I just read an article about the Indonesian railways, where they put low hanging concrete balls above railroad tracks to deter train rooftop riders.

Roof riders in Burma, photo by Peter Hahndorf

Roof riding is common on certain trains in Indonesia, but it is illegal.

In Burma people also did it, but they wouldn't let us go up on the roof. What about India?

It was also popular on the tourist trains in Ecuador, but after two people cut their heads off a while ago, they are now very strict about this.

So are there any trains where you are actually allowed to ride on the roof? And how dangerous is it assuming there are no concrete balls in the way?

  • 3
    I really doubt it... But be sure that I will try to ride on the roof when I visit India. Maybe not on the first train but I will try until I succeed! :D
    – rlab
    Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 23:40
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    There is ONE track in Ecuador where this was common and I went particularly to the track (while I was living in Ecuador) for that reason and was told it was no longer possible after I had bought the ticket. So, I rode inside with a tiny blurry window and could see nothing of the supposedly spectacular scenery. When I came out at the end, I saw the next train come with the roof completely filled with passengers enjoying the view :( Pretty much the most disappointing travel experience I had.
    – Itai
    Commented May 5, 2013 at 21:43
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    Surely, if it was allowed to ride on top of a train somewhere, it would not be called “roof-riding” but open deck or something ;-)
    – Relaxed
    Commented Sep 17, 2013 at 7:51
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    They beamed it about 5 years ago on the Ecuador one. Decapitation incident. Commented Jan 9, 2016 at 17:53
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    @gerrit - No, without a roof, you can not ride on a roof.That would be a different question. Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 17:27

4 Answers 4


It's common practice on the iron ore train in Mauritania.

The train carries iron ore in huge hoppers. There are no roofs -- passengers either ride with the ore or pay a small amount for a ticket in the passenger car. The scenery is barren desert, the ride is brutally uncomfortable, and temperatures are extremely hot. I rode last summer solo from Choum to Nouadhibou, here's a picture to give you a better idea of the conditions. It's safe for seasoned travelers, just keep your wits about you and throw away any romantic notions you have about riding atop trains. If you have any specific questions about the ride itself, let me know!

Iron Ore train 2011

  • aw, totally forgot about that one!
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 19:34
  • 3
    who took the photo? Commented Jan 10, 2020 at 12:54
  • 3
    "who took the photo?" – the other one. Obviously.
    – mustaccio
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 0:01

If you're asking specifically about India, I wouldn't advise it! Indian trains that run on electricity get their power feed from overhead lines rather than a 'third-rail' running parallel and inbetween tracks. Most 'mainstream' trains in India now run on electrified tracks with only minority running on diesel locomotives.

You might have gotten your idea of rooftop train travel from Bollywood songs such as this one called Chaiyya Chaiyya (from the film Dil Se). This was shot on a section Nilgiri Mountain Railway near Ooty which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and still runs on steam-powered locomotives. If you're expecting to travel among locals on the roof that way, perish the thought! (I saw more tourists at Niligiri Mountain Railway than locals; the journey is definitely worth it though!) The music video was filmed under controlled conditions (obviously) and then there are parts of the track where the clearance between tunnels and and train roof is pretty narrow.

Just to be clear, the article in Karlson's answer suggesting roof riding is banned is not a new thing. This has always been illegal. It still does happen in places where local trains are crowded, by people who are travelling without tickets. And there's a very good reason why it's banned too, for safety reasons.


Just found this article which states all the way at the bottom that the government in India banned riding on roofs of the train. I guess that happened after Uttar Pradesh disaster.


I remember seeing roof riding as normal on the Nile Valley Express in Sudan from Wadi Halfa to Khartoum. But this was on the BBC series Pole to Pole so around 1994. I don't know how much has changed on that line.

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