A journey with Golden Chariot - Experiences, Learnings, Suggestions, Dos & Don'ts

I hope you enjoyed the whole series about Golden Chariot, through which I talk about places we visited, luxury, services, food, travel experiences etc. If you haven't checked it out yet, I would encourage you to click the link and read the series first and then come back to this post. That way it would be most meaningful.

While I was sharing the various posts on Golden Chariot, I was continuously getting varied set of questions from folks around me and through social media. Some of the common questions were: 
How was the experience? 
Is the trip worth the money? 
Were there Indian travellers on-board too or were there only foreigners? 
Why do people spend so much money on a train journey in India, while they can do international tours in the same money? 
How do you rate Golden Chariot tour on the scale of 1-10?
What are top 3 things that you liked in this experience? 
and so on... 

During my journey on the Golden Chariot, I interacted with a lot of travellers who were on the Golden Chariot trip with us. This post is a compilation of those thoughts and I want everyone to know how people think about the experience, who actually travelled in this luxury train for 7 days. 

There was one couple from Australia, a lady from San Francisco, a couple from Singapore (currently living in Bengaluru), a couple from Paris, a group of doctors from Bihar state of India and few families from Delhi. During my conversation with these folks, I tried to understand why these folks chose Golden Chariot and during the journey what they liked the most plus things that can be improved. I got some very interesting responses. Here are some opinions. I have intentionally withheld the identity of the person. And at the end of the post, I have put together some learnings for future travellers of Golden Chariot and suggestions for Golden Chariot management/Decision-makers.

Let me start with the fundamental question - Why do people travel with Golden Chariot?

One of the travellers amazed me, when she said that I have to unpack/pack the bag only once during the whole journey and I would get a flavour of south India in a week. That’s such a brilliant thought. Imagine if you have to explore 10+ places in a week and need to move between the hotels at 5 places at least. On the top of that commuting between the hotels, finding taxi for sight-seeing at different location etc. Isn’t it a lot of effort, which requires strong planning? 

Another response was - “I love train journeys and this certainly sounded like a very different experience, although bit expensive.”. Fair enough, it’s certainly a very interesting experience but at the same time the cost is very high and only a few can afford it. 

Response by one of the families - we do 2 trips every year, one domestic and one international. And we have been doing this for quite some time. This time we got some discount on the Golden Chariot, so we planned to experience something different instead of an international trip. Although it’s little expensive than  our international trips. 

There were folks on the Golden Chariot who had some connection with trains and that’s why they chose this unique train journey in South India. 

During the same time, we asked folks about What They Liked the Most on Golden Chariot -
  1. Food was good and chef on train are quite skilled.
  2. Hospitality of the Staff is amazing. 
  3. Unique experience of train journey in comfort.
  4. A good itinerary within Karnataka state of India

Concerns of guests and areas of improvement for Golden Chariot -
  1. Price vs Experience - Some folks shared this concern about price paid vs experience.  They didn't find it completely worth the price.
  2. Carelessness for the schedule was a big concern. Many of the travellers were not punctual and hence schedule used to go for a toss. The punctual lot certainly didn't like it. Why should everyone suffer because of the carelessness of a few. 
  3. Filthiness around the place where the train is parked was one of the concerns. Essentially on the railway stations and outside the stations. 
  4. Power point in washroom not working, so one of the guest had to use hair drier in the room by taking out the other chargers. 
  5. You can't see anything outside windows in the bar & restaurants. Windows had some level of coating and hence you can't see outside the train. But while in your room, you can see through the glass windows. 
  6. Some of the folks couldn't sleep while the train was moving. It was shaky. Indians are habitual of Indian Railway trains, so this was mainly  the concern of folks from other countries where they had experienced much better train journeys. I slept very well throughout the journey. 
  7. There was a single AC control for one coach with 4 rooms and the temprature preferences can be different. So it was a little challenge for some of the folks on the train. 

My own learnings from Golden Chariot Tour: 

  1. When you are going for the one night stay in Kabini, take 2 pairs of cloths. I took one pair for the next day and I strongly felt the need to change when I returned from Jungle Safari. Like all jungle safaris, you will come back with a thick layer of dust on your entire body :).
  2. Be careful if it’s raining. It was raining when we reached the Iskon Temple and everyone needs to take off their shoes at a designated area. When we came back from the temple, some of the co-passengers found their shoes wet and that was disappointing as folks usually carry just one single pair of shoes. 
  3. There is no wifi in rooms, so go prepared if you intend to do some work and need connectivity. Mostly 4G would work. 
  4. Beware of hawkers at different places you visit through the coach. If you are sure you need the stuff they are selling, only then indulge in any discussion. And if you want to buy, negotiate hard because by default they tell you double the price. 
  5. Keep a hat with you, as sun can be very harsh at some of the places. Especially in Hampi, it was very hot. I am talking about the month of March. Situation would be different if you are visiting in winters. 
  6. In some of the temples, shorts are not allowed. So do check with the staff before leaving the train for a day. 

Suggestions for Golden Chariot Team ( How to make this experience better ) -

  1. ‘Madira’, the bar coach is not spacious enough to accommodate everyone for the welcome note. And that’s the very first experience on this train. So it’s important to see what can be done to improve this
  2. Cleaner washrooms was a challenge at most of the places. One suggestion was to have a coach equipped with washroom, which is a common thing now. There are a lot of luxury coaches which have washrooms inside, so that Golden Chariot staff can maintain it well and avoid the dependency. 
  3. Shopping halt at emporium - Many guests were disappointed by the state of washrooms. It’s more related to #2, but apart from washrooms I noticed some guests loosing trust in the authenticity of the stuff as the shop manager looked desperate to sell things at discounted prices, which were not mentioned anywhere. Ideally emporiums follow a standard rule of fixed rates or if there is any sale, that is announced in form of posters at the place. In fact, the one at actually Goa cheated one of the co-traveller. 
  4. Towels offered just outside the train when travellers come after the sight-seeing are very refreshing. Something similar should be done when travellers board the coach after seeing places like Hampi, Bellur Temple, Halebid Temple, Shravanbelagula, Badami Cave Temples or Kabini. Most of these places are dusty and hot, so towels at the coach make more sense instead of just outside the train when travellers are just getting off from the AC coach.
  5. Some of the folks felt that single guide throughout the journey would be better idea as compared to different guides for various locations explored with Golden Chariot. It's debatable.
  6. Minimal bus journeys can save a lot of time. Many times we came back to the train via bus for lunch and that takes for at least 3-4 hrs in a day. This can easily be saved if a nice picnic can be arranged around the location being explored. Again debatable because some of the guests may prefer fresh food, but that's a challenge team can take up and find a way around. 
  7. It would be great if the bus can be cleaned on daily basis. Many times, plastic waste was found inside the bus at the beginning of the day. 
  8. On the day of registration, some seating arrangements can be done during high tea.
  9. The staff is humble, but at times they over-commit which is not delivered and then it leads to disappointments. It's better to under-commit and over-deliver.
  10. Some of the folks faced language issues with staff serving in restaurant. They couldn't communicate what they wanted to say and request. 
So if you have travelled in Golden Chariot, don't forget to share your comments in terms of agreement/disagreement to the details shared here or anything new you want to add. 

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