India is such a huge country and there are a lot of interesting ways to travel around it. Although its vast territory invites for adventure, such massive country invariable poses transportations difficulties.
I am lucky to say that I have tried pretty much all transports and I am still alive 😀
Yes, in a country where over 145,000 people are killed on the road every year, I am definitely lucky!!!
So, let me tell you a bit more about this country and its modes of transportation.
I had a horrible flight from London to Mumbai, in the middle of an Indian lady that was probably flying for the first time as she was panicking way more than my grandma, and trust me, she was having real panic attacks.. spent most of the flight trying to calm her down, even tho she could be right as the turbulence was not a joking matter….
Anyway, the 10h flight was nothing compared with the moment I sat on a taxi for a 45min ride from the airport to my accommodation in Mumbai. I literally saw death in front of me – over 20 times…
And that was just the beginning…. after 2 months in India, I can even sleep on a car now – not that I trust them more…. I guess I just got used to it. This kinda sums it all…. it really is mental here, so let me give you more details of how was my last months on the air, on the water and on land.
Moving around India:
Flying is definitely a good idea, specially as you can fly for almost 5 hours and still be in the same country.
The only transportation I used by air was the commercial plane (sadly not private neither a helicopter ride – even tho I have request it a few times to my tour leaders :p but no luck).
Now, the few internal flight experiences I had (first from Calcutta to Chennai – via Mumbai, and yes, makes no sense to go via Mumbai as I just went to the other side of the country… but there was no choice….; and then I have just fled from Goa to Bangalore) were smooth….. not much complications, apart from a painful ride (ear pain due to the pressure) where my ears and head almost exploded, and was deaf for like 3 days… but oh well.
Anyway, it was funny to see some major differences. For example, do you know they don’t let you inside the airport if you are not caring your flight ticket? Is just another way to make money out of you as you will have to print it outside and pay a fortune… oh and iPhone emails or confirmations don’t really count….
Now, since i didn’t travelled extensively by airplane in India, I cannot comment much about this, but I did find the flights very expensive. My flights costs around £80/100 GBP and I got them way in advance. Also, helped a friend getting a couple of flights, which were short flights and the cheapest tickets were around £160 – one way only. I mean, if we take in consideration that most population make roughly £1 per day, means that they would have to work half a year without spending any money at all in order to afford that short one way flight and that ladies and gentlemen, is insane.
About the airlines, you have plenty, since there was a boom over the last few years. The main ones are definitely Air India, Jet Airways and then you have a few “low-cost” such SpiceJet, Go Air, and IndiGo Airways.
The airports were fairly reasonable. Not really Heathrow in London but I have definitely seen way worse around the world.
Boats boats and boats.
Yes, I did use this marvellous way of transportation.
From small boats, to tiny boats, to weird sort of boats, I have now some experience in the Indian rivers, lakes and backwaters and even at the Ganges of course.
Well, I definitely recommend using a boat if you are in Varanasi. Even thou I was nervous about being in the middle of the Ganges – as I wasn’t looking forward to see a half burned body, some lost limbs floating on the river, but luckily I didn’t see any… so hopefully you will not see it too. But use the Taxi boat to go from one place to another. It was one of the best rides I did in India.
Also, you must do a boat trip if you happen to be in Udaipur. It was beautiful.
A home stay at the backwaters in Kerala is a must in India and please please do the small boat ride. I did a few. And seen one of the most beautiful sunsets ever.
If you are in Hampi and fancying a swim on a lake (apparently with crocodiles…..) go for it, but also try to do the “boat” ride. It’s not really a boat, seems more like a giant basket… well, it is definitely fun 😀 but you will get your panties wet …
Metro, Train, Car – private and taxi, Bus – private and local bus, Rickshaw – both motor and bike, Motorcycle, and cannot forget the camels.
So yeah, most of my experience is definitely by land, and oh boy. What an experience.
