India travel tips driving

1. Horn 2. Brakes 3. Luck

These are the three rules of driving in India, according to a tour guide I met in Agra (home of the Taj Mahal). At first I thought he was joking and laughed out loud. He gave me a look with a little head wobble to say “This is no joke my friend. Do I look like some kind of clown to you?”

This was at the start of my first India experience and it took no time at all to realise the seriousness of these three rules. Horn, brakes and luck (HBL). Little did I know at the time that I would be swearing by these golden rules every time I jumped on a moped in the crazy world of India. The way it works over there is that it’s up to every individual to just focus on what’s in front of them. Whatever is immediately in front of you, or slightly to the side, it’s up to you to make sure you don’t crash. In theory, as long as everyone focuses on what’s in front of them, everyone should be fine right?!

Here’s a brief explanation of “HBL”.

Horn – believe it or not, Indians mostly use a horn for the correct purpose: to warn others of your presence. The problem is, there are so many people to warn, from other cars, rickshaws, buses, trucks, cyclists, pedestrians, beggars, dogs, cows, camels…. That you are having to constantly honk your horn. Constantly. Admittedly, there is a fair bit of aggression beeping too.

Brakes – traffic in India is chaos. There are rules, similar to those of a western country, but they are wholeheartedly ignored (other than HBL). Two lanes can turn into four lanes. In fact, any gap wide enough for a motorbike is another lane. Therefore, it’s very important to be quick on the brakes. You never know when a motorbike or rickshaw is going to cut into your “lane”, or when a cow is going to suddenly decide it prefers the view on the other side of the road. Oh and occasionally people like to drive against traffic in the wrong lane (much easier than going all the way to the end and turning around to get on the right side of the road).

Luck – Even if you follow of all the above, you still need that element of luck. With that many people, vehicles and animals on the road, it’s inevitable that there will be accidents. I saw numerous during my time spent in India, from slow moving minor incidents to fatalities.

Don’t let any of the above put you off renting a moped or motorbike in India. Just avoid doing it in the bigger cities because it’s complete mayhem. And when you are in a taxi, rickshaw, bus etc, try your best to enjoy the ride rather than worrying. It may seem reckless at times, but this is genuinely the way they were taught to drive… and once you get over the initial shock, it’s as fun as being on a roller coaster ride. If you find roller coaster rides fun that is. Just remember to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times…

One more thing – on Indian roads, size DOES matter. If you’re on a bicycle, stick to quiet roads unless you’re a local or have eyes in the back of your head. If you’re a truck driver…. you probably won’t be reading this.

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