India Driving Advice and Car Hire Info
Driving In India
First of all you’ll need an international driving permit to drive In India. You’ll also probably need nerves of steel, but I guess you know that already.
Roads can be in pretty poor condition and will be congested anywhere near towns with rickshaws, cycles, cars in various states of disrepair, animals, particularly cows, overloaded buses and trucks, elephants, potentially even camels in parts of Rajhastan…you name it, you’re likely to encounter it on Indian roads. Forget any road rules you would employ at home – right of way is governed by the biggest vehicle. Therefore you must be prepared for buses and lorries driving towards you on the wrong side of the road and therefore be prepared to take evasive action.
Take special care near cows. They will be quite nonchalant in traffic and may wander into your path. If you hit and kill or injure a cow there is a risk you could be attacked by a lynch mob in certain parts of the country. Driving in towns and cities is likely to be stressful particularly in older parts of cities which were built before road travel was invented. If you can try to get the rental firm to drive the vehicle to the outskirts for you- most will do this for a small fee.
People will say you are mad for considering driving yourself in India. Personally, I would say the same to anyone who considers hiring a driver for the duration of their stay without first seeing how the driver actually conducts themself on the road. If I had to come up with two words to describe many Indian Drivers they would be ‘cocky’ and ‘oblivious’. Even drivers who seem quite careful in terms of not overtaking in dangerous situations seem to love playing chicken with oncoming vehicles, even if those vehicles are buses or lorries. They will carry on in the same line, seemingly oblivious to the vehicle bearing down on them at speed. Its as if they have no ‘what if..?’ button in their brain and rely totally on the other driver swerving to avoid them at the last minute, which may or may not happen. The fact is, serious accidents are very common on Indian roads. Drive for three or four hours between Cities and you’re almost guaranteed to see the aftermath of a fatal, or near fatal accident. Personally, if I’m unable to drive myself, I prefer to take the bus rather than a taxi, and sit in the middle where the impact of front or rear collisions is minimised.
If you manage to rent a vehicle yourself, check the insurance terms carefully – many rental firms have little or no insurance. I would advise never to pick up a vehicle upon arrival at the airport. Take taxis in Cities for a few days and observe the traffic. Though it seems chaotic, there are some basic rules. The onus is on the driver moving lanes to sound his horn and ensure he has been seen by other vehicles before manouvering. This doesn’t mean you’ll have any choice in whether you move over to accommodate his move! If you stay in lane and don’t allow yourself to be bullied, you can escape much of the ‘wacky races’ style chaos which achieves very little in terms of achieving greater speeds. The greatest danger of serious accidents usually occurs away from Cities where speeds can be greater. Thats the time to be really on your guard and ALWAYS expect other drivers to make ridiculous overtaking moves on hills and bends. Drive confidently and ultra defensively and theres no reason you can’t self drive in this great country.
There are some video’s of road conditions in India on my You Tube site.
Theres quite a lot of contradictory information on the large companies websites. Avis definitely allow self drive but say they’d prefer you to take a driver. Budget explain terms like CDW and also say you can do a one way rental to Nepal (but not Pakistan) but then state that all vehicles must be chauffeur driven. (why would you need CDW with a driver??) Hertz advertise multiple locations but most say they can’t be booked online and some say chauffeur drive only.Europcar and Sixt are chauffeur drive only.
There are a multitude of websites which are displayed when you search on India Car rental. Unfortunately the vast majority of these are chauffeur drive only. Those below definitely allow self drive, though I’ve found that websites for Indian rental companies seem to change frequently so you may have to persevere with some of the links –
In Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi.
In Kashmir and Jammu
This company offer self drive tours where you follow a sat nav on a predetermined route in an Austin Ambassador!
India Self Driving Rules-
You’ll need to check terms with the rental company. It sounds as though taking the car to Nepal is a possibility, Pakistan less so.