We wanted to make the trip from Agra to Delhi on our own, so I began researching Indian trains. Right away, the relatively new Gatimaan Express train caught my eye. The Gatimaan Express makes the trip from Agra to Delhi (and vice versa) once per day in each direction. The Gatimaan actually goes beyond Agra to Gwalior and Jhansi, but it seems largely geared towards people in Delhi wanting to see Agra and the Taj Mahal on a day trip. The Gatimaan leaves Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin station at 8:10 am IST and returns from Agra in the evening at 5:50pm.
Whenever train travel is on my radar, The Man in Seat 61 is one of my first Internet go-to sites. As always, I found a wealth of information on the site. But, I also found some concerns. Stories of problems abounded: with the Indian Railways website, with using non-Indian addresses and credit cards, with fake security guards at the train stations, with luggage hijacked by porters, with train station taxi scams, and on and on. Oh, India.
I’m happy to report that I had no problems creating an account directly with Indian Railways or with buying our tickets online with an American credit card. The Man in Seat 61 had suggested an easier-to-use intermediary agency, but if my experience is any indication, Indian Railways has ironed out the kinks. I received our tickets promptly by email and was asked to take a screen shot of them and not to print out the tickets “unless extremely necessary.” I booked the highest class (Executive Class) because at 2990 INR ($41.93 US) for both of us, why not? Seats become available 120 days in advance and reservations are necessary. Popular routes do book up on the high-speed trains. I calendared the day tickets were to open and booked ASAP. This is one of those situations where planning makes things a lot easier and cheaper.
Despite warnings, we had no issues at Agra Cantt station. It’s a busy place, but it’s India so pretty much everywhere is busy. The train was on time and our car was comfortable if not luxurious. We were served a hot meal that was tasty and filling if not gourmet. The ride itself was smooth and uneventful. I enjoyed chatting with an extended family of Indians living overseas in France and Spain who’d returned to India to celebrate a major anniversary of the matriarch and patriarch of the clan.
At speeds of 99mph, travel on the Gatimaan Express from Agra to Delhi takes 1 hour 40 minutes and reaches Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin station at 7:30pm, which means we arrived after dark. Thankfully, we heeded warnings and had a good grip on our luggage as the train pulled into the station. Sure enough, would-be porters streamed aboard, blocking passengers attempting to exit and trying to wrest our luggage away from us. It took some pretty harsh refusals to get them to accept rejection and get out of the way.
Our next challenge came in getting a ride to our hotel. I’d read many warnings about taxis in Delhi and a favorite scam whereby passengers are told the street on which their hotel sits is blocked for a festival so the driver will have to take them somewhere else. Basically, passengers have ended up getting “kidnapped” and either pay a hefty sum to be returned to their original destination or coerced into using the services of scam “travel agents” and different hotels. (The 20-something son of the lady seated behind me on the train had a friend who’d endured this particular scam as well.) My original plan had been to use a transfer service offered by the Gatimaan Express, but the link to that service on the Indian Railways site was broken and no one on the train had heard of it. My back up plan was Uber which had worked like a champ in Jaipur. No such luck in Delhi. In our three stops in Delhi, Uber never worked. The app would find a ride, say it was attempting to book it, then fail to do so. Great.
Eventually, we resigned ourselves to the taxi/tuk tuk gamble and braved the throng waiting at the front of the station. After some haggling, we were led to a taxi operated by a taciturn Sikh who delivered us to our hotel in Connaught Place with no hassle save for the perpetual Delhi traffic.
Note: Per the email I received with our tickets, ” E-Ticket can be cancelled online till preparation of charts (which is normally 4 to 6 hours before the scheduled departure of the train from the originating stations. (For trains starting up to 12 noon the chart preparation is usually done on the previous night)) OR 4 hours before the scheduled departure of boarding the train in case of confirmed ticket OR 30 minutes before the scheduled departure of boarding the train in case of RAC/WL whichever is earlier.”