I never thought I’d drive in India. Driving in India looked too chaotic and dangerous. “I’d rather let someone experienced drive for me,” I thought. But after living here a while I realised, like at home in the West, I love driving and riding a motorcycle and the freedom they give me. If I wanted to travel around Delhi and India to the beat of my own drum, I needed to learn to drive in India.
Driving in India may seem daunting for a foreigner. It looks like everyone is driving all over the place, no rules, no safety, oh and the animals you must avoid hitting! After a while, you get used to it, and it takes more and more to shock you.
The last memorable thing I witnessed was both lanes blocked by a car that was being overtaken by a truck, and that truck was being passed by a bus at the same time!
But never fear, India’s Unofficial Road Rules will help you tackle driving here like a local
India’s Unofficial Road Rules
- You don’t have to drive like a maniac. While travelling in India, you’ll have, what seem to us foreigners, a fair share of death-defying experiences with taxi or rickshaw drivers. They love to drive on the wrong side of the road and overtake on residential streets. But not everyone drives like that, and you don’t have to either! You’re perfectly fine driving slower and sanely.
- Take it slow and be alert. Don’t speed in India. Things jump in front of you continuously while driving here: people, animals, cars, buses, and motorcycles. You need to be alert, and you need to readjust your course when driving here, taking it slow allows this.
- Buses and trucks are kings of the road. Give them the right of way and at intersections watch for buses and trucks because they do not give way. They just plough through intersections, especially buses.
- Lanes don’t apply. No one uses lanes in India. Lanes are fluid here. If you’re in the right lane, you’re going to get stuck behind people stopping to turn right regularly. Stay in the centre or left lanes when travelling straight.
Petrol Pump Etiquette
In India, you never pump your own gas. I found this out one day when I went on a motorcycle ride with an Indian friend in New Zealand. I assumed he knew how to fill up his bike’s gas tank. He ended up spilling petrol all over the reservoir. Little did I know, it was his first time pumping fuel!
Gas stations are lined with attendants that will do it for you. Just pull up to a pump and tell the attendant petrol or diesel and the amount you want in rupees (not litres/gallons).
The final rule is to relax. After driving around for an hour you’ll quickly get your bearings and realise that while driving here is different, it’s not difficult.