How to get to Rishikesh from Delhi
Among international airports in India, the Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi is the closest to Rishikesh. Therefore, if you’re flying to India only to visit Rishikesh, or want to start your journey there, it makes sense to book a flight from your city to Delhi.
From Delhi, there are few ways to get to Rishikesh.
You can get a pre-paid taxi right at the Dealhi airport, but it would be pretty expensive for you, starting from 6 thousand rupees. If you’re coming to a course or retreat at some school, and they have arranged a taxi for you, it would be cheaper - 4500 - 5000 rupees per taxi (and you can share this cost between the passengers if other students of this school arrive at the same time). It will take you about 6-7 hours to get to Rishikesh.
If you’re going by taxi, you need to be prepared for a breath-taking, but not always pleasant for beginners adventure of traveling by car in India. Here you can personally observe your driver doing stunts such as going in uncommon traffic, passing a car which is passing another car on a turn, quickly avoiding obstructions like rickshaws, bikes, trucks, cows, dogs and monkeys, holes and pits on the road. There are no traffic rules in India and beeping is the only way to communicate to other drivers. To a person who is unused to Asian driving, such sight may make their hair stand. If you’re following the road too closely, you will be stressed out entire 7 hours it takes you to get from Delhi to Rishikesh, so it’s better to let go and entrust your life in the hands of your driver and hope he knows what he’s doing. The same goes for bus as a form of transportation, it is no safer in this regard.
If you are too sensitive, you might consider another way of traveling such as those described in other sections.
You can take a train to get from New Delhi (or Delhi station, depending on the train) to Hardiwar, the city nearby Rishikesh. The trip will take you from 4 to 7 hours, depending on the train. The tickets for the train will cost from 140 to 1200 rupees, depending on the train and class of the carriage. If you come to Delhi in the evening, you can take a night sleeper train and sleep all the way to Haridwar. But you need to be careful not to miss your stop in Haridwar, as it’s not a final station.
If you have come in the early morning, you can catch an Express train that will take you to Haridwar in 4.5 hours, and perhaps you will even get breakfast served there. The daily express train 12017 Dehradun Shatabdi departs from New Delhi Railway station at 6:45 AM and arrives at Haridwar at 11:20 AM. As of the time of writing (May 2017) fare for Executive Class seat is 1190 rupees, and for AC Chair Class seat 595 rupees. There are only these two classes on this train. My advice is to take AC Chair class as the difference in comfort is not that big.
If you come in the afternoon, you can catch another Shatabdi Express Train, 12055 which departs from New Delhi Train Station at 3:20 pm and arrives at Haridwar at 7:30 pm. On this train, the prices are even more democratic. AC Chair Class seat costs 470 rupees and Second Class seat costs 140 rupees. Currently, I prefer to check the timetable of the trains at sites like Cleartrip, Makemytrip, and Yatra.com as they have better navigation and usability than Indian governmental site. You will have to play with seat classes though, as websites like Cleartrip do not allow you to see all seats of all classes on all trains. Thus, some trains will have only sitting carriages, while others will have sleepers, AC2, AC3 and so on. Modify your search and choose different seat class every time to see all your options of trains and seats. You can use these websites to book train tickets as well, although you will need to make IRCTC account there.
If you decide to go by train, your trip will contain quite a few sections:
- From the Indira Gandhi Airport you take either metro train to New Delhi train station, or pre-paid taxi to New Delhi train station, which you can order at the airport.
- From New Delhi Train station you take a train to Haridwar.
- From Haridwar, you either take a taxi to Rishikesh (you should state exact address - Rishikesh Ram Jhula or Lakshman Jhula) and get to your destination (it will cost 600-1000 rupees)...
- Or from Haridwar railway station you walk for 5 minutes to get to Haridwar bus station, where you take a bus to Rishikesh (it costs 30-40 rupees and goes once or twice per hour. Traveling time is about an hour)
- And then once you’re in Rishikesh bus station, you take a rickshaw to Ram Jhula or Laxman Jhula for 60-70 rupees.
