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Overnight Train from Udaipur to Agra — AC First Class Sleeper

After celebrating Holi in Udaipur, we took the Indian Railways overnight train to Agra. This was not our first overnight train ever, but it was our first and only overnight train in India. The experience was certainly eventful, but it’s one that we’re thankful to have had. Keep reading to learn more about our experience on the overnight train from Udaipur to Agra in AC First Class Sleeper.

Also, we did this with a 2-year-old! We’ll weave their story into this post, too. So if you’re curious about taking an overnight train in India with a kid, we’ve got the scoop!

In this Post

Indian Railways Overnight Trains & Classes

The Indian Railways train network comprises 67,000 miles of track that span the entire country. Over 11,000 trains operate daily, moving over 23 million passengers every day. If you need to get between two places in India, there’s a good chance you can do it by rail.

That said, the rail network is dated, with much of the system built in the late 1800s. Indian Railways is not running bullet trains between all their stations like you see today in Japan. (But also, India is nine times bigger than Japan and has a lot more people.) All this to say that sometimes taking the train can take awhile. If you’re going to be on a train for 12 hours, it might as well be at night so you can sleep through it.

Indian Railways operates 24/7, but long routes between major cities usually have an overnight option. Most of the overnight trains run through the night, making stops in smaller cities at all times of night and morning. (This is not like in Europe where sometimes trains will park to extend the trip to make an overnight train make sense.)

When you’re riding an overnight train in Indian, the experience varies drastically by class.

Indian Railways Classes

Each Indian Railways train offers a variety of classes at different price points. For the most part, the overnight train classes are the same as the daytime train classes. They just matter more when you’re planning to sleep.

Here’s a look at the classes that are available for this specific overnight train from Udaipur to Agra.

  • 1A – AC First Class Sleeper: Each passenger is assigned one bed in a 4-bed or 2-bed berth with a closing door in an air conditioned car. Most passengers in this class are foreign tourists.
  • 2A – AC 2-Tier Sleeper: Each passenger is assigned one bed in any of the bunk-style beds throughout the air conditioned car. There are 4-bed open berths and double beds along the aisle. This cabin is typically backpackers and middle-class domestic Indian travelers.
  • 3A – AC 3-Tier Sleeper: Each passenger is assigned a bed, which are stacked 3-high in an air conditioned car. This cabin is most popular with domestic Indian travelers, usually wealthier young people.
  • SL – Sleeper Class: This cabin is similar to the AC 3-Tier Sleeper, but it does not have air conditioning and bedding is not provided. This cabin is mostly middle- to low-income domestic Indian travelers.
  • General Class: Lastly, there is general class. This is the cheapest ticket you can get. There is no assigned seating and no air conditioning. This cabin is nearly entirely low-income domestic Indian travelers. Tourists can’t even book this class online in advance, but they should know it exists.

Buying tickets for the overnight train from Udaipur to Agra

We bought our tickets for the overnight train from Udaipur to Agra on 12GoAsia. (This isn’t sponsored or an affiliate or anything, we just really love them.)

12GoAsia is a third-party agency that operate as a go-between for foreign tourists and Asian railways. This is particularly useful for India because it’s really difficult to book directly with Indian Railways online in advance.

Start your search by entering the location and dates in the search bar. You’ll see a list of the available trains and buses for the route, as well as available ticket classes. Only certain trains are bookable through 12GoAsia. From Udaipur to Agra, the only option is (usually) the overnight train.

Fare classes can sell out, sometimes quickly, and not all classes are available on all trains. We booked on December 23 for travel on March 9. At that time, First Class tickets were already starting to sell out on select dates.

Once you find the train and class that you want, you can buy your ticket through 12GoAsia. You’ll be charged and receive a receipt immediately. Then, they then work directly with Indian Railways to secure your ticket. This transaction usually takes about 24 hours, and then you’ll get your official eTickets and PNR number (Indian Railways booking reference) sent to your inbox.

If you book AC First Class Sleeper, you will not immediately get a seat assignment. Seat assignments are released 4 hours before the scheduled departure. You can look up your seat number online at that time or it’s posted on the train car itself. These instructions are included in the email from 12GoAsia.

