Exploring India – Hit the road

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Travelling by car is cheap, but Indian roads can be physically and mentally tiring.  Take your time, pack some common sense and some excellent road trips await.

Many people employ or hire drivers, but driving around yourself shouldn’t be feared.

I’ve been behind the wheel for a while now and I’m loving it.  There have been a few moments and sharp intakes of breath, but most of the time I’m in my element.

It’s worth remembering that Indian roads weren’t built for speed and traffic snarls can cause massive hold ups.  So patience really is a virtue.

Huge pot holes, wandering cows and a whole host of other stuff can happen which means you need to keep your wits about you too.

Driving in cities is different to driving around the country, but this post about my experience at Delhi’s traffic training park gives an overview of some stuff that you should think about and look at for when in urban areas.

Here’s six other things to remember when driving on India’s roads.

Firstly, be aware of the rules of the road

And the rules are as follows. Everyone follows their own rules.  It’s therefore helpful to have eyes in the front, back and sides of your head.

Secondly, safety trumps everything when it comes to travelling by car.

India’s road safety record has a lot of room for improvement.  Road casualty levels are the worst in the world with around 115,000 deaths a year.  Go slow, drive defensively and think ahead.

Thirdly, Speak up. 

Don’t be silent.  Tell the driver if you feel uncomfortable in the car and explain why.  Asking won’t kill you, not saying anything might.

Fourthly, insist on seat belts.

Drivers in the front are required by law to buckle up, but those in the back can do as they please. This more often than not means seatbelts are tucked under the back seats in taxis and hired vehicles.  Ask the driver to take them out, so you can put them on.  If he doesn’t, don’t get in.

Fifth tip, try to avoid driving during the hours of darkness.

Many vehicles on Indian roads don’t have lights and the driver’s of the cars that do don’t always use them. Alternatively, driving with full beam is also a favourite

I was driving at night once in Uttar Pradesh and met a steamroller without any lights, during the night and on a road that was not lit.  It was a pretty scary moment.

All in all, night driving in a city is a challenge and out of town if you choose to drive you must be mad.  Plan to be back in the city well before it gets dark.

Sixth and final tip, don’t drive tired.

You’ll need to keep your wits about you when behind the wheel.  If you are driving and feeling tired admit it.  And stop.

Don’t forget about your driver too.  Indian drivers aren’t superheroes so make sure they don’t overdo it either.  Give them time to take a break and make sure that they are well fed and watered.  Your life could depend on it.

Not a cheerful point on which to finish this post, but an important one.

Happy travels.  You’ll have an amazing time on the roads.  Just watch out for steamrollers.

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