I need to tell you, honestly, that while in India, being on the road was probably one of the scariest things I had happening to me.
Independent if I was on city roads, mountain roads, desert roads, high roads, trunk roads, or even paths that don’t deserve the name of roads, it was always a scary experience and I probably seen death around 10 to 50 times per day while I was traveling by land.
And I was just a passenger on some “experienced driver safe hands” they told me. So well, if you thinking about driving yourself, let me give you an advice: DON’T.
Honestly, it feels like there’s absolutely no rules.
I am a thrill-seeker but this takes it to the next level…
So from private cars to taxis, I have spent several hours in a state of pain and frightened as hell – now, if you know me, you know i don’t get scared easily, and I definitely have a laid back and adventurous character, but yeah, anyone would panic on a car in India.
And today I am writing to you from Malaysia and happy I am able to, because I thought I was going to die 4839056 times while in India.
From thousands of cows on the roads, and other animals: chickens, dogs, goats, buffalos, camels, etc we have seen it all, and they would just stand in the road and the cars would have to go around them…. it is crazy. But what its crazier it was the fact that most of times the drivers wouldn’t really slow down or were careful, so I was always screaming as I thought we hit some animal pretty much every 15min or so.
The cars also look like they are from the 60s. Don’t expect seat bells or airbags ahahah you are lucky if the car has breaks, that’s all they need apparently… oh and mirrors? They exist just for vanity reasons or for the drivers to try spot my cleavage while on the back seat…. bastards…. caught them a lot of times!!!!
Rules? which rules. I think the only rules are: don’t hit anything, and don’t get hit. And nothing else matters.
Horn Horn Horn HORN. Now this is my biggest nightmare and what I hated the most in the entire India.
India is great Blowhorn as they say and I swear it is true.
Basically while on the road you will listening to your driver horn NON STOPPING, and I mean N O N stopping. I can understand if they horn to the cows to “inform” we are coming through, but honestly, is so bad that even when there’s no cars or animals on the road they keep blow horning liberally maybe just to relieve boredom or filling the beautiful and rare silence… I don’t know, but its horrible and a few more days in India and I would probably go deaf.
I am usually nice but had moments where I had to tell our drivers off or make horrible faces to them or giving them the ugliest looks.
I also have to say I would give dirty looks – and even gave the finger…. I know I know… to the other drivers on the road. Gosh, I had to show them I wasn’t happy…
Ahh and can’t forget to tell that thousands of vehicles are decorated with the phrase: HORN OK PLEASE – not a joke. It’s really part of the whole road thing…
Now lets talking about overtaking. This was probably where I have seen most of my death scenarios. You know when you see on the movies those dangerous situations where the car is overtaking the other car and then there’s another car coming and everyone screams and the driver manage to JUST make it? Well, that was me everyday. The times I saw my crazy drivers just trying to overtake the other car even on the bends were countless .. and then the screaming would start… It eventually got to the point you got used to it, sadly…
Roads signals? They are invisible. And if you find one, they are merely road decorations.
When I was staying in Mumbai, we had a highway just in front of the flat I was staying. Me and the flat owner would spend time looking at the highway and see a LOT of cars doing a uturn and then driving on the wrong side of the road… I mean, they would be driving on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD on a highway. How mental is that? Was not one car, or two or three… it was happening all the time. You do this in a Western country and you lose your licence (thank God) – and all of this, they would commit that crime just to avoid going less than a kilometre where there’s a roundabout where can safely go to the other side of the road.
Also, it would be very rare to find speed limitation signs. Is like you can go as faster or as slow as you wish… no rules.
Walking and want to pass on the zebra? Think twice. Even if you have priority, that doesn’t mean the crazy driver will stop the car and certainly stop the motorbike. Cross the road in India is indeed a brave act. You almost feel as courageous as Indiana Jones.
Night lights? whats that? the amount of times I have seen cars, rickshaws and motorbikes without lights at night were unbelievable.