How (not) to book a private berth

We wanted to try to get a private 4-bed berth all to ourselves, since we were traveling with a toddler. Our plan was to book four tickets, even though there were only three of us and our 2-year-old didn’t even technically need a ticket. Yes, we were willing to pay $60 extra for privacy and quiet.

When you book in 12GoAsia, you have to enter the passenger information. We fudged our child’s birth year to be six years old, so that they’d get a bed and a ticket. Then we used our dad’s information for our fourth passenger. This required a bit of email communication with 12G0Asia customer service to ensure this could all be entered and not cause us any issues.

This all worked, and we got the four tickets. Four tickets still doesn’t guarantee a private berth though. We had to wait till we got our seat assignments 4 hours before departure. When our time finally came, we were thrilled to get our full private berth seat assignments shortly before our trip.

Unfortunately, Indian Railways has a waitlist and this plan didn’t work and will never work. The conductor came through to collect tickets and discovered we only had three passengers. We told him our fourth couldn’t make it.

Shortly after we left, he came back with a traveler who had been on the waitlist who joined us in our room. We were honestly just lucky that he didn’t also reassign our toddler’s bed, who was actually sharing a bed with us.

So take it from us. There is not a way to reserve an entire private 4-bed berth if you do not actually have fourth travelers. Tried and failed.

Boarding the overnight train in Udaipur

After a perfect last dinner at our hotel in Udaipur, we booked a car to take us to the Udaipur train station. We arrived shortly before 9 PM for a 10:15 PM scheduled departure.

NOTE: If you’re taking the train in India, you should be prepared to see some hard things. We passed by a slum community just outside the station. Then when we got there, there were plenty of families sleeping outside in and around the station. Most of the children were barefoot and it’s hard to see the condition of many of these travelers.

We entered the station and immediately found a board that listed upcoming trains and platforms. Then we followed overhead signs to our platform. The station was well marked and we could easily find our way. Most of the signage throughout the station was in both Hindi and English.

Our train was waiting at the platform when we arrived. Signs on the train confirmed the train’s route, which is Udaipur to Khajuraho for this route (Agra is not the final destination for this train). There were digital signs overhead by each car that displayed the train number and class code for each car. The train cars themselves were also clearly labeled.

We were in class 1A – AC First Class Sleeper, so the digital sign by our car read 1A and the train car itself said “AC First” (in both English and Hindi.) The cars also had letters, which helped to find the right car for our specific seats.

The doors did not open until about 45 minutes prior to our scheduled departure, so we had a bit of time to kill. There were lots of snack kiosks around the train station, so we grabbed a few things. They primarily sold packaged foods like chips, candy, and drinks, but also other goods like medicines and even baby food.

Once they opened the doors, we boarded and easily found our assigned seats.

Indian Railways 1A – First Class Sleeper berth details

The First Class Sleeper car on Indian Railways was spacious and clean, and as comfortable as you can expect from a bed on a train.

Each berth had a sliding door, which led to either 2 or 4 beds. The larger berths had bunk beds on both sides and the smaller berths just had one set of bunks. Otherwise, everything was the same.

The upper bunks were accessible by wide steps at the foot of the bed, which could double as luggage storage. Suitcases could also fit under the lower bunk.

The beds were pretty big, in both length and width. There was plenty of space for me and my toddler to comfortably sleep side by side, plus room at the end to store some bags. The beds had a decent amount of cushion and were covered in a soft fake leather material.

Pillows were on each bed when we arrived. Later, the steward bought bedding packs which included two sheets, a pillow case and a towel. Everything seemed clean and came in brown paper wrapping. Bedding in first class was free of charge.

There was a small table for the bottom bunk(s) and a rack/shelf for the upper bunk(s). There were overhead lights, as well as individual reading lights for the lower bunks only. Sliding curtains covered the windows and the door, so the room got pretty dark.

Each berth had as many outlets as it had beds. The outlets were most accessible to the upper bunk(s), but lower bunk passengers could still reach them. Outlets fit plug type C, which is the standard India plug type.

Our Experience on the overnight train from Udaipur to Agra

In this next section, we’ll walk through entire onboard experience on the overnight train from Udaipur to Agra. This journey was on Indian Railways train number 19666 departing Udaipur at 10:15 PM with a scheduled arrival in Agra at 10:20 AM. We were were in 1A – AC First Class Sleeper.

