Due to the large size of the country, the train is the favoured method for tourists to travel around India, but there are also people who prefer to rent a car. This gives more freedom and is a good way to discover the interesting Indian culture. To drive through India, you will need an international driving licence and an Indian visa before departure.
Road network in India
Something you should consider before getting behind the wheel in a foreign country is the quality of the roads in your destination country. In India’s case, only the big cities have good quality roads. In the suburbs and the rest of the country, the roads are generally poor and difficult to drive on. They are also very poorly lit, which makes night-time visibility difficult and increases the risk of accidents. In addition to these dangerous conditions, at night there are also drunk drivers and drivers who drive without lights in order to save money. Therefore, it is recommended to rent a car with an expert driver who is used to these conditions.
In India, people drive on the left, a leftover of the country’s colonial history. British tourists in particular might think they are well suited to drive in the country. However, the traffic chaos in India is of a completely different order. Although there are some traffic rules, most people do not follow them and use informal traffic rules. The horn is a common communication tool on the road. You can be overtaken from both sides and there are often vehicles driving in opposite directions, which leaves you no choice but to pull over to avoid accidents.
Despite this driving behaviour, foreigners should obey the traffic rules as best they can to avoid problems with the police. The speed limits are generally 100 km/h for cars and 65 km/h for motorbikes. However, this can vary from state to state, so it is advised checking the rules of the area you are driving in. The blood alcohol limit in India is 0.3 grams per litre of blood. Exceeding this can lead to imprisonment, fines, or a combination of both. Another element to take into account is the wide variety of vehicles using the same roads: from cars and motorbikes to tuktuks, rickshaws or carts pulled by oxen. In addition to these animals, watch out for monkeys, buffaloes and cows (sacred in the country), which roam freely.
Documents required and the Indian visa
The requirements for driving in India are similar to those in many other countries. In addition to a national driving licence, an international driving licence is required, which must be obtained before departure. Due to the above-mentioned traffic conditions, it is customary renting a car with an experienced driver in India. The prices are usually affordable at around £25 per day. Those who prefer to experience driving in India for themselves can do so by renting a car through a rental agency. You can find accredited international agencies throughout the country, or you can arrange this through your hotel.
Another necessary document that needs to be arranged before the trip starts is the Indian visa. British travellers can apply for the e-visa India. This electronic visa must be applied for before departure and is easier to obtain than a physical visa at the embassy. With an e-visa, travellers may stay in India for up to 90 days for tourism and 180 days for business purposes. The e-visa India costs £19.95 per person and is valid for one year. To apply for the visa, you must complete an online application form. After submitting the application and paying the fee, the visa is approved within 1 week on average, or within 3 working days in the case of an urgent application.
Best routes by car
Once you have rented a car (with or without a driver), it is time to hit the road. If you are short on time or just want to see the highlights of India, follow the so-called Golden Triangle. This route includes Indiaʼs three most important cities: Delhi (the capital), Agra (home of the Taj Mahal) and Jaipur (the “Pink City”). The distances from city to city range from 200 to 400 kilometres, and take between 3 and 6 hours each way. Another option for sightseeing and fair weather lovers is the coastal route, which starts in Goa, passes through Mangalore and on to Kolkata. This trip covers longer distances, ranging from 300 to 700 kilometres one way, and can take up to 16 hours. In either case, you should always plan this kind of route well in order not to miss anything and to be well prepared for the journey.