Deciding to move was easy. Figuring out how was hard.We considered 3 options: airplane, car and train.
Air India is the only airline transporting dogs. (Jet Airways used to!) However, Ginger was not crate-trained, and we thought she would be very stressed alone, in the crate, and in cargo for those few hours. Driving down seemed like a fun option, but it would take us a long time. After long deliberation, we settled on train-ing it up north.
The Indian Railways website on pet travel rules was hard to comprehend, but we found the various websites and blog much easier to understand (see below!). Our favourite was this blog post on Posto’s journey on the Duronto.
This is what we did, and the information we found:
- Dogs can travel with you in trains in a closed door cabin or coupe, i.e. AC 1st. To increase our chances of getting a cabin, we booked 4 seats on the Rajdhani. I recommend booking 2 or 4 seats for a coupe or cabin respectively. (They can also travel in the brake van if the train has one, but I do not recommend that option).
- Make sure your vet gives you the go-ahead for the proposed journey. Ask your vet to provide a Health Certificate, and remember to carry a muzzle. We did not need either, but we came prepared, just in case the Railway officials insisted on either.
- We visited both the Andheri and Mumbai Central stations, to meet with the booking officials before booking our tickets to get some kind of verbal confirmation/assurance that we can, in fact, travel with a dog. I recommend making a visit to the respective station in your city too, if possible.
- Two days before the journey, send in a written application to the Parcel Office to request for a cabin/couple at Mumbai Central station. If you are traveling from Delhi, you have to submit this letter at Baroda House.
- They asked us to also submit the application to the Booking office at Churchgate station. They asked us to do that so those in charge of allocating VIPs last minute tickets know that i) we have requested a cabin and ii) we are traveling with our pet.
- We received an SMS confirming a cabin allocation 4 hours before the departure (not sure if this happens all the time!).
- Once we got the SMS, we went to the Parcel Office. There, they asked us to fill a form with basic information of our dog such as name, weight etc. Carry your dog’s Health Certificate & your photo ID copy. In Delhi, it was simpler – we just had to go to the Parcel Office (Platform #7 at HZT) and show our ticket and coupe confirmation and pay for the dog’s ticket right there.
- Then, we went back to the TC Office to pay the fee for Ginger. The fee for Ginger was Rs. 633. We were all set to board! [UPDATE: fee payment happens at the Parcel Office itself now!]
While we played will-we-get-the-cabin-or-not, it was pretty clear that Ginger was unusually alert the whole time! Of course, a busy Indian railway station is going to be highly-stimulating for the dog. Here are some tips to make sure the pup is comfortable too:
- Walk your dog before the journey, so they are tired and rested during the journey.
- Make sure they have peed/pooped before boarding the train. You might not be able to get out often, or at all, for the entire duration of the ride. Ginger held her bladder for about 19 hrs despite being taken out during a 10-min halt at Baroda
- Carry a few treats and fun toys to occupy your dog at the station and in the train.
- MIND THE GAP between the platform and the train. Ginger almost fell in between the platform and train while trying to get in!
- Don’t over-feed. A light meal on the day of travel should suffice (check with the vet, of course!)
- Make sure there is fresh water available for your dog throughout the journey.
- NEVER leave your dog unattended!
The Indian Railway officials and Rajdhani staff were great! While we were pretty clueless about the process until this experience, the folks at the Railways were friendly and responsive throughout. Having done this once, we are now pretty confident in traveling with her again, even for vacations!