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Getting around in India

Traffic situation on the roads

Essential information to always keep in mind while in India: do not be in a hurry. You should take your time and not try to see the whole country in three weeks. Approach the long distances and traffic in a different manner - with patience and a smile. Often travellers will be surprised within their very first minutes in India by the chaotic traffic and constant bustle on the Indian roads. It is more like a theatre scene where the actors are obstacles of all kinds. Potholes, cows, carts, trucks, vehicles going in the wrong direction, pedestrians coming from nowhere, crowds...and many more! The virtual absence of traffic laws makes driving quite difficult for beginners, especially because in India we drive on the left side of the road. The honking is not that unwanted; it is required to signal the other cars. It is often the biggest and most impressive vehicle which gets priority of course! Today new roads (expressways) connect various major cities. Major infrastructure projects that have been envisaged by the new government are underway. The notion of security is also arriving gradually. Passengers on two-wheelers now wear helmets, which have been made mandatory recently.

The Rickshaw

These motorised tricycles nicknamed "tuk tuk" throughout the rest of Asia are used as taxis. They are an integral part of the Indian landscape and are ubiquitous in almost all regions. Travel on board these unusual machines, perfect for a visit around town or for short trips. You will also come to learn the joys of negotiation, because despite the meters indicating fixed prices, these rickshaw pullers will haggle for more. Some will lie, some might scam you, but take these experiences with a tinge of humour, more like a game. Rickshaw drivers will tell you they know their way around without really being honest. So always ensure you know your destination address so as to ask for help from passers-by if need be. If you learn a few words of Hindi, you can establish a little more confidence with your driver.

The Trains

Beyond its primary utility as a mode of transport, the train is an experience not to be missed in India. Several reasons will make you want to take a trip by train in India. To save time when travelling long distances, sleep overnight in the sleeper! If your budget is a little tight, the train is one of the most economical solutions for getting around in India. You have the choice of several classes which cater to the comfort needs of every traveller. Choose the "sleeper class" to encounter a real micro-society where all generations and classes merge. Chai-sellers walk back and forth in the aisles, Indian families start chatting with you, and all this in an ultra relaxed atmosphere where the compartments are open to the wind from all directions. One thing is for sure: the seats available will quickly be taken up, like a storm, and it might be difficult to get a place at the last minute!

Rent a car with a driver

Travelling in India with a driver is a great way to discover the country off the beaten track. A fairly common formula is to hire the services of a driver, which is customary on Indian roads. Take the opportunity to move away from the tourist circuits and instead meet the locals in the heart of rural India. You can also stay in beautiful accommodations outside of the traditional routes. Some of the most remarkable accommodations in Rajasthan are located in rural areas, difficult to access without a private vehicle. Knowing just a few words of English, your driver will still be there to ease your discovery and to ensure the success of your trip.

On foot

Discovering India on foot remains by far one of the most rewarding experiences. While walking can take up a lot of your time, it also lets you discover a territory that you might otherwise simply pass by. Contrary to popular belief, trekking is not practised only in the Himalayas. Apart from the beautiful trekking routes of Ladakh and Sikkim, it is also possible to indulge in the joys of hiking in many other Indian regions. In Rajasthan, discover the amazing wildlife roaming about its wilderness. In southern India, explore the Western Ghats on foot. Starting with the tea plantations of Munnar, you can spend several days in the neighbouring Tamil Nadu. Finally, the North East of India is full of trekking tours off the beaten track, especially in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

On horseback

Go on a horseback ride in India to discover the stuff dreams are made of! Imagine yourself in the land of Maharajas, traversing the Aravali mountains on a beautiful Marwari horse. On horseback, you approach the country entirely differently; you go where nobody goes, you witness the rural India, and you come closes to people and to nature. Dreams of islands also lend themselves well to the exercise such as Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The great Mongolian steppes remain in the collective imagination as a land of choice for horseback riding. But sometimes you may as well escape to India for a ride full of adventures and encounters.

By Boat

Traveling by boat is often synonymous with cruises and relaxation, and it offers a completely different way of discovering a place over water. As diverse as the country, the boat trips too are different from the North to South of India. One that offers the most authentic experience is a boat trip down the Ganges over several days. You will cross the small villages of Uttar Pradesh, admire the sacred river and its deserted beaches, and meet freshwater dolphins. Then you enter the holy city of Varanasi on your boat for an incredible, one-of-a-kind experience. A more exotic cruise awaits you in Kerala, on the famous backwaters. Aboard a very comfortable "houseboat", marvel at the daily life unfolding around you. You can also travel by boat in the North-east. A cruise on the immense Brahmaputra allows you to soak in regions that lay far from the traditional tourist circuits.

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