Getting from A to B in India

No flying carpets here.

but there are plenty of other methods of transportation to help people get around and very affordable. In the short period of time that I was there, I managed to try a lot of different transportation vehicles and am actually only missing sea transportation. I hope the following tips can help people understand how to get around in India.

Walking

My poor feet at the very end of the trip

When I travel, I tend to rely on my legs/feet the most and am usually able to cover around 16 km on average per day. It’s my preferred way to see a city and it’s free and keeps you in shape!

  • It’s easier to walk on the road than on the sidewalk. The roads tended to be in better condition than the sidewalks.
  • Many places also did not have sidewalks – no worries, everyone is on the side of the road. Cars also will let you know that they are behind you by honking.
  • Crossing roads was an adventure. Though it might look chaotic, cars/bikes/autos/whatever will stop for you most of the time. Even though it doesn’t appear so at first. What I have seen often is that people put their hands out and you will see that the cars will then slow down a bit or stop.
  • If you’re not sure about how to cross a road, simply follow locals who are crossing as well. They seem to enjoy it and are very eager to help.
  • Always watch your step and I would really not recommend listening to music while walking. There’s just so much going on and as I said before – other vehicles will notify you of their presence by honking and therefore you really need to be able to hear!
  • Do not trust Google Maps duration! Calculate around 30 min / km instead of 10 min / km for walking.

Trains

Every Indian travel itinerary will recommend a train trip within India. Unfortunately, since my trip was so last minute, I didn’t have the chance to take a train. This will definitely be something I will look into for my next trip.

  • India releases train tickets 3 months ahead of time, and that’s when most people start booking their tickets.
  • There are last minute tickets that you can buy a day ahead called “Emergency Tickets”. The train company simply keeps a portion of the tickets reserved for emergency reasons. But these are also of course high in demand.

Long Distance Bus

Luxurious sleeper bus that I took from Bangalore to Hampi

Instead of trains, I took long distance busses four times from one city to the other. Sleeper busses are a nice way to travel and save on having to pay for a hotel.

  • Try to get sleepers that are closer to the driver because there’s less motion. I unfortunately didn’t think about this when a guy took my actual bed and said that I could have his bed at the end of the bus. That trip definitely was painful as I was thrown around. I really mean being thrown around! Kinda like how a roller coaster would throw people around…but thankfully not at that speed.
  • Always check the reviews of the busses that you are booking. The reviews are most of the time very accurate.
  • If you are on a tight schedule and have something to catch at the end of your bus ride, be wary that the busses are not always on time. The arrival time is more of a “best case scenario”.
  • Bring ear plugs and a sleeping mask to keep out sound and light.
  • Bring a scarf or blanket because the A/Cs are usually too strong.
  • Watch a Bollywood movie!
  • If you need to book a ticket, ask someone with an Indian phone number to help or else you won’t be able to purchase the ticket. Hotels can also help.
  • When you get on the bus, the bus driver will ask you for your seat number and then check that off a list.
  • Use the link Redbus.in to check out bus schedules and prices.

City busses

City bus in Madurai

Most larger cities will have an extensive bus system with frequent busses running across most of the places that you need to go to. It’s also a super cheap option since the locals take busses as well.

  • On the bus, there is usually the bus driver as well as the ticket seller.
  • I found it easy to take busses because you didn’t have to haggle – just give them 10 INR (most tickets will be even less than that) and they will give you some change. If it’s more, they will let you know 🙂
  • The best way to find the right bus is just to ask people which bus you should get on. In Tamil Nadu, the busses didn’t have English signs and everything was written in Sanskrit. Therefore, there was no other choice but to ask.
  • Cost of busses are also dependent on the colour of the bus. No matter what, it’s still cheap compared to Western standards.

Auto rickshaw

They see me rollin’, they hatin’

There are plenty of auto rickshaws in all the cities that I’ve seen. They are usually yellow and green (some of the are yellow and black). Their driving might look chaotic, but I found it easy to trust the drivers and had a wonderful time taking this mode of transportation.

  • Always ask the driver to use the meter. Most of the ones that have the meter will oblige. If they do not have a meter, make sure you negotiate a price before getting on.
  • If one driver does not agree to the price, simply walk away and find another one. There’s always another one close by.
  • If a driver is trying to get your attention by offering a very low price to take you around the city for an hour…don’t! These people will often take you to their relatives’ shops to “look around” and if you buy anything they will of course get some kick-back.
  • Thankfully I didn’t have any bad experiences but I heard that if a driver is asking for more money when you reach your destination, simply walk away.

Uber / Ola

Uber / Ola has also exploded in India. Nothing is better than ordering an Uber and knowing how much you have to pay without having to negotiate and being to indicate specifically where you need to be picked up and dropped off. I ended up taking Uber’s often in India for its convenience and because they cost around the same as autos.

  •  What I found is that I had to pay the agreed amount in cash a few times compared to using my stored credit card.
  • Always check the license number of the car before you get on.

Cars / Taxis

Surprisingly, even though there are a lot of cars on the roads, there aren’t that many taxis.

  • If you need a taxi, it’s best to just arrange something with your hotel.
  • Always check the license number of the taxi before you get on.
  • Trust your driver – once you start trusting you will see how harmonious everything is on the streets.

Airplane

Same as anywhere else, but the airports have some things that are different.

  • Before you get into the terminal, you are required to show security your passport and airplane ticket. If you do not have that, you cannot go in. All airlines will have a small booth and can print out your ticket for 100INR if need be. Therefore, always print your e-ticket or have it ready on your mobile before you go to the airport. I learned this the hard way and almost couldn’t get into the airport.
  • There will be two lines for security checks – one for men and one for women. Bring your boarding ticket with you when it’s your turn to get checked because the security personnel will have to stamp your boarding ticket.
  • The carriers will scan your luggage once and secure your luggage so that you cannot put anything else into it.

Cows

Not a mode of transportation. But feel free to pet them when you pass them 🙂

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