Travelling in “unreserved” in an Indian train… from Kohima to Guwahati

They can say yes, there are reserved seats on the train… they can even sell tickets where the number of the coach and our seat are clearly written… but no! No! On the train from 12.31 pm (number 05968, Dibrugarh – Rangiya Special) from Dimapur to Guwahati, there are no reserved seats. It is an “unreserved” train. In other words: it is a hand-to-hand fighting to get into an already full of carriages, where luggage, elbows, and knees are the weapons for this “war.”

Train trip Dimapur-Guwahati in unreserved coach
Train trip Dimapur-Guwahati in unreserved coach

Despite this journey between Dimapur and Guwahati have coincided with regional elections of Assam state, where part of the coaches were reserved for the army, reducing the number of seats for passengers, the fact that this train doesn’t have reserved seats seems to be part of normal service. Both station staff as the passengers knows that. I was even gently warned by one of the railway station staff with the simple words “you need to rush to the train“… I found it strange because there were more than two hours for the arriving of the train… “rush“?!?!… for what??! I thought… but this was a polite way of saying “fight“!!!

With a big effort and with the aid of a helpful passenger, I could get on the train and find room for my backpack. And then followed an arduous journey of more than five and a half hours in a crowded train, standing and without much change to get a seat.

As if all this were not already too painful, joins the climate of Assam plains that in April is hot and dry, and where each time the train stops, the air inside the coach stagnate, making it look like we were in a kind of oven. The passengers patiently waiting for the train to start move, with a kind of helpless surrender, to bring some fresh air through the windows.

Slowly a thin layer of dust discreetly glues to the skin with the help of sweat, which slowly soak clothes and leave a shiny glow on the face.

Hopefully, at the end of the trip I managed to share a bench of two seats with two other passengers… and with a little good will there also a bit of space to fit a child… thankfully most of the passengers are slim, and the sharing of these adversities strengthens the feeling of mutual aid.

By the middle of the train corridor, totally crowded with people and luggage, food vendors persistently circulate among passengers carrying food and drinks: samosas, water, cookies, lassi, sodas, ice cream, peanuts and the refreshing cucumber, cut into slices and seasoned with chili. It is an incessant movement of vendors, loudly advertising their products, opening passage by pushing and stepping between the standing passengers, creating a constant stirring and leaving no opportunity to have some comfort in this painful journey.

By the window pass images of rice paddies and of dry fields waiting for rain, where the intensity of light invites you to close the eyes.

Dimapur
Dimapur

How to go from Kohima to Dimapur:

Kohima bus terminal is conveniently located in the center of the city and is where the NST (Nagaland State Transport) buses stop, connection with the most important Nagaland cities.

Strangely there is no fixed schedule for the beginning of the trip and according to information of the ticket counter, the bus to Dimapur only start when is full. So you need to arrive around 7 a.m., buy the ticket and wait because this is the only bus to Dimapur during all day.

Although not completely full, the trip began, around 7:20 a.m, with about 2/3 of the passengers. Buses of NST are in a very poor condition, dirty and with some broken seats, especially those that made the shortest routes, as Kohima-Dimapur.

  • Bus Kohima to Dimapur: 120 rupees (3 hours)

Right next to the bus station there’s a taxis stand, easily identifiable by the concentration of yellow vehicles. The journey by shared taxi costs 220 rupees and takes 2.5 hours. Taxis have no fixed schedule and leave as soon as they are full (which in the morning does not take long), running from 6 am until the end of the day.

The road between Kohima and Dimapur is mainly mountains, with the last third of the route already being done in the plains of Assam. The road has good pavement but with some sections under construction, resulting in a long and bumpy journey.

inside of a NST bus_Nagaland State Transport
inside of a NST bus_Nagaland State Transport

How to go from Dimapur to Guwahati:

In fact, for those who want to skip one night in the dull Dimapur, and intends to follow directly from Kohima to Guwahati, there are interesting options.

According to the schedule of the Indian Railways, the train 05968, despite having no coaches with air conditioning or “sleeper class” has reserved seats in 2nd class. So the travel agencies in Kohima sold tickets for this train, with seat number and coach number, clearly inscribed on a ticket issued electronically and printed on paper.These intermediaries, are apparently work honestly, using the ticket sales service of Indian Railways. But when the train arrives at the station it’s clear that the 05968 is a unreserved train, as we see everyone running to get on the train, carrying luggage and children in the arms, making almost impossible the exit of the passengers that want to get out.

Buses are not an attractive option for the 250 km separating Dimapur from Guwahati, and probably start early morning from Dimapur, forcing to spend one night there.

There are trains from Dimapur to Guwahati, departing after 16 p.m. but reach Guwahati close to 10 p.m. which can be too late to find accommodation, especially for those who arrive in Guwahati for the first time and have a limited budget.

Not all trains run daily. More information about trains Dimapur – Guwahati:

http://indiarailinfo.com/search/685/0/546?date=0&dd=0&ad=0&co=0&tt=0&ed=0&dp=&ea=0&ap=&loco=&drev=0&arev=0&trev=0&rake=&rsa=0&idf=0&idt=0&dhf=0&dmf=0&dht=0&dmt=0&ahf=0&amf=0&aht=0&amt=0&nhf=-1&nht=-1&ttf=0&ttt=0&dstf=0&dstt=0&spdf=0&spdt=0&zone=0&pantry=0&stptype=undefined&raketype=0&cu=undefined&trn=0&q=

Dimapur: NST bus terminal
Dimapur: NST bus terminal

Dimapur:

  • At Dimapur the railway station is located very close to the bus terminal of the NST, less than 2 minutes walk.
  • At the train station, there is luggage room where you can leave your luggage while waiting for the train. The process is bureaucratic and requires the passport and detailed form fill by the station staff. The “luggage room” is on the same site of “parcel office”. It is mandatory to have a lock, even a backpack with multiple compartments and zippers… but just a padlock, play a symbolic role! Rs 20 per day per bag.
  • Dimapur Train station also has a “Retiring Room“, which serves as accommodation for ticket holders. I didn’t check the conditions, but it may be useful to those arriving later night and do not want to waste time looking for accommodation in Dimapur.
Dimapur: Train station Retiring room fees
Dimapur: Train station Retiring room fees
Dimapur: Train Station: luggage Room
Dimapur: Train Station: luggage Room
  • For a quick bite recommend the restaurant located beside the main entrance of Dimapur Train Station: Hotel Dimapur Shan-e-Punjab… for me that was missing the traditional Indian food, the dal with chapati was delicious. Besides the food this place as conditions to relax for an hour or two.
  • If you want a little more comfort, at the northern end of the passenger platform of Dimapur Train Station (for those who enter on the right), is a restaurant of Indian Railways with air conditioning.
Dimapur: Hotel Dimapur Shan-e-Punjab, em frente à estação de comboios... para quem tem saudades da tradicional comida indiana
Dimapur: Hotel Dimapur Shan-e-Punjab, em frente à estação de comboios… para quem tem saudades da tradicional comida indiana

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