Guide to India's Palace on Wheels Luxury Train

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••• Palace on Wheels dining room. WIN-Initiative/Getty Images

The iconic Palace on Wheels was launched in 1982, making it the oldest of India's luxury trains. Indeed, the newer luxury trains in India have aimed to replicate its success. The train was conceptualized to utilize carriages that India's royal rulers and the Viceroy of British India had traveled in. You'll feel regal indeed, as you journey in style through Rajasthan, and visit the Taj Mahal.

In September 2017, the Palace on Wheels commenced running with new carriages for the 2017-18 tourist season.

The carriages were taken from the opulent Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, which is no longer operating due to lack of patronage, and refitted to recreate the feel of the Palace on Wheels. Notably, they're more spacious and luxurious than the train's previous ones, which were revamped in 2015 following complaints about worn interiors.

Features

The Palace on Wheels has both Deluxe and Super Deluxe cabins, with the capacity to accommodate 82 passengers. They're named after famous palaces in Rajasthan. In addition, there are two restaurants and a bar lounge where guests can relax and enjoy the passing scenery, as well as an Ayurvedic spa. The train is decorated in rich traditional style, including draped curtains, hand crafted lights, and Rajasthani art. Passengers are served by uniformed butlers dressed in Rajasthani attire.

Route and Itinerary

The Palace on Wheels runs from September until the end of April each year.

It stops during the very hot and monsoon months.

The train departs Wednesdays at 6.30 p.m. from Delhi and visits Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur (for Ranthambore National Park), Chittorgarh fort, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra.

Highlights include a camel ride in the sand dunes at Jaisalmer followed by dinner and a cultural show, and a sound and light show at Chittorgarh.

Journey Duration

Seven nights. The train arrives back in Delhi at 6 a.m. the following Wednesday.

Cost

$9,100 for two people, for seven nights, from October to March. $7,000 for two people, for seven nights, during September and April. Rates include accommodation, meals (a mix of Continental, Indian and local cuisines is served), sightseeing tours, entrance fees to monuments, and cultural entertainment. Service charges, tax, and drinks are additional.

Reservations

You can make a reservation for travel on the Palace on Wheels online, or via a travel agent.

Should You Travel on the Train?

It's an excellent way to see many of the popular north Indian tourist places in comfort, without typical hassles such as dealing with transfers and touts. The excursions are well-planned and cover the important sites, including two national parks and many historical attractions. Passengers come from all over the world, giving the train a cosmopolitan feel.

However, instead of traveling on the train, some people prefer to stay at luxury hotels and hire a car and driver, as it gives them more flexibility. In this regard, there are some disadvantages of the Palace on Wheels. One of the main drawbacks is the frequent scheduled shopping stops where commissions are earned.

The merchandise is unreasonably expensive and many tourists simply pay the asking price rather than haggle.  The price of alcohol aboard the train is also very high.

If you're traveling in the winter months, from November to February, be sure to bring warm clothing (including hats and gloves) to wear on safari at the national parks. Mornings are cold and transport at the parks is open-air.