Planning a Trip
1 Get in
1.1 By train
1.2 By car
1.3 On foot
There is a entry fee (of ₹ 40 for adult visitors and ₹ 20 for children from May 1, 2012) to Matheran. The proceeds from this is used for the upkeep of the place considering its fragile ecosystem.
You can catch either
a Karjat-bound local train
the 07.10 Deccan Express (arrives at 08.38 in time for the 08.50)
from CST (a.k.a. VT Mumbai, India) on the Central Railway to Neral Station.
If coming from Pune, catch any Mumbai bound train and get off at Karjat (Around 95 km from Pune).Then catch a CST bound local train from Karjat and get down at Neral (21 km, would take around 15 min).
From Neral Station, there is the so-called toy train which runs to Matheran about 4 times in a day. This toy train is not operational when railway route is under maintenance or when there is a perceived hazard e.g. the monsoons. Unfortunately, the only way to find this out is at the Neral Station.
Neral to Matheran tickets as of November 2009 costs are 1st Class ₹210, 2nd Class Reserved 35Rs, 2nd class unreserved ₹20. Tickets can be booked from 3 to 1 day in advance, and then on the day of travel from 45 minutes before the train.
The train is often full, so turn up in good time to ensure you get a ticket. You can also book the ticket online through IRCTC. If there's a queue of unmoving people at the ticket window with a salesman who is reading the paper, then all the 2nd class tickets are sold out. Jump the queue to the window and ask for 1st class as the're usually still available.
The toy train times (as of Nov. 2009) are:
Matheran Toy train
Neral -> Matheran:
depart 0730, arrive 0930
depart 0850, arrive 1110
depart 1015, arrive 1210
depart 1215, arrive 1405
depart 1705, arrive 1900
Matheran -> Neral:
depart 0700, arrive 0840
depart 0945, arrive 1125
depart 1340, arrive 1520
depart 1445, arrive 1625
depart 1625, arrive 1810
Here is a list of local train timings from Neral back to CST:
0246, 356, 0425, 0517, 0532, 0607, 0654, 0716, 0734, 0808, 0837, 0718, 0954, 1109, 1232, 1331, 1416, 1440, 1553, 1631, 1705, 1729, 1837, 1854, 1954, 2056, 2141, 2223, 2256, 0222.
Alternately, there are many share-a-cabs which take you to Matheran from Neral. The distance from Neral to Dasturi Point, last point to which vehicles are allowed in Matheran, is 11 km. The drivers that ply through the roads have immaculate driving skills, so a real advice here is not to keep eyeing the blind turns and foot-to-brake co-ordination, but to just enjoy the breath-taking views as you climb up towards the Dasturi point. Charges are ₹ 60.00 per person as of Oct. 2010. Also make sure you take the rearmost seats as it will provide a relatively more comfortable travel. Once you have left the taxi, you can take a horse ride or get the help of porters to carry luggage up to the town.
There is sadly no convenient express train to get back to CST in the evening. You can get a local train from Neral to Karjat (away from Mumbai), and then an express train back from Karjat into Mumbai. But this will take longer than just getting a local train from Neral back into town.
Cars are not allowed within Matheran. However you can drive up and park your car at Dasturi car point, or take the newly introduced mini bus shuttle from Karjat or Neral railway stations up to Dasturi. From Dasturi you must take a 40 minute horseback or man-pulled rickshaw ride to Matheran along a mud track.
Alternately you can walk from Dasturi along the rail line and make your way up to Matheran - 20 minutes to half an hour. The rail track route is slightly shorter, more scenic and very much more comfortable than the rubbly, dusty main road route. Coolies or porters are available at Dasturi to carry your luggage. Remember to negotiate rates in advance. You can also go with group booking or alone.
There are several walking trails which ascend the Matheran Plateau. These are used by local people commuting to the hill station as well as the occasional intrepid holiday-maker.
From the Eastern side, trekkers start at Neral (see above).
You can also approach from the Western side, which has the distinct advantage that you can be in the shade for most of the ascent if you start early in the morning. One route recommended during monsoon starts from the village of Dudhoni and brings you to Sunset Point in Matheran. It is suitable for beginners, and the ascent only takes 2 hours or so. There is apparently a side trip to a waterfall, but I have not done this. Dudhoni can be reached by autorickshaw from Panvel (accessible by bus or central line train). The trail is obvious in most places; when in doubt, ask a local.