We intended to travel largely by train, doing a loop out of Delhi to Jaipur, Ajmer (for Pushkar), Udaipur, Jailsalmer, Jodphur, and back to Delhi, with a side trip out to Agra and back from Delhi.
With one exception, all the express trains we took ran largely to time. That is to say they arrived within a couple of hours of the scheduled time. We traveled first class for bit of space, so not as to be gawked at, and because it is incredibly cheap by our standards. And an unconsidered benefit of travelling this way was the well spoken Indians we met en route; a young bank clerk travelling to a training course fascinated by my working for Barclays Bank, and a former Indian Congressman travelling with his elderly Rajput father complete with red turban and handlebar moustache to name the most noteable.
Our experience on buses was not good at all. To speed the journey, we took an express bus from Jaipur to Ajmer only to find that it driven by a madman. Our driver weaved in and out of the traffic on the busy main road between the two towns, essentially playing chicken with the oncoming traffic. Whilst cars would submit to the ongoing bus at the last minute, the marble carrying lorries were not so willing. The final straw came when we hit a bump quite early into the trip, and something fell off the roof where all the luggage was rather cursorily tied. The passengers at the back shouted at the driver to stop but he simply carried on careering down the highway. Relieved to arrive in one piece, we had a frantic search for our luggage hoping upon hope they hadn’t bounced off back at Jaipur. After talking him into one more mildly less hairy journey up to Pushkar and back, my boyfriend refused to get on another bus in a country where road users believe in reincarnation and fate.
With the train in our view the leser of two evils, a couple of pieces of advice. 1) No-one queues for tickets. Take a crash course in scummaging before attempting to ‘queue’. 2) Indians, particulary those in the tourist industry (including the railways) like to agree with you. "Is this the air-conditioned train to Delhi?" Yes, of course it is. It’s only when you get your tickets checked that a little white lie has been told about the a/c, the class of carriage, or even, the direction. Learn to ask open questions that can’t be answered with ‘yes’. Where does this train go?