Listening to: The World I Know – Collective Soul
Moving right along with the travel theme that I have going on is automobiles. Yes. I am aware that I shamelessly stole the movie title.
Traveling around in cities is pretty easy, if time consuming. You have a few options. Best option is having and driving your own car or having your own car and a driver. It’s not as expensive as it sounds. The next option is hiring a large car from a service that comes with a driver. This is a bit more expensive and better left for if you need to travel around with lots of people in a group. Option 3 is flagging an autorickshaw from the street. These yellow motorcycles with carts behind them are the quintessential Indian experience. You may find a few honest drivers, but most range from bat bologna crazy to just plain sheisty jerks. They will however, get you from one place to the other for relatively cheap without running into anyone. Your heart may stop multiple times as they pass inches from other cars and even pedestrians, but they won’t hit anything. They also tend to know the city inside and out, but this won’t guarantee that you won’t be taken for a ride. Be very suspicious of a driver that looks at you blankly when you tell them the neighborhood you want to go to. You should have some idea of the streets or you will be driven around in a circle. The last option is to take a public bus. I would avoid this at all costs unless you are a man that likes to be shamelessly groped by other guys. Women just don’t take the bus for this reason unless they have no choice. Another thing about buses – the drivers are crazier than the rickshaw drivers. The bus only stops if a large amount of traffic gets in the way. There are no bus stops. You grab the handle and jump in, or just hang on, depending on how packed the bus is.
As I mentioned, traveling in the city is pretty easy. God be with you if you decide to drive yourself, you should also know the streets. Idle autorickshaw drivers are surprisingly helpful at pointing you in the right direction if you ask in Hindi. Hiring a driver is also great because while they’re not as good as auto guys at knowing neighborhoods, they do have a decent idea of the city layout as this is what they do. Some are better than others because some only drive part time. Due to sheer volume and chaos, driving across town takes about an hour. Some drivers are more aggressive than others too, and I guess what you want depends on how much craziness it takes to make your hair stick up. I don’t mind a crazy fast/aggressive driver as long as he’s not hitting stuff.
Driving in the countryside/highways is totally different. Huge construction trucks (called lories) and diabolically insane buses rule the road. They do not stop, they do not yield, even if they hit you. The roads will most likely be in very poor shape (I recently ventured out of town in a rented van with a driver and there were potholes larger than me. Seriously.) and drivers are inclined to slam on the brakes quite often as the car in front of them will have just discovered a ginormous pot hole right before they fell into it. Avoid this if at all possible. But maybe do it just once to assure yourself you never want to do that again. I sure did.
I’m pretty sure I’ll have much more to say about driving in India. After all, I’m moving to Bangalore – one of the worst cities in the world in which to try driving. I do plan to learn though. I just got my drivers license!