How to Drive in India?

It’s called the worlds biggest democracy. Second biggest population of 1.2 billion. 4.5 million kilometers of road network. Welcome to India!

If you are planning to drive in India, then you can consider yourself as madman.
First of all it is best to forget your home countries traffic laws and rules. Indian traffic is nothing like any other traffic you ever meet. It is notoriously chaotic and a big mess where laws are written, but are never followed. Traffic makes it’s own unwritten rules that can really only be experienced. If you really are serious about driving in India then congratulations, this article is made for you.

Note that the purpose of this article and the video – (At the end of the article) are not Indian traffic legislation, but to show the reality of how it really is.

Let us give you brief overview what you need to know about basics.

Road Users

When engaged in a traffic you can come a across with all sorts of road users. Starting from pedestrians, animal powered carts, motorcyclists, cars, three wheeled auto rickshaws, SUV, buses, trucks.

Not to mention animals. Driving in India is same as driving in a zoo. Starting from cows, goats, sheep, buffalo, monkeys, camels and elephants. You can find cows almost every corner of the street. Since cows are respected at India hitting one of them can bring heavy fines and possibly jail. In our experience cows were the least dangerous and the most stable road users. You shouldn’t be afraid of them!

Honking

Sharpen your sense of hearing because it is vital to manage in Indian traffic. Most of the foreigners don’t seem to understand why there’s so much honking. So, what’s the honking all about? Simply it’s just a way of communication. For example, whenever someone is about to overtake you, they will give you a honk. It is not rude in any means, that’s just the way they let you know that they will attempt to overtake you. Honking is also used at blind corners to warn opposite traffic. So, honking is rather a safe habit and has nothing to do with being rude.At India you should also develop the habit of honking.

Mirrors

It might look at first that mirrors are for nothing and no one uses them. Well, in most cases that’s true. But deciding not to check your mirrors when changing lanes or directions can be like a russian roulette. Traffic is tense and chance of hitting someone is more than just blind guess. We strongly recommend checking mirrors when ever changing lanes. At the same time keep in mind that most people are not using mirrors or their vehicles do not have any mirrors at all. The local general logic is that everything behind has to give way. That’s why be prepared when someone changes a lane without any warning.

Blinkers

For Indians blinkers are just another accessory they have not heard about or they are just not interested about it. Yes, blinkers are used so rarely that you would forget them yourself when joining Indian traffic madness.
Yet sometimes you can see people placing their hands out of a window, pointing left or right. It’s not that they want to point at someone but to let know that they will make a turn.

Brakes

Having a safe distance? Just won’t work in India. It’s a country of 1.2 billion, which leaves no spare room. As soon as you leave a gap between yourself and the one in front of you, someone will more than likely break into the gap and cut you off.
Get ready to be surrounded on every direction and every inch of your vehicle by vehicles, animals and pedestrians who are cutting you off in every possible chance. Brakes are the only part of a vehicle that Indians respect. Believe me, when I say that your right foot will be constantly resting on the brake pedal.

Consider that not all of the vehicles have brake lights in working order, some do not even have them presented. It can be an headache, since they give you no warning, which gives you almost no time to react. So, do not expect someone to warn you, instead keep all your senses alert and when ever your foot is not on an accelerator, it should be on a brake.

Road Conditions

India is subcontinent with worlds second longest road network just after USA. Massive road network of 4,5 million kilometers can take you almost everywhere. From super express highways, national highways, main – and side roads to the most terrifying rubble roads, which could even challenge the best 4 wheel drives.

Most of the national highways are great way around the subcontinent. Highways are overcrowded by hordes of trucks, though luckily their speed is not reaching more than 50-60 km/h. Often the trucks are overloaded few times over the limit ,which makes them slow.

Potholes

Expect potholes and unmarked speed breakers almost everywhere! A nice flawless looking asphalt road can suddenly surprise you with deep potholes , just like someone has thrown a hand grenades on a road. The more rural you go the more extreme it can get. You can even find yourself driving inside a pothole which has it’s own potholes in it.

Speed breakers

Behold of the most treacherous and perhaps dangerous part of the road – the speed breakers. Not because of they are meant to slow you down ,but a lot of times you can find them totally unmarked, on curves and shady areas. It’s a great way to wreck yourself and perhaps even roll over. In most cases you can expect unmarked speed breakers at villages and towns, where highways and main roads go through.

While Driving at India

Keep in mind as old British colony, Indian traffic is right hand left side drive. In reality traffic flow can be almost from every direction. Locals will make no big fuzz about driving the wrong way. It’s just fine to make a heel turn and travel back the way you came.

Traffic Jams

Driving at India is similar like driving all the way with brakes applied. It’s slow, unpredictable and tense. Perhaps it’s better to say that India is a big traffic jam. Big cities like Mumbai traffic jams during rush hours can last for hours. Things can get even more slower when celebrations are held, such as weddings. For unknown reason Indians prefer to share their wedding ceremonies along with traffic.

If that’s not enough, then it can get even worse. Whenever ministers or high level politicians are being escorted, whole city traffic will cease to exist. This phenomenal scene is something that one must see to believe.

Junctions and Red crossings

Always approach to the junctions with care. Never assume that you are on a main road and everyone has to give way. Junctions are overfilled with vehicles, each one of them looking their way out of junctions, all that at the same time.
Do not assume that traffic lights will keep order on junctions. Red light is just a beautiful color which makes everyday life little more colorful.

Behold there’s actually an exemption. And that is only when a policeman is on a junction. When caught, policeman will take his part in a form of bribe. If he does not take bribe then their higher ranking officers will grab the cheap bribe money.
It’s widely known among Indians, but nothing is being done to stop this. Corruption at India is everyday life and most of policemen see foreigners as pack of dollars. Bribes are asked with no shame! Often when you are pulled over they will try to find a reason to give you a ticket ,even when there seems to be no breach of the traffic law.

U turns and Wrong way

U turns are just sick! It’s a matter of contest of balls.
Imagine a continues traffic flow at the opposite side of a road, slowly break into traffic flow inch by inch till you cut off the whole traffic- That’s how U-turn is done in India. In western world we would call it extremely RUDE, at India no one will get pissed off. It happens all the time.

Image everything explained before in a middle of the dark. Driving at India at night is something what’s not recommended, since accidents are easy to happen. First of all vision will be dimmed by the pollution and opposing traffic lights. Shamelessly people use high beam headlights which will blind your eyesight. That makes a perfect opportunity to drive over a pedestrian or a cyclist, who wonder in the dark. So driving at night is a clear NO!

Indians are paying high price for their chaotic traffic culture. Annually 125 000 traffic related deaths occur which makes India one of the most dangerous countries to drive at.

If you still are willing to join Indian traffic madness then you must be adventures enough to deal with everything explained before. It can be so much rewarding for those who are willing to drive in India. Everything we experienced within that three months on Indian roads was a biggest adventure of lifetime!

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