About India (IN)
Due to an enormous diversity of climate, culture, ethnicity, geography, and language, India (IN) is one of a handful of countries on the planet that cannot be described in in the context of tourism with a couple of sweeping generalizations.
Its top destinations include some of the most iconic sites in the world, such as the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, and the Lake Palace in Udaipur.
However, a country of its size and population should be expected to defy stereotypes and expectations, and a wise man once said, “India is whatever you want it to be.” And there are a couple of things that must be pointed out:
First, travel in the tribal northeast regions of Jammu, Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh — to name a few — will require a Protected Area Permit (PAP), which can be obtained simultaneously with your Indian visa. Second, the Restricted Area Permit (RAP) is required to access parts of Andaman, Nicobar, and Sikkam.
Otherwise, India should be framed as place where the journey is just as important as the destination, promising a variety of ways to get there.
The most efficient and convenient way for visitors to travel is to rent a car in India. It probably can’t be described as the safest mode of transport, or even the most advisable method, but the truth is millions of people drive in India on a daily basis.
As long as you’re armed with the necessary knowledge, driving in India is completely doable and again, far better than bus, train, or taxi. Chaos is the word most frequently associated with Indian traffic, particularly within the Golden Quadrilateral comprised of the four largest cities: Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
On the other hand, the national highways connecting those cities are well-marked four-lane roads in excellent condition. But the high standards of the infrastructure don’t translate to any sort of driver’s discipline on the roads. Once you get out into the rural areas, road conditions deteriorate along with any semblance of a unified traffic code.
There’s really no point in detailing the dangerous behaviors you may encounter, but better to issue a simple warning that if you think you’ve seen it all, you probably haven’t been to India - yet.
Choosing your car
Cheap car rentals in India are offered by international companies such as Sixt, Europcar, Hertz, Dollar, Budget, Avis, and Enterprise. Often, you can book your rental car in India with a driver included. Choose from minicars and economy 3-door hatchbacks, compact and full size sedans, specialty vehicles, estate wagons, SUVs, and 7-12 seater minivans for groups and large families.
Tips and advice
Indian traffic cops are doing what they can to contain the madness, and they’re actually quite rigorous about enforcement. They’re simply facing a numbers game: there are far too many drivers to stop all at once. Don’t be lulled into thinking you can drive like an Indian and get away with it. Your car hire in India is going to draw a lot of attention on the road.
Watch out for pedestrians because they sure aren’t watching out for you. Be advised that hitting a pedestrian is opening up a Pandora’s Box of misery. Make sure you have complete insurances. Not only for your car, but also yourself on a travel insurance.
In nearly every other country on Earth, if you’re involved in an accident, you’re advised to stay on the scene and wait for police to arrive. This is not the case in India. In case of an accident — pedestrian or vehicular — foreigners are advised to make a beeline for the nearest police station.
Avoid travelling at night.
Book your India car rental as far in advance as possible to reserve your preferred vehicle.
The Indian address system is incredibly complicated and generally useless to a temporary visitor. Use landmarks for the most effective navigation.