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Tips for Renting a Motorcycle in India (Especially a Royal Enfield)

Renting a bike in India is, without a doubt, the most adventurous way to enjoy India. I always feel so free on a motorcycle cruising the wild Indian motorways with mountains, desert, farms, or forest on either side. A motorcycle road trip is a must-do experience in India.

I realised early on that if I was going to settle in India I had to learn to ride a bike as driving a car is tedious with the rush hour traffic in India. With a bike, I could beat the traffic. It also opened up the world of motorcycle touring to me. I don’t have my own bike yet so for trips I rent a Royal Enfield Himalayan for around 1200 INR a day in Delhi.

Here are my top tips for renting a bike in India:

  1. Don’t Rent a Bullet: The Royal Enfield 350 or 500cc Bullet is the quintessential Indian bike. Many a tourist fall in love with its classic look and thump-thump-thump exhaust. But it’s not the most comfortable ride for touring, especially at higher speeds. The Royal Enfield Himalayan is an adventure tourer that’s much better suited to Indian roads – and was designed purposefully for when there are no roads! It ensures a more comfortable ride than a Bullet. Test ride both and see for yourself.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan 400cc Adventure Bike. Photo by Royal Enfield.
The Royal Enfield Himalayan 400cc Adventure Bike. Photo by Royal Enfield.
  • Best Price: If you want the best price, book at least a month in advance. Or else you’ll be rushing around looking for the particular model of bike you want and the shop owners will smell desperation (due to your close leaving date) and charge you more. If you’re renting an ordinary old Royal Enfield Bullet, this isn’t such a problem, but if you want a more comfortable Royal Enfield Himalayan it is as there are fewer available for rent.
  • Where to Rent: First check the price online from bike rental stores in whichever city you’ll begin from. Then talk to a local or search online for the motorcycle market in that city and go visit some rental stores there. Use your knowledge of the online prices to see if you can get a better price at the market. All large city have a motorcycle market, Delhi’s is in Karol Bagh.
  • Permits: Travel permits are required for Ladakh, and all the North Eastern States. Check what permits are necessary and make sure you get them in advance. It can take a whole day to collect various permits if you’re travelling to a few different North Eastern States.
  • Bike papers: you must make sure the company gives you copies of the bike’s registration card, proof of insurance, and a Pollution Under Control Certificate.
  • Carry spares: Carry at minimum a front and rear spare tyre tube and repair kit. Indian roads are patchy at best and punctures are not uncommon with all the debris on the road. Other commonly carried spares are clutch and accelerator cables, fuses, bulbs, chain connectors, and a little top up oil for long rides. All these parts for a Royal Enfield will set you back about $30 USD. Don’t worry too much though, because there are repairmen all over the place, and even locals have stopped and repaired my tyre when I didn’t have spares with me.
  • Safety gear: While 99% of Indians don’t wear safety gear, let alone a helmet. If you care about your skin and life then you’re going to need it. It’s a no-brainer once you see the roads and driving in India. For packing suggestions, see my light packing list for motorcycle trips.
  • Family Riding on Motorcycle in India. Photo by Ian D. Keating.
    Family Riding on Motorcycle in India. Photo by Ian D. Keating.
  • Road rules: There are road rules in India, but they’re rarely followed or enforced. Instead, it’s a bit of a free for all. Be prepared for driving in India by reading How to Drive in India for Foreigners.
  • Ladakh Red Tape: If going to Ladakh, it’s a Government order that rented vehicles from outside Leh are not allowed. But never fear, in India there’s always a juggard (innovative) way around any red tape. Just check the company you’re hiring the bike from will give you the relevant paperwork to show “you own” the bike – even though you don’t.
  • A Warning on Motorcycle Renting Companies

    Companies that rent bikes will take the full rental amount up front plus a bond, usually 10,000 INR. It’s part of the more dodgy companies’ business to keep as much of the bond as possible by making you pay for every little dent on the bike.

    You must properly inspect the bike before you take it and note down all imperfections with the company, else upon returning the bike they’ll make you pay for them.

    If you cause any damage to the bike on your trip (highly likely if travelling off-road as Royal Enfields aren’t the sturdiest of bikes) you’re liable to pay for it. Even if it’s a warranty repair, the company will try and make you pay for it and they’ll get it repaired for free under their warranty. If a damaged part can be repaired they’ll still try and charge you the entire amount for a brand new part but then repair it for much less.

    It’s better to take the bike to a workshop before returning it and having it repaired the same day before returning it to the hire company. Royal Enfield has workshops across India.

    Do you have a tip or interesting experience renting a bike in India? Share it in the comments below.

    By Karl Rock

    Karl Rock, is a Hindi speaking Kiwi ex-pat who take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India and its neighbours. He has visited every state and union territory in India, and its culturally similar neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, and aims to make others fall in love with India and the subcontinent.

    19 replies on “Tips for Renting a Motorcycle in India (Especially a Royal Enfield)”

    Please visit balangir in orissa..quite cheaper than you expect but you always find scammer.so be smart and stay away from them.

    HI there. Can you tell me what licence I need to hire a 500cc motorcycle in India? Can I drive on a UK Car Driving Licence, or do I need a motorbike licence?

    Hey, overseas licenses are valid. I have a motorcycle license and I noticed they did check for it the last time I rented. But I’m sure you can find someone who’ll just want to see a car license.

    Hey Hafiz, you don’t always need an international driver license – although if possible it’s best to have one handy. For example, India & New Zealand have an agreement where Indian tourists can drive in New Zealand and Kiwis can drive in India on their New Zealand license. Check if your country is part of that agreement. Karl

    Hey Karl, thanks so much for all your useful information!
    I’m planning a several month trip in India & Nepal on a rented Indian bike, and have two questions for you:
    1) Could you confirm that it is possible to ride an Indian rented bike to Nepal and back to India as a foreigner?
    2) Would you have any specific rental agency to recommend to rent a Himalayan in Delhi (price/quality)?
    Thanks a lot for the advice!

    Hey Sebastian, 1. I’m not sure sorry, but I know Indians do it all the time. 2. No, sorry mate. I don’t know any I’d recommend – I’ve always had average experiences. Sorry I couldn’t be of much help!

    Hi Karl,

    I havnt seen anything about whether or not ypu should leave your passport with them. I few places I have inquired into have asked for this. But for me it’s not a option.

    Hi. I’ve left my passport with scooter rental companies in Goa before without issue. But I have two passports, so I gave them the one I don’t use. Or you could give them an old passport copy if you have one with you. I’ve never had a motorcycle company ask for that though. You’ll need your passport for checking in at hotels if you’re in a long trip.

    hey karl, have you been back recently? considering going next month. i would rent the himalayn for about 3 weeks or so. any other sources of forums for good info on this kind of trip? was considering india or peru, live on west coast USA. regards, greg

    Hey Greg! Sorry, I don’t know any other forums. But the Ladakh route is a well-worn path. I haven’t been back recently, there might be a new tunnel – I remember reading about it in the paper.

    Hey Karl, I’m negotiating with a guy who would rent his bike on ‘friendly’ terms. He’s got all the documents of the bike, but says that if police stops me I have to say its my friend’s bike, since rentals outside of Goa are not permitted in India. What do you make of that? Cheers!

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