Planning to take your dog on holiday with you?
Taking the train could be an excellent option for your doggo. It’s convenient and comfortable, and definitely has more leg room than a car. Also, quite fun, if you’re into that kind of stuff!
The Indian Railways has been great for us, and we’ve managed to do about 26 train rides in the last 4 years, and all happy ones, so far. Pretty easy to navigate the process, couple of red flags I’ll warn you about.
Read on for the rules, some tips and some lessons learnt over the last few years.
1. Book your own ticket
You need to first book a 1st AC ticket, for the humans. Doing it online, you’ll definitely need an IRCTC ID (even if booking via another website) – so first, sign up.
If you’re traveling alone (not recommended if this is your first time but totally possible, more later) or are a pair of people – request “coupe”. 3 or 4 of you, and you’ll be fine with the automatically assigned Cabin.
Try and book from where the train is starting. Where the chart is prepared basically. Ideally, not necessarily.
You’ll find the option to book a coupe here – I book my tickets via www.makemytrip.com :
THIS IS IMPORTANT, especially if you need the coupe. If you’re booking with an agent – let them know it’s crucial.
2. Get your dog's FIT TO TRAVEL CERTIFICATE
Get a “Fit To Travel” Certificate from your vet.
This is no biggie if your dog’s vaccinations are up to date. While you’re doing the paperwork, get a photocopy of your ID proof.
The certificate from your vet is valid for 7 days.
It looks something like this =>
3. OPTIONAL - SUBMIT REQUEST FOR COUPE
3 days prior to the journey, submit a request for coupe to the Reservation Officer, Indian Railways. This needs to be done at the station where the train starts from, where the chart will be prepared.
Okay about this though – it’s optional. We’ve done it a couple of times, but we don’t do it anymore.
This was necessary before the neat option of “berth preference” was made available online while booking your ticket.
If you’ve requested for coupe, the only reason you wouldn’t be assigned it is because there’s a VIP / Politician traveling.
Otherwise – two women who have booked together are highest on the preference list. Next in line are couples who book together. Then two men who book together.
Submitting a request for coupe does not change this.
But if you’d still like to play safe, this is what it would look like. Drop it off at the TC’s office of the station where the train will start its journey from, along with a copy of your ticket.
4) ON THE DAY OF THE JOURNEY
a. Fit to Travel Certificate + Copy to submit
b. A copy of your ID proof
c. A confirmed 1st AC ticket
WHAT TIME TO REACH?
They say – 3 hours before journey. If you’re traveling the first time, you may need that long to figure everything out.
But there’s no one to report to or no security check or no anything really.
Here’s what actually happens:
4 hours before the journey, the chart is prepared – and you should get a text message with information on your allotted seat.
You’ll know if you got the coupe or not. If that’s what you wanted and you’ve got it – great. Nothing to worry about. You can get there little later also without stress. At the busiest hour of the biggest station in Mumbai – it took us about 45-50 minutes to get a ticket for our dog. Usually it takes ten minutes.
So we usually show up an hour or 75 minutes tops before departure, if it’s a station set up we are familiar with, to avoid the long waiting that can make Gaya quite restless.
Times we got the dreaded message that we got assigned a cabin (we were two travelers)…. which happened twice – we run to the station and try and hunt the TC down to beg.
Both times there were VIP’s on the train, and the TC could not help us at all. We were at the mercy of passengers to either be okay with our dog, or switch with us. We got lucky both times. I wouldn’t expect a switch in the post-covid times.
5. HEAD TO THE LUGGAGE & CLOAK ROOM
As soon as you get to the station, head to the Luggage Counter. Your dog doesn’t have to join.
I usually wait with Gaya outside, who loves smelling all the smells, while Joshua gets her ticket.
Only twice they asked to see the dog…all other times Gaya didn’t have to enter the office even.
There’s a form to fill, and you have to submit a copy of your ID proof, and show the Fit to Travel Certificate.
Like I said, it usually takes 10-15 minutes. On really busy days, it’s taken us about 45 minutes.
Quick tip: The luggage counter is usually at one end of the station, and there will be access from outside the station too.
6) WHAT YOU'LL NEED ON THE TRAIN
Once you have your dog’s ticket, you’re ready to board the train. Hopefully it’s not a long wait before your train arrives.
Remember to carry your own bedding. Since the pandemic, Indian Railways has stopped giving bed sheets.