It’s a complicated plan, but if you feel adventurous and decided to undertake it, it’s very important to know the following:
- You cannot board an Indian train without a ticket (at least, in most carriage classes), and you cannot buy a ticket on the train. Buying a ticket for Indian train is an adventure per se. You practically cannot buy a ticket to Indian train in the day of its departure. If they sell you a ticket in a cash desk, most likely it will be a ticket to the lowest class carriage. This is the type of carriage we see on the pictures about India, where people hang from the windows, roofs and doors. If you don’t want to hang from the windows for entire 7 hours of your trip, you better buy a ticket of another class, and these you need to get in advance. The tickets are reserved quite quickly, therefore sometimes you need to buy them way in advance, before flying to India. Try to buy a ticket on the official site of Indian railway, or on Cleartrip or Makemytrip, at least 1-2 weeks before your journey. For the ticket back, you can come to one of the many travel agents in Rishikesh a week or two before planned journey and buy tickets with them.
- When buying tickets, you need to choose a class of carriage among different sorts of classes, such as Sleeper, AC3, AC2, AC Chair Car, etc. “Sleeper” is a sleeper carriage that you can buy if you’re feeling adventurous. In many Indian trains, people without tickets or those on “waiting list” (it will be explained later) can still travel in carriages of sleeping class. They are supposed to be standing there, but in reality they might be sitting (or sleeping) on your seat. They might just as well put their things there, give you their babies and children to hold, and otherwise get you actively involved in Indian way of traveling. If you want more comfort in your travel, I advise you to get a ticket in AC2 or AC3 types of carriage (for sleeping overnight) or AC Chair Car for daytime trains (as Executive Chair class seats might be too expensive). These are air conditioned carriages, but their main perk is in the absence of people without tickets. That means, nobody will (hopefully) intrude your private space during travel. AC3 is air conditioned sleeper carriage with 3 benches at each side of the compartment, and AC2 has 2 benches at each side of the the compartment. The Second Sitting (2S), AC Chair Car (CC) and Executive Chair Car (EC) are sitting carriages of express trains, 2S is a bit simpler and not air conditioned, CC is more of a high-end and air-conditioned (it might be your preferred choice) and EC is basically CC with newer seats, more space between the seats, and a touch of Indian luxury.
- Avoid “waiting list” tickets. If you’re buying a ticket on the website, sometimes they can sell you a waiting list ticket, and basically it means, that you paid money and have no ticket. You might have a seat if somebody cancels their ticket in the last moment. But these chances are pretty thin. If you don’t get a seat, you might be asked to leave the train (or try your luck and stand in the sleeper or lowest-class carriage), and although you can get the money back on your card if you were buying tickets online, this option is not good. If you miss your train, you need to change your plans and find other means of transport (remember, the chances of getting another train ticket for the same day are very low). All this may cause disruption to your overall travel plan, and a big inconvenience. Therefore in short: don’t buy “waiting list” tickets.
- Most often, Haridwar is not the final stop of your train. Most trains will end their route in Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand state. Haridwar is the station before Dehradun. Do not miss it. Often, the stations will not be announced, and you need to know estimated time of arrival to Hardiwar. Make sure you change the time on your phone or watch to local Indian time, and set an alarm. If you missed your stop, you still can get to Rishkesh from Dehradun, but the road will be longer (2 hours instead of 1 hour), and the buses will not be as frequent as in Haridwar.
Traveling by air is one of the fastest and most comfortable ways to get to Rishikesh, and very often it can be cheaper than the taxi. As of May 2017, there are flights Delhi - Dehtadun that cost 1160 rupees, it’s even cheaper than some of the train tickets. However, the prices range depending on the season, so look in advance.
You need to take into attention that domestic flights are carried out from different terminal of Indira Gandhi airport, therefore you must look for a plane that departs no sooner than 3 hours after your arrival to Delhi - so that you had time for possible delay, baggage claim, transfer from one terminal to another, and security check for the domestic flight. You will arrive to the airport of Dehradun, which in fact will be much closer to Rishikesh than Dehradun itself. In fact, it’s close to Rishikesh than Haridwar. From the airport, you can take a taxi to Rishikesh (exact address Rishikesh-Ram Jhula or Rishikesh - Lakshman Jhula) for about 600-700 rupees.