Health and Safety, ermmmmmmm… Another thing that is completely crazy is how you find the same van transporting people, animals, furniture + anything else your imagination can think of…. there are piles of stuff on top of other stuff and suddenly you see a person in the middle. Or a cow. Or chickens. or anything really. Most of the time I am so shocked looking at the scene that my brain doesn’t react fast enough in order for me to take a picture and immortalise the moment, still I have managed to save some of those….
Ah, also must say that while on a car, we were asked to stop by the police twice. Both they tried (and managed) to bride us. I wish I could understand what they were saying in real-time. I would so tell them off but my tour leader wouldn’t tell me until we were far…. Corrupt corrupt corrupt!!!
(check this little video I have filmed while on one of the crazy car trips in India: youtu )
Oh well, another transportation that I will not easily forget.
Everything that I wrote for the car applies here, the difference is that was a bit crazier and even less safe.
We travel several hours on both private buses (soooo much better) and we did it people, we travel on local buses. I really don’t have much words to describe …
We have used different sort of local buses. Some quite okish, some quite horrendous.
There was this bus, where there was the normal western way to travel. 2 “comfortable” seats. But then there was this compartment on top of the seats which was so weird, seemed like the compartment to put the luggage but was in fact for people. and they would have to seat on that compartment which looked exactly like a cage… Still that was probably the most comfortable bus ride I had in India, and no, I wasn’t on the cage…. The normal local buses were fought, there was no reserved seats and you were extremely lucky to get a seat. Oh, and there was no space for your huge backpack… so yeah, not our favourite way to travel.
The good old Tuk Tuk, or should I say Rickshaw… actually i]I have learned that Tuk Tuk in India means prostitute, so it really is better to call it rickshaw.
We have used rickshaws pretty much everyday while in India. Everyone uses it and is the easier transport to take when we need transfers or small distance trips… Not much to add, was kinda the same as the car, just more dusty and dangerous.
Well this one brings very very bad memories… actually, I can actually feel those bad memories right now.
So, in India seems like pretty much everyone rides a motorcycle.
Sadly people are not careful and the government hasn’t step in in order to educate the population on how to behave on the roads.
Helmets are a rarity, hardly anyone uses them. You often see 4 to 5 or even 6 people in the same scooter which is insane, including 1 or 2 children…. And being on the phone while you are riding a motorcycle seems completely normal as everyone does it… its unbelievable and painful to watch.
Now, curious fact about me:
I love driving and seriously don’t mind to drive pretty much anything (as long as have 4 wheels) … give me a BMW Nazca M12 or an old farm tractor and I will drive it. Love getting behind the wheel.
However, for some unknown reason, I have never been into motorbikes (apart from that time when I was 14 and asked my parents if they would give me the Spice Girls scooter…. well they obviously said no and I was actually kinda relieved…)
Anyway, while in Goa, and with finally some free time to spare, I started making plans on what I wanted to do with my precious free time, and had a though, hummm what about learn how to ride a bike?? it’s the best way to travel and much cheaper than renting a car. Now I just needed a teacher I thought. Luckily a friend of mine, my ex tour leader, came to Goa and we spent some days together, and as he is a sort of a motobiker I was hoping he could teach me. Well, I wanted to star easy, like with a scooter or something, but he laugh at me and decide to get a proper bike, and insinuate I should learn the big deal straight away. Well, I wasn’t very convinced, but end up accepting as I could see some logic. After a 10min ride, which I was truly scared by the way, he was going wayyyyy to fast, and even tho I tried to trust him, I didn’t trust the rest of the crazy people on the road, or the animals. We stopped to put gas on it and I came out the wrong way touching my leg on the exhaust pipe. I felt a small pain, and though, damn, I just burned myself I guess.
That was exactly one week ago today.
