initial route done for you lemon squeezy.
      If you do it by just buying each of the tickets independently, then apart from having a nervous breakdown trying to get all the tickets and the subsequent reservations worked out, it will cost about double what we are paying.
      So, the deadline is now, but not really. We’ve had literally scores of people claiming they were going to do it, but when it came to booking time all but the hard core bottled out. So I needed to get down to the real people. But if you are serious, and this does seem an ideal sub-project for your uber-project, then we can work something out. i.e I dont mind if we go through working this out for late arrivals, but it helps if you’ve got some massive blog to prove to me you arent just someone who likes dreaming and not doing.
      Have a think and a chat, and if you can talk him into doing it get back to me asap.


      • Ok I have a confirmed yes for my husband and his friend… should I just email this indirail guy to purchase tickets?

  3. Yes, call shankar, pronto. There’s a wee snag. he cant post to anywhere outside UK, Australia and Delhi without using a courier (he refuses to send them normal post). Todd and Lauren are constantly moving, so they’re trusting me to bring theirs to Mumbai. I’ll quite happily do that, there’s not just me so should I have some last minute issue or whatever I have 3 mates on the same flight. The only issue with that is if your lads are in Goa, and want to extend the pass to include their travel up from there, then me being in Mumbai isnt going to help.
    I’ll mail you directly and we’ll start working on this
    Welcome aboard!!

  4. Hello Christine

    I’m on this tour, but only just read your post.

    I see you’re taking a baby to Goa, have you done this before?

    The reason I ask, I have taken a 7-month old baby to Goa (and surrounds), she absolutely loved it, so if you have any worries or questions, just ask.

    Biggest problems faces, nappies (7 month is about the biggest you’ll get), heat (take a face cloth, wet and rinse out, put on baby’s head, regular suncream), formula milk (Indian formula milk can’t be stored, take some from home), showering baby (can’t get water in mouth, wash face cloth in bottled water, then have a tug of war with baby, face cloth in each of your mouths, baby will then keep cloth in mouth so you can shower him/her), nappy rash (if this happens, 10 minutes in the sea without a nappy each morning and evening gets rid of it), flights (no problem for baby), jetlag (no problem for baby), flight/airport taxes for baby (shoot all officials on sight)

    Best pluspoints, a closeness and bond with baby that is almost impossible to imagine in our hectic lifestyles back home.

    A few day’s spare….try Murudeshwar on Karnataka’s coast, easy to get to, a joy after Goa, and massive statues of Shiva that are wonderful for baby to see, but at night when those statues are lit up, it’s just awesome for us and baby.

  5. Great plan,
    I would love to try that train trip around India.
    I reckon it would be a wonderful holiday.
    Pity, I only came on this post now, Maybe I will try it next year

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