While it may not be visible on a map but Pakistan is massive.
It invested heavily in infrastructure to make train travel in Pakistan around the country easy for locals as well as travelers. You can find local transport everywhere you go. Buses run between major cities. The northern region of the country is dominated by minibuses (“coasters”) as well as Jeeps. But if you’re traveling in the center or south–especially if you’re traveling long-distance–nothing beats a good ol’ train trip.
Pakistan’s rail network dates back to the British colonial period… and has not changed much since then. Older trains have survived since the English gave them rails and fortress-like stations continue to be strong. The country’s train tracks are deserted. However, Chinese investment may soon revitalize them.
However, Pakistan has an extensive rail network and rail travel is a great way to experience South Asia. It can be confusing to travel by train: there are several classes, many names, irregular ticket offices and timings, and dozens upon dozens…
Now, travelers can rejoice! You don’t need to go through the same problems I went through when I first visited Pakistan. This guide will help you navigate Pakistan’s train travel.
Finding the right train to take you to Pakistan
First of all, you must find the right train to take you on your train journey.
You can do this by visiting the Pakistan Railways website. This section will allow you to locate your train and plan your journey. Although it can be difficult to get the information you desire, navigation is easy. If the website is functioning, then it is.
Types and types of trains
There are many different types of trains. The Green Line train, which is business class, runs between Karachi Lahore and Islamabad. It also has the historic but less comfortable Bolan Mail, which runs between Karachi and Quetta. There may be only one train on certain routes, while there may be several.
Some trains stop at most stations on the route, others at just a few. However, the names of the trains may not always indicate how long the train journey will take. For example, the Awam Express runs from Karachi to Lahore in more than a full day. The Business Express, however, takes around 17 hours. Pakistani express is a fluid term.
The Pakistan Railways website gives an indication of how long each train journey should take. You can choose your destination based on that information. As a general rule, the faster the train is, the more expensive it will be (and, often, less comfortable).
Types of Train Classes
Pakistan Railways offers seven classes on its trains. All trains do not have the seven classes; many have only two or three.
These classes are broken down as follows:
- ACSL- ACSL Sleeper
- AC Parlour Car
- ACLZ AC Company
- AC Standard – AC Standard
- ISL – First-Class Sleeper
- EEC – Economy Classes
- SEC 2nd Class
This doesn’t necessarily mean anything for you. Don’t worry: These names don’t really explain much. This is what you can expect of each class of Pakistan train:
ACSL – AC Sleeper
This class is the most luxurious and expensive. AC Sleeper class includes private compartments which are shared with three to four other travelers. These compartments have two to four long, comfortable bunks that can double as a bench and a bed. You should bring a blanket as the AC can get cold.
You won’t find any outside people selling snacks or chai on the trains in this class. The train staff manages all tea and food service.
PC – AC Parlour Car
Comfortable AC chair class that is reminiscent of European commuter trains. These seats don’t recline so they aren’t recommended for long trips.
Similar to AC sleeper class, but shared by more people. Each compartment can accommodate six people.
ACL – AC Standard
This class, sometimes known as “AC Lower”, is dependent on the train. This class is similar to riding on a bus with AC, but for shorter trips. For longer rides, the class will offer bunk berths that can be used for sleeping.
The layout of the sleeper train cars is open, with sections. Each section will have six beds to one side and two along the aisle.
ISL – First Class Sleeper
Open berth type coach with standard sleeper type compartment. Open compartments with six bunk beds. The upper and lower bunks run along the tracks through the train car. AC not allowed.
EC – Economy Class
Similar to First-Class Sleeper, but the seating to the side is for sitting only, and not sleeping.
SEC – Second Class
Standard train seating arrangements If you see someone sleeping on the floor, don’t be surprised.