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I will be visiting India at the end of January in part to attend a friend's wedding in Sampalpur which is in the state of Odisha. The wedding is on a Saturday, and I leave from the Delhi airport in the wee hours of the morning on Monday (i.e. very late Sunday night). I was hoping to begin traveling from Sambalpur back to Delhi early on Sunday morning so that the travel will not cut into the wedding experience.

Is it possible to reliably make it to Delhi with ~18 hours of travel time? What combination of planes, trains, and automobiles is fastest and most likely to succeed in the limited amount of time?

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    I have no idea how good it is in this region of the world but Rome2rio has a few suggestions. – Relaxed Jan 6 '15 at 20:13
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    Thanks @Relaxed! Its interesting to note that the first route suggested by Rome2rio is the same as the one given in the answer by @DumbCoder. I haven't used that site before, but I definitely will in the future. – Chris Mueller Jan 7 '15 at 17:01
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    rome2rio is surprisingly better than many amateur travellers in even remote villages of India, this is personal experience – skv Jan 8 '15 at 4:39
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18 hrs is doable. Go to Bhubaneswar to catch a flight to New Delhi.

From Sambalpur there is train at 0635 hours to Bhubaneswar, takes around 4 hours and 30 minutes. Below is a list of them. It is a busy route, but you will be able to get a reservation easily. Go to IRCTC and check the schedules or reserve a ticket. There are regular flights from Bhubaneswar to New Delhi, so flights will not be a problem. To check flights availability use Yatra or Makemytrip.

Train schedule from Sambalpur to Bhubaneswar

Or if you don't like trains, there are night buses which run very frequently from Sambalpur to Bhubaneswar. Check out this bus reservations website. Else you can also go down to the bus station or to any of the agents selling bus tickets, but take a local with you who knows the language(it is a very distinct version of Oriya which they speak there). Hindi will be fine but if somebody knows the local language it will be much better. Or you will be fleeced mercilessly. Pay a little more and take the Volvo bus, if available, as the road might get a bit bumpy at some places but the major part is fine.

  • Thanks for the detailed answer! Do you think the train or the bus to Bhubaneswar is more likely to run on schedule/be on time? – Chris Mueller Jan 7 '15 at 12:39
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    Trains don't count on it, but choose trains which originate at your station which gives it a high possibility of atleast departing on time. But do check runningstatus.in for their performances. Buses, unless it breaks down, do reach on time. But there does exist a concept in that area that the original bus, if it breaks down, will try to put you in a different bus to your destination(as they hate retuning money) as loads of buses run on those routes and many have empty seats. – DumbCoder Jan 7 '15 at 12:54
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Just so that there is an alternative to DumbCoder's very practical and useful answer, if you find the fights from Bhubaneswar to be way too expensive or infrequent, you could actually travel to Kolkata which has a much better connection to Delhi and many other international destinations. In case if your international travel from Delhi is flexible and you can switch, there could be a very valid alternate directly from Kolkata.

Trains to Kolkata are less frequent, however the flights are much more frequent and since you mention morning hours, there is a train at 08:20 in the morning from Sambalpur reaching Howrah (the railway station in Kolkata) at around 7 in the night and there is a flight at 8 35 in the night reaching Delhi by night 11:15. The train I mentioned has a fairly good (reaching within 20 minutes of scheduled time) time record.

Also to validate Rome2Rio, this specific instance travelling to Ranchi by an early morning (04 30 am) train and taking a close connection in an hour from Ranchi airport or the late evening flight to Delhi is the quickest/cheapest possible options respectively.

Two other suggestions the official site to check train running delays is http://trainenquiry.com and the modern site is very useful when viewing it from a smartphone. I use http://erail.in to check availability (this requires a plugin which may not be useful to you) but generally very quick in retrieving reservation availability across classes and dates.

I also think trains may not be reliable always, but there are few trains which are notorious for their delays, barring which services are generally fine (reaching most destinations within 30 minutes of scheduled time). You can identify those troublesome trains using http://trainenquiry.com

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You can search train between station on - National Train Enquiry System

After that you can check your PNR Status - Here

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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You can check the best trains to travel between New Delhi to Sambalpur on https://runningstatus.in/best-trains/NDLS-to-SBP

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