Departure & getting ready for bed

We pulled out of the Udaipur train station right on schedule at 10:15 PM. At this point, we had the room to ourselves, our beds were made up, and the conductor checked our tickets and confirmed our seats.

There was a bathroom at the end of the car, but I chose not to use it. I used the bathroom on a different Indian Railways trip and didn’t need to go through that again. I skipped brushing my teeth for the night and just didn’t drink anything.

About 15 minutes into the journey, I started bed time for our little one. I turned on the white noise machine, read a few books, and then played our usual lullaby on a small portable speaker. It was a pretty typical bedtime as far as they were concerned, other than the fact that they got to sleep next to me instead of in their own Pack ‘n’ Play.

It was about three hours later than they usually go to bed, so luckily they fell asleep pretty quickly and easily. Everything was going great, until …

Hello, First Class Waitlist

Just minutes after our kid fell asleep, the doors to our berth went flying open and someone switched the lights on. The conductor was talking to another passenger in Hindi and showing him to the bed above ours.

As it turns out, there is a First Class waitlist. Passengers can join the waitlist, and then if people don’t show up, they get their bed. When the conductor checked our tickets before departure, he noted that we only had 3 people in our berth. Ergo, someone from the waitlist got the open bed.

It was loud and bright when our new friend arrived, but somehow our toddler slept through the entire thing. After about five minutes, he turned off the overhead light and we didn’t hear another peep from him until he left … which was at about 2 AM.

In the middle of the night, we again heard someone open the door and turn on the lights. The passenger who’d joined us got off the train and the next person on the waitlist took his spot. He too spent about five minutes getting situated, turned off the lights, and then we didn’t hear from him. Again, somehow my toddler slept through this.

The waitlist situation was not ideal, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. The conductor was loud and the lights were annoying, but the passengers themselves were very respectful. Our toddler slept through all of this both times, and that was really all we cared about.

We were honestly just lucky that the conductor didn’t give away the other bed, too. The conductor certainly could have done so because our child wasn’t old enough to technically get their own bed and was actively sharing a bed with me.

Sleeping on the train

I can’t sleep well in any scenario, so I’m not the best judge of sleep conditions. However, it honestly was as good as I could have hoped for. The room was cool and dark(ish), my bed was comfortable(ish), and my toddler was sleeping like a rock(ish). I had downloaded some ASMR videos in advance and my headphones were fully charged.

The biggest problem with sleeping on the train was that it was so loud. The sound of the train itself was loud, but at least soothing. It was the sound from the train whistle that really got to me. I swear that whistle went off nonstop, every few minutes. Our car was near the front of the train, too, so it was extra loud.

Other than that, you can’t really ask for better sleeping conditions when you’re on a train. Again, everything was going well until …

Chaos on the train

For this part of the story, it’s important to mention our exact location on the train. We were sleeping in the second berth on the first car of AC First Class, directly adjacent to a General Class car. You might have seen the viral photos on social media of people packed into Indian train cars, and that is exactly what the General Class car is like.

We pulled up to a station around 3 AM and I was awaken by loud yelling outside and banging on the windows. I peaked outside and saw a platform packed with people, all trying to enter the General Class car just one car in front of us.

A few minutes later, we heard noise erupt from the hallway of our car. Passengers from the packed General Class car had breached the First Class train and were filling the hallways right outside our door. They never tried to enter our berth or anything. They were just trying to find standing room space because their car was so full.

It was probably only 5 to 10 minutes of this before the stewards cleared the First Class car. Then they came in to check all of the berths to ensure no one snuck into any of the beds or anything.

It was alarming and scary at the moment, only because we didn’t know what was going on. Once we figured it out, it was heartbreaking. If it was up to us, we’d have let them stay in our hallway.

The people who have to ride in the General Class car on a train that departs in the middle of the night aren’t doing it for fun. These people are poor and it’s usually the only option. Some of them were families with children like mine. Instead of sleeping in an air conditioned bed, they were awake and cramming into tight, hot, loud train cars. They just wanted room to exist.

I’ll never forget this moment. This was the wildest experience I’ve ever had on a train.

And again, somehow, my child slept through all of it.

Morning on the train

Our little one woke up at 6 AM. It was about an hour earlier than usual, but given the situation I was happy with how much they slept. It was more than my husband and I slept, given that we barely fell asleep at all and woke up with each disruption mentioned above.

