The IRCTC, a subsidiary of the Indian Railways, has introduced a special train that offers a feel of the sights and sounds of Rajasthan, a land rich with majestic forts and tales of valour. Desert Circuit, one of the two special trains launched by the Indian Railways in December to boost desert and heritage tourism in the country, commenced its inaugural five-day Delhi-Jaisalmer-Jaipur-Delhi journey last weekend.
Starting from Delhi's Safdajung Railway Station, it takes you to Jaisalmer where you are taken to Sand Dunes, Gadisagar Lake, Patwon Ki Haveli and Jaisalmer Fort, a Unesco World Heritage Site, till Day 3.
In Jaipur, tourists are taken to City Palace, Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal, before heading to Chokhi Dhani on fourth day. On last day, people are taken to Amer Fort, another Unesco World Heritage Site near Jaipur before returning to Delhi in the evening.
All one is required is to board this semi-luxury train and stop worrying about luggage, lodging, meals, transportation to various sites , guides and scheduling. All these things are taken care of by senior IRCTC officials accompanying you.
"We intended to provide people a safe, reliable and comfortable journey in the desert circuit. There was no proper train which could cater till Jaisalmer. That's why we have taken this Desert Circuit train so that we can cover the desert circuit, especially Jaisalmer and Jaipur, and other places," Jitender Kumar, deputy general manager, IRCTC, told IANS.
"The train has first a/c, second a/c and third a/c accomodation. The cost has been kept very nominal. In this sector, there are trains for high-end clients and for commoners as well but there was no train for the medium income category people. That's why we commenced this semi luxury train Desert Circuit," he added.
As most of the people who undertook the inaugural trip on the Desert Circuit train looked having fun during off-train excursions, some of them opted to share their experiences and suggestions with IANS.
"I feel whatever is required to enjoy a train journey like hotel accommodation, transport and on-board services was overall good. Sightseseeing was a great experience. I wish they had arranged for a better hotel in Jaisalmer where meals-plus-hotels require attention. Semi-luxury wise it felt good," said Subodh Kumar, a passenger.
"Onboard service are satisfactory but off-train services need a bit of improvement. Staff was quite friendly. Sand dunes experience felt quite good. I wish more place are included in the itinerary," he added.
"I will talk about first a/c, where the package is approximately Rs.36,000 per person for four or five days. If you are putting passengers of first a/c in these kind of hotels then there is 100 percent chances of complaints. So, for those clients, you have to look for four-star category hotels if not five-star," said Rajeev Verma, a passenger from Royal Indian Trains Travel Company.
"They should put Jodhpur instead of Jaipur and, if possible, include Bikaner in it. But at the same time, it depends on adjusting as per other trains' traffic on those routes as well. Also, better planning is required to cover more sites without wasting time in hotels," he added.
"I found the package that is being provided is quite good in this semi-luxury train. This package as a product is properly balanced. It is not fair to compare semi-luxury with high-end luxury," said Jaswinder Singh, a passenger from Mac Journeys India, a travel agency.
"We need to understand the hotels we used had limited inventory, the moment the strength of passengers get increased from 25 like it was in this inaugral trip, there maybe a possibility of better hotels," Singh added.
The Desert Circuit package prices are Rs.36,900, Rs.33,900, Rs.32,900 (first a/c single, double and triple occupancy respectively) and for child with bed (5-11 years) Rs.25,000.
It is Rs.28,025, Rs.25,025, Rs. 24,525 (second a/c) and for child Rs.19,500.
For third a/c, it is Rs.24,125, Rs. 21,125, Rs. 20,625 respectively and for child Rs.17,000.
The IRCTC is also giving discount of 10 percent for everyone, 12 percent for senior citizens and 12 percent for group booking.