Palace on Wheels is a luxury train operated by Indian Railways and Rajasthan Tourism. Its been around for 30 years. The trip is organized with precision and every activity happens punctually on the dot. We took a trip on this fabulous train between April 4 & April 12, 2012. Information here will be of help to future tourists.
What is the duration of the trip ?
The journey starts on Wed evening at 4.30 PM and finishes the next Wed morning at 7.30 AM. Its a 7 night journey. And the itinerary consists of Jaipur – Ranthambore – Chiitorgarh , Udaipur, Jaisalmer , Jodhpur , Bharatpur & Agra.
Nights are spent on the Train. The days are used for sightseeing. On certain days we cover 2 cities – Ranathambore & Chittorgarh was covered in 1 day and so was Bharatpur & Agra.
What are the facilities in the Train ?
The Train is designed like a hotel. Each coach consists of 4 cabins – each cabin has two single beds ( few cabins also have a additional berth) – and an attached bath with western style toilet, shower , wash basin. There is limited storage space in the cabin (one small cupboard). The Coach also has a common lounge area. It has wall to wall carpets including the vestibule areas. Cabins have channel music.
Each Coach has two attendants – who are available 24 by 7. They keep the place spotlessly clean , change linen , serve you snacks , tea coffee and breakfast in the morning. They also collect laundry twice a week and return it within 24 hrs. These guys always have a smile on their face and their service is truly exceptional.
What are the other facilities on the train ?
They have two dining rooms ( where they serve a 5 course elaborate meal) , a Bar , and even a Spa. The quality of food and service is exceptional. The bar is a little pricey ( One drink can cost Rs 750) – so is the Spa (A foot massage can put you back by Rs 2500)
Is there TV in the Train ?
Yes – in the Bar. Not in every coach. During the journey you don’t miss the TV – and you realize that its good family bonding not to have a TV
How many people on each Train – and how many Indians ?
Our Train had 108 people – only 12 Indians ( We were only the Indian Citizens). Most people are elderly 50 + as this is mainly a visit attractions tour – not an action holiday.
How did they organize the day tours ?
At each station they had organized excellent AC buses. In total 4 buses. The 108 people were split into 4 groups. Bus rides were short – no longer than 20 – 25 minutes.
The coaches are excellent and provide unlimited water bottles from coolers. The buses are safe and you can leave your bags and misc items inside without worry. Ditto with the coach – there is no need to lock anything , you can be rest assured of safety.
Even on a sunny day ( we visited in the 1st week of April and temperatures in Jaisalmer were over 40 Degrees Centigrade) the tour guides plan the travel in a manner that you don’t spend more than 10 minutes in the heat. Rest of the time is within the forts , palaces , museums – or by the side of cool lakes & gardens.
Are the tours rushed and is there a deadline on time ?
No they are not – there is enough time to see all the places at leisure. The organizers take care of getting access thru special entrances , all the tickets are purchased before hand – so no Q’s.
Where is lunch provided ?
Most days lunch is in some fort , palace or a luxury 5 star hotel. You can relax for nearly 90 mins over a peaceful lunch with a fabulous spread.
All meals have a good mix of Continental and Indian dishes ( N Indian – don’t expect Sambar, Rasam & Curd Rice on this trip)
What is served for breakfast ?
Breakfast is served in the coach – Lounge area by the attendants. Mainly Toast , Omlette , Bhurji, Cereal , Masala tea , Coffee , Fruits – however on two days they serve Parathas & Idli.
What are the sights covered ? Which are the most impressive ones?
They cover all the major sights. Mainly palaces , Forts , Museums , Gardens. In terms of activity there is a Elephant ride in Amber Fort at Jaipur, Camel Rides in Jaisalmer , Van / Rickshaw rides in Ranathambore & Bharatpur, boat rides at Udaipur. They cover all the important and not so important sites.
At Chittorgarh you can see the light & sound show and at Jaisalmer they organize a cultural evening with dance and live programs and dinner in a 5 star hotel.
Do you get to see Tigers at Ranathambore – what time do the tours normally start in the morning ?
We were not lucky – as usual all we saw were deers , birds , an Alligator. You can see over 50 species of birds at Bharatpur. The tour in Bharatpur is on a rickshaw – and the driver is your guide. The jungle trips start at 6.15 AM – most other days the trips start by 8.30 – 9 AM. So you need to be up by 6 finish breakfast – bath ….. – since most tourists were foreigners this worked fine , and we being early risers this suited us well. On Most days you are back in the train by 6.30 PM. ( Jaisalmer you are back by 1030 PM)
Do you get any time off for shopping ?
Nope – they do take you to govt. approved pricey stores that sell carpets , bedsheets, handicraft etc – but no street bazars ( there is a security risk with so many foreigners, even the platforms where the train is parked is blocked with security and sniffer dogs)
Other points that may be of help ?
The bathrooms come with towels , toiletries , Geyser etc. (No health faucet only toilet paper). Train hardly has any kids – there were the 4 kids from our two families and one more 10 year old – good to go as a group of two families – that way you can have an entire coach to yourself for one week.
The Train does not have Wi Fi – but the 3G connection is good all throughout ( better than Bangalore – even in remote Jaisalmer)
The stations in Rajasthan are neat and spotlessly clean (Bharatpur & Agra were dirty, crowded and infested with flies)
Whats the cost of the Trip ?
Its priced in USD – but you can pay in INR. Price depends on time of booking. We paid 3.2 Lacs for 2 adults and 2 kids ( 3 tickets since kids below 12 are 50%) – this was 6 months in advance – however our friends who booked a few months in advance paid 4 Lacs for the same no of tickets. This was off season rates ( rates drop from April 1st – peak season is Sep to March, train does not operate in May , June , July)
There is no way you can cover 3000 KM across 7 locations in 1 week – think of the hassle of changing hotels every night and traveling by an Innova or Tempo Traveller over long distances – to cover the same by road would take 12 days at least and would be a lot more strenous. ( yes you may save on cost). There are no hidden costs – you can do the whole trip without spending an extra rupee ( except the Tips at the end of the trip, and some shopping)
If you compare the cost with a 1 week holiday in HK / Macau or Singapore – its not way off. Its unique , you get pampered and treated like royalty – and its an holiday you remember for life. We strongly recommend it.
Is this the only train – or are there others like this ?
There are quite a few Luxury Trains in India – the Rajasthan Royal is a newer train that runs a similar circuit – but does Khajuraho & Varanasi ( they exclude Jaisalmer) – then there is one that starts from Bangalore and the Deccan Odyssey.
Palace on Wheels is a 30 year old Train ( been renovated twice) – while the others are relatively new .
Any negatives ?
At times you can get a little claustrophobic – the cabins and alleys are small – so a big 6 footer may at times yearn for some fresh air. There is no Gym in the train – with so much of food across breakfast , lunch & dinner you tend to feel heavy. You do walk in the day – but not much. WE did manage to get some walk along the Train platforms at night ( The platforms are blocked with security & sniffer dogs – and the Train is nearly 1 Km long)
For any further information drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
We booked our journey thru Heritage India Journeys – Abhay Kumar (email@example.com)
The contact at Rajasthan Toursim – Pallavi Sharma ( firstname.lastname@example.org)