I again opted to skip the bathroom and just got ready at my bed. I used bottled water and the provided towel to wash my face a bit and sort of brushed my teeth, spitting into an empty water bottle.

Kenny did go to the bathroom, and confirmed there were no changing tables in the train bathrooms. That was fine; I probably wouldn’t have used one even if there were. Instead, we just handled diaper changes on the bed and then tied them up in little plastic bags so it didn’t smell.

Our ticket type said it came with food, but I think it just meant that food would be available for purchase. Throughout the morning, there was a steward selling things like meal boxes, tea and coffee. We were very cautious about what we ate and drank in India, so we stuck with the packaged foods we brought with us.

Other than that, we mostly just sat back and enjoyed the ride for our last few hours. Zoe watched cartoons that we downloaded onto their tablet. Kenny and I caught up on crosswords, watched India go by out the window, and just relaxed while we could.

Arrival at Agra Cantt

The train stayed mostly on schedule. We arrived at Agra Cantonment railway station about 15 minutes later than scheduled.

Agra is not the last stop on the train, so you do have to pay attention so you don’t miss your stop. They made announcements throughout the car, and we also were tracking it on our phone.

We got off the train and were immediately bombarded by solicitors. People offered to carry our bags and tried to offer us rides and directions. Home to the Taj Mahal, Agra is a very tourism-centric city, so we were not surprised to experience this. We just kept saying no thank you until one person left and another came.

It was annoying for us because we had already scheduled a driver. However, if you were looking for a ride to your hotel, you would have no problem finding one.

We climbed up the stairs from the platform, over the tracks, and headed to the exit and parking lot. As soon as we exited the station, we found our driver holding a sign for us. After loading up our bags, we were on our way to our hotel.

We had survived our first overnight train in India with a kid!

Tips for riding the overnight train in India

  • Buy AC First Class Sleeper. I’d highly recommend AC First Class for foreign tourists. It’s the most comfortable experience, you’ll be surrounded by mostly other tourists, and not that much more expensive (relatively, especially if you’re from the US or Europe). It’s completely worth it in our opinion.
  • Book early (but not too early). First Class tickets can sell out, so try to book your tickets as soon as your travel plans are finalized. However, sometimes the First Class tickets don’t show up on 12GoAsia too far in advance. Which leads us too …
  • Check seating availability on the Indian Railways website. If First Class tickets aren’t showing up on Indian Railways, check seat availability on their website. This will show you if seats on specific trains and dates have sold out or just haven’t been released yet. It’s also helpful to know how many seats remain on a train so you can know how fast you need to book.
  • Bring your own meals, snacks and drinks. They do pass through the cars with some food for sale, but it’s best to bring your own. I’d suggest bringing snacks for the evening, a few bottles of water, and breakfast for the morning. We brought a PBJ lunch box that we bought at our hotel and bought chips at the station. An instant coffee packet would also be smart.
  • Pack a day bag. Have one bag that is just things you need on the train. Things like pajamas, chargers, snacks, etc. That way you don’t have to dig through your entire suitcase.
  • Bring a rinse-free toothbrush. I didn’t have one of these, but so wished I did! I didn’t want to use the bathroom on the train, and this would have been great to be able to brush your teeth at your seat.
  • Download content in advance. There’s no wifi on the train and cell service is spotty. Download TV shows, music, and whatever else to your device in advance.

Closing thoughts on the overnight train from Udaipur to Agra

Looking back, it’s pretty wild that we brought our toddler on an overnight train in India. It’s even wilder that they did so well! It was probably the thing I was most worried about on our entire 3-week trip, but it turned out to be just fine.

Toddler wise, everything went as well as we could have hoped. We were able to do bedtime like we always do, they slept through the night, and they were pretty happy to have so much screen time in the morning. Packing food and snacks definitely saved the day, too.

I personally didn’t sleep well, but I never do. That’s not really the train’s fault. The berth was nicer than I expected, and I was surprisingly comfortable. The train whistle noise was definitely my biggest complaint, though.

The experience had some chaotic moments for sure. I expected it to be intense, and it was in same ways, but not in the ways I expected. I never thought I’d witness the chaos of people rushing the train, and I’ll definitely never forget that.

Overall all, I’m glad I did it, I’d recommend it to others, but I’m also glad it’s over.