No curtains even. You’ll want the curtains if your dog is going to be upset by every passenger or hawker who walks past your order. Indian Railways doesn’t provide them any more. So carry a couple of thin towels (or newspaper and celotape).
CHECKLIST ON THE TRAIN for your dog:
1) A disposable bowl for food & water
2) A potty pad and newspaper
3) Familiar bedding
4) Light meal
Won't my dog get bored?
Try and take your pup on short journeys rather than long ones to start with. If possible, do a little trip when they’re young, a quick and easy one, and make them comfortable with it early on. This could go a long way in making many future travels smooth.
I made Gaya her first Sniffer Mat on a train
Kept me busy 4 or 5 hours, kept her busy 20 minutes. We both totally feel asleep after though :p
What happened to it? It unfortunately died a few washes later, fell flat and limp. A big seed of our small business journey was the search for better, long lasting & easy to clean fabric!
I think I’ve covered everything. Few more pointers in the FAQs. Any additional questions – shoot a comment below!
And if you’ve traveled by train, we’d love to hear about your experiences too! Were your journeys as fun as ours? Did your dog have a good time? Tell us everything!
If your dog is younger and needs to pee often, your best bet is having them go on a potty pad. You can follow the train schedule on the app RailYatram and figure the longer stops too…maybe they’d prefer toileting on a quick walk on the platform when the train makes it’s stops.
Carry your own.
Dehydrated food is a great option. We buy unsalted boiled eggs if we find them on the platform.
No new foods that could upset her stomach.
If your dog is finicky about where to pee and poop – avoid kibble & soupy foods. Keep it light.
Beyond choosing the “request coupe” option while booking your ticket, there isn’t too much else you can do. Especially if a VIP decides to take the same train as you. You could submit the “request for coupe” letter, but like I said – it has little bearing.
But couple of things you can keep in mind:
- We usually travel weekdays. Slightly less crowded than weekends, which means more possibility of being preferred for a coupe. We avoid peak seasons too.
- We also check the train layout. RailYatri has this option – where you can see how many coupe’s are in that particular train.
Worth a look. Trains with more than one coupe are preferred to those with just one. Not always accurate…but mostly.
And keep your fingers crossed.
Shucks, that’s tough.
Did you try begging the TC? A second and final reservation list is made 30 minutes prior to travel, so find the TC and work your magic.
Didn’t work? Pray that your co-passengers don’t mind your dog (and that your dog doesn’t mind them).
We’ve had to share a cabin just once…they were hesitant but agreed on the promise that any trouble, and we would sit out the rest of the time (Gaya was brilliant at ignoring them thankfully).
Or start working your begging skills. Or finding cabin co-passengers who are willing to switch. Look for the dog lovers.
Very unlikely that in COVID times people will give up their coupe. But you can try.
If nothing worked – I’ve heard of cases where things got nasty and passengers threatened to complain and what not. Do what you must, but avoid the Dog Box.
Deciding to not travel if you haven’t got the coupe is a real possibility.
I have, a couple of times.
When booking the ticket – I booked my mom with me. Senior citizens get travel concessions, so it was more cost effective.
But more importantly – two women traveling together are high on the preference list for the coupe.
I had to tell the TC that she was a sudden no-show, and requested him to avoid re-assigning her berth.
He could, because it was off season I think. But if there was a heavy waitlist, he may not have. His discretion basically so work your magic properly.
I had help getting us on the train and booking her luggage ticket etc, and they were 12-14 hour over night journeys. Totally doable (but you know your dog best).
Yes, you can. A coupe is allowed two dogs. More than 2 dogs, you’re expected to be in a cabin. But you could get away with traveling with 3 dogs in a coupe if you’re lucky.
There very well could be.
It’s getting more and more common for hoomans to travel with their dogs, so you may just find yourself sharing a bogie with another family and dog.
Hope your dog is trained to not be too stressed by that.
We’ve had other dogs a couple of times. Once, right next door. It was okay. Unless that dog barked, then we had a barking match. A quick walk (in the other direction from their cabin) helped reset and it was fine again.
Also – there will most likely be community dogs at the station. That’s their home, and they may or may not like your dog’s presence.
Book 4 tickets. Request cabin. Hope that you can find a co-passenger who is comfortable with dogs.
Yup, also possible with the exact same procedure.
Question is – can your dog handle it?
We’ve done it often, but always during lean hours (where it’s less crowded).