Indian railways have 9 types of seat classes, which can be divided into seat carriages and sleeper carriages. And those carriages can be sorted into air-conditioned ones and non-air-conditioned ones. Air-conditioned carriages are cleaner, safer and more comfortable than non-air-conditioned ones.
Air-conditioned class, shortened for AC on tickets and website, is more expensive than non-air-conditioned class, also more comfortable and cleaner. They can be divided into five grades:
The air-conditioned executive class is only available on a few types of express trains, such as the Tejas Express, the Gatimaan Express and the Shatabdi Express. It is the most premium and expensive class. The ticket fare is almost as expensive a domestic flight ticket fare.
In the AC executive class, seats are arranged as 2+2 across the carriage, providing enough space and privacy. The whole carriage, including the toilet, is clean. A small foldable table and a screen are attached to the back of every seat. Food and snacks are offered free of charge.
AC executive class is very popular among business travelers. It is a perfect choice for short train journeys that are less than 5 hours.
The air-conditioned first class consists of 2-berth or 4-berth sleeper compartments, with lockable doors. The compartments are spacious, clean and well-maintained. Each compartment has a washbasin. Toilets are available at the end of each carriage. A pillow, sheet, blanket and towel are provided for each berth.
The air-conditioned first class is the most expensive among all the sleeper classes, and it provides a high level of comfort and privacy. It is cleaner and quieter than non-air-conditioned sleeper classes.
The air-conditioned 2-tier class is common on long-distance trains in India. There are 2 upper berths and 2 lower berths in each compartment, and there are 2 side berths (one lower and one upper) on the other side of the aisle, across each compartment. There are no doors for each compartment, but curtains are available to separate the compartments. A pillow, sheet, blanket and towel are provided for each berth.
The ticket fare of the air-conditioned 2-tier class is almost half of the air-conditioned first class. So it is popular for India’s upper class travelers. And it is a good choice for foreign travelers who like a good level of privacy, while not being able to afford AC first class.
There are 6 berths in each open-plan compartment, 2 lower berths, 2 middle berths and 2 upper berths. There are also side berths (lower berth and upper berth) across the hall on the other side of the compartment. Unlike AC 2-tier class, AC 3-tier class doesn’t have curtains to separate the berths for privacy concern. A pillow, sheet and blanket are provided for each berth.
The middle berth will be folded up during the day, allowing passengers to sit on the lower berth, so the lower berth will be sat on by other passengers.
The air-conditioned 3-tier class is very popular for travelers with a lower budget. It provides a comfortable journey at a reasonable price, just one third of the air-conditioned first class. But this class is not recommended to you if privacy is a concern for you.
First class has the same layout as air-conditioned first class, but without air-conditioning. There are 4 berths in a lockable compartment. Sheets and blankets are offered at extra charge. Nowadays, you can only find first class on a few Indian trains.
The air-conditioned seat class is arranged as 3+2 seats across the carriage. It can be found on daytime and short distance trains. It is an affordable and comfortable way for train journeys less than 5 hours.
The sleeper class does not have air-conditioning. Otherwise, it is the same as AC 3-tier class. You can bring a sleeping bag because sheets and blankets are not provided. You can also ask for a set of bedding at extra cost. During the day, the middle berth will be folded up to allow passengers to sit on the lower berth.
The sleeper class is suitable for travelers who are on a tight budget, or who want to mingle with local folks. If you want to have a more comfortable train journey, AC 3-tier class is a better option.
The second class is one of the cheapest classes on Indian trains. Most second class carriages have 2 rows of wooden benches, for 3 passengers each. A new type of second class has 3+3 seats across the carriage. Seats need to be reserved in advance.
This is the cheapest class. Seats are not reserved or designated. Most of the 2S carriages don’t have glazing but a few bars to prevent passengers turning in and out of the window. The unreserved/general class is always overcrowded, noisy and smelly. Passengers without seats usually sit or lie on the floor. It gets very stuffy and uncomfortable because there is no air-conditioning.
1. Different seat classes have different prices: EC>1A>2A>3A>FC>CC>SL>2S.
2. Air-conditioned class is cleaner, safer and more comfortable than non-air-conditioned class.
3. Non-air-conditioned carriages have open windows and fans on the ceiling. It can be hot during the day and cold at night. The berths of non-air-conditioned class are always covered with dust, so bring tissues or wipes to clean them up before lying down.
4. Air-conditioned sleeper class offers bedding for passengers, while sleeper class (SL) doesn’t provide bedding. You can bring your own sleeping bag, or you can ask the attendant for a set of bedding at extra cost.
5. It is suggested that you book a class that is at least higher than sleeper class (SL). 2S class is not recommended.
6. Side berths are a good choice for couples or if you travel solo.
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