A Guide for Pet Parents

By Saurav Roy*

We human beings love to go out, roam new places, try new cuisine and socialize. The same holds true for pet parents,  but therein lays the dilemma. How do we go out with our pet-kids? We do not want to leave them behind (that is a different kind of hassle altogether) and we can’t take them along on long distance trips unless you want to drive all the way.

Well – No fear, Indian railway is here. I have travelled multiple times with my pet-kids in trains and I keep getting questions from pet parents on how it is done. So, I decided to write this article to assist based on my experiences.

For the pet parents who are not aware, the Indian Railway has always been pet friendly. Pet parents are allowed to take their pet-kids along with them in the train and we are provided 2 options –

  1. Let the pet travel in brake van: Not recommended
  2. Let the pet travel with you: Recommended

Option 1 – Let the pet travel in brake van: (Provided the train has a brake van. If the train doesn’t have a brake van, then you need to go with Option 2)

If you are a pet parent and cannot afford the First AC train ticket or don’t want to go through the hassles of booking a First AC train ticket (hassle details provided in option 2) or the train you are travelling doesn’t have a First AC compartment (Yes, there are trains without First AC), then option 1 is for you. All you would have to do is reach the station about an hour earlier, find the baggage/cargo booking office and book your pet. They will weigh your pet and charge you a nominal fee. You then go over to the brake van and hand over the pet to the person in charge of the brake van. Brake vans are supposed to have a small place for pets; however, it is not necessarily clean and maintained, please keep that in mind. It is also recommended that you use a muzzle if your pet is of a larger size. You also need to ensure that they are secured/ chained properly.

Please check the link below related to booking your pets:

http://www.indianrailways.gov.in/railwayboard/uploads/codesmanual/CommManual-I/ComercialManualCh10_data.htm

I have never used this option till date. This option has its own concerns as you will have to keep checking if you pet-kids are doing all right in the brake van and depending on which compartment you have, your berth and the brake van may be too far off for you to visit regularly. If you have a pet who is very furry (For e.g.: Siberian Husky) then there are chances of them having some health concerns.

Option 2 – Let the pet travel with you: (Provided the train has First AC. If not, then try Option 1, or book a train or find alternate route that has First AC)

This is by far the best option, as you get to keep your pet with you all the time. However, this is also not an easy thing to manage. When you book a ticket in First AC, you are not allocated the berth number like the way you get when booking in other tiers. You are only informed that the ticket is confirmed. The berth number/coupe/cabin is allocated only when the chart is made (6 to 12 hours before the travel time).

When booking a ticket on First AC, you have 2 choices – Coupe or Cabin. A coupe is meant for 2 people while a cabin is for 4. If you are travelling alone with your pet-kid, then this may be a concern if the other passenger objects. If the other passenger objects, then you will have to either deboard (if no brake van) or move your pet to brake van. So, I will highly recommend that you book for minimum of 2 and then follow the process listed below to request for a coupe. The other option would be to book for 4, as that will ensure that you either get 2 Coupe or Cabin or people distributed in coupes and cabin and then you can request people to shuffle seats to get 1 (cabin/coupe) for yourself; that way you don’t have to worry about anyone objecting.

However, if it’s only 2 people travelling then it is best to book a coupe and follow the procedure outlined below:

  1. While booking the ticket online on irctc.com, you can choose the option for Coupe or Cabin. Please choose Coupe.
  2. A Day or 2 before the travel please head over to the Main Railway Office and find the Chief reservation officer. For e.g.: In Mumbai, the reservation office is at the far end of the VT station (towards the Masjid Bunder side). The building is called CCM building, and the reservation officer sits on the second floor. (Please note that I last travelled in train in 2019, so this may have changed now)
  3. You need to either drop or handover an application requesting for a Coupe at the Chief Reservation Officer’s office. In the VT office, there is a letter insert slot on the Chief Reservation Officers door and it is recommended that you drop your application there. Please ensure that you sign the application, mention your PNR number, your cell phone, and your address in the application. It will be good to attach a certificate of good health of the pet with this application.
  4. Next step is to PRAY!!! Generally, a coupe is prioritized for VIP, so if a VIP is travelling by the same train, they will get first preference for the coupe.
  5. Once the chart is released you will know whether the Coupe was allocated or not. Therefore booking 4 seats is best option to avoid the expectation of getting a coupe (however this is a costlier option for train tickets but cheaper than using Airlines)
  6. On the day of the travel, reach the station about an hour earlier, find the baggage/cargo booking office and book your pet. They will weigh your pet and charge you a nominal fee. If you didn’t get a coupe then the baggage/cargo booking office may not book your pet as they generally don’t prefer to book if you don’t have a coupe (unless you have a cabin only for yourself). In this case, the TT will charge you a penalty for your pet-kid which may range from 3 to 6 times the cost as per the cargo booking office
  7. Then board the train and enjoy happy time with your pet in your coupe. If you were not allotted the coupe then pray that the other passenger is pet friendly.

I have been mostly successful in getting a coupe, expect for my last travel where I got a cabin and paid Rs 3000 as penalty. However, I also carried a crate just in case and was lucky to get other passengers who were pet friendly.

In my case, I generally get the coupe because I am travelling to Kamakhya (Assam), and the travel time is about 50 hours, and the cost is approx. INR 5500. A VIP can get an air ticket at the same price and reach earlier. But I keep my fingers crossed that this success continues.

Meeting the Chief reservation officer and giving application for coupe is lot manageable in Mumbai, however that may not be the same story for other parts of the country. My wife had a terrible time trying the above procedure when travelling from Guwahati, as the officials there were not helpful, and it was difficult to find the Chief Reservation Officer.

Finally, if the train that you plan to travel in does not have a brake-van or a First AC compartment then, please find a different train or alternate route that has a First AC. Or you can always choose to fly with your pet (but is a very costly affair).

For pet parents looking to fly, please refer to the links below for the different airlines. The 1 thing to remember is that when flying in airlines, the highest cost would be the Crate. You will need to buy/rent an IATA approved crate and those tend to be costly depending on the size of your pet-kid. For e.g.: If I were to look at flying with my Siberian Husky, the cost of the crate itself would fund my first AC train travel for 2.

*   Author is a dog father of 5 and a passionate YouTube vlogger on all things pet pawrenting. https://www.youtube.com/moksh0241

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