Overland Traveller



Essential items for Indian transport

Local bus in Rajasthan, India © Craig FastGetting around India can be something of a bi-polar experience. Generally, the sleeper trains are comfortable with blankets provided; other trains and buses can be nightmarish…

Here’s my list of recommended items to make sure your travel within India forms part of a trip to be treasured:

Snacks and bottled water
Whilst many long-distance trains provide meals, they tend to be on the deep-fried side. If you prefer fresh fruit, I highly recommend taking a few bananas, apples and high-fibre bread with spreadable cheese or peanut butter (available from supermarkets in main towns). If you’ve got a sensitive tummy, wash the fruit in bottled water before you eat it – under no circumstances should you drink the water from the taps on board.

Ear plugs and eye mask
If you’re travelling anything other than first class you’ll have to face up to one undeniable fact: there will always be at least one person who snores in your carriage and/or has a habit of talking (loudly) on their phone in the middle of the night. And usually you’ll be sleeping right next to them. Ear plugs will save you many a sleepless night. Likewise, if you’re an early-to-bed or a late-to-rise person, an eye mask will prevent the train lights from interfering with your sleep. (If you wear glasses, don’t forget a case to keep them in overnight.)

Don’t abandon your personal hygiene routine just because you’re on a train. There are perfectly acceptable toilets and sinks available and you’ll find that most other passengers at least brush their teeth. Wet wipes can hide a multitude of smelly sins and help wake you up in the morning. Wash your teeth in bottled water, a squirt of deodorant and you’re ready to go.

Despite the blazing sun outside, the air conditioning on board many trains can be raging. Bring a pair of socks to keep your tootsies warm, and to help you feel less exposed at night if your feet dangle over the end of the sleeper.

Bus travel can be a windy, dusty experience. If your bus isn’t air conditioned, guaranteed most of the windows will be wide open – an unconditional invitation to fumes, dust and insects. Carry a headscarf or shawl to keep your face clean, to prevent your hair from whipping your eyes and to protect your nostrils from some highly offensive smells.

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Overland Traveller copyright © Emma Field 2010