I am now taking a lot of antibiotics, pain relief, and can hardly walk. Also can’t tan (need to be very careful to not to expose my leg to the sun), can’t go to the swimming pool and even my baths and showers I have to be careful so I don’t get the wound too wet. So yeah, motorbikes are now out of question. Small experience but had enough and I guess I will now have a “beautiful” scar to remind me of India 🙂
Oh my dear camels. First time I proper ride a camel was in the Sahara desert in Morocco over 2 years ago. I was over 5h sat on the poor animal and as a gift got a horrible rash that I probably still have a scar. That same day I promise never to be on a camel again. Next year while in Egypt, I found myself on a camel again…. this time was “just” for 3hours but was worse, as instead of the desert and sand he would go through massive rocks, so if I have fallen I would probably die. Promise was the last time for sure. That was last year. Well, here I am, telling you about my Camel experience in India, it happened just a few weeks ago in Rajasthan…. I know I know…
Well I can say it was definitely safer than be on a car, a bus, a motorcycle… or pretty anything. Plus, the ride was “only” 2.5h – we were going to sleep on the desert. My camel was ok, his name was Brad Pitt… we also had Michael Jackson and a few more interesting celebrities. Brad liked to lead and we were usually in front of the caravan. Still got a rash and decided that on the way back – we had eventually to leave the desert the next morning, that I would walk instead. And so it was, me and my friend Jackie – which also got a massive rash, decided to walk. Of course it didn’t take us long until we get really behind – hermmm camels have really long legs and they walk quite fast. So Jonny Walker (real name) a very nice camel with a not so comfortable carriage attached to him, came to save us. AT first Jackie and I were not sure… Didn’t seem fair that the poor thing had to carry both of us, but we were so behind that we end up jumping on the thing… and well… I can say it was a bumpy ride. But fun and “safer”. Oh and Jonny was faster than all the other camels and we arrived first 😀
O H M Y G O D. Think of canned sardines. That was me and everyone else inside that crazy metro in Delhi.
Interesting facts tho: everyone has to be checked in order to get inside the train station. You know when you are at the airport and you have to pass through the security? and how serious the entire process is? Right… is pretty much the same at the tube stations in India. CRAZY. Imagine Oxford Circus tube station in London or the Rockefeller Centre station in NY having to process to proper security checks in order to people to board on a tube…! I know I know. Another interesting fact is that there’s different carriages for men and women…. well, sadly I can understand why…
Right, this is definitely the best way to travel India. After 2 months in India and several several several train rides, including 7 overnight sleeps on a train, I feel like I have graduated on how to use the train in India. Or perhaps not.
So much can be said about the trains and the trips I have done… but I don’t want to write for hours plus if I write too much you are not going to read so will write some highlights:
- Life at the station is just THE experience. Your train will be late which is good so you can see hows things on an Indian train station. Best place to people watch really. However, you will feel like Lady Gaga with the meat dress as you will be the one stared at. Funny… I know…
- Oh and don’t be surprise if you see a cow on a station… the first one I saw didn’t have a head… true story…. – check the picture.
- People are a bit lazy, so instead of goIng through the stairs and bridges to move from a platform to another they just jump on the track and walk through. You can be arrested in Europe if you do that… in India everyone does it….
- In the western world we usually have 2 different classes, however in India, there’s 7 different classes, yes, SEVEN!
- Mostly I used the AC 3 Tier class but once we had to use the sleeper class for an overnight… well, I can hardly describe that trip. Sleeping in a prison would probably be more pleasant … now I regret not photographing the moment to share with you.
- Theres food being served on the train. I have tried and surprisingly didn’t get sick.
- I saw mice on the train. Twice. Not bad if we think I spent probably over 80 hours on trains in India, but once again, I avoid to look for them
- Had an 19hours journey in Rajasthan. Read 2 books while on that trip….
- Theres a lot of horror stories of people being robbed on the train. I would always sleep hugging all my stuff.. I am happy to say that none of us had any problem in any trip, but once again we were a big group and we would usually be all together in the same compartment – 6 beds in each, so we usually would have 2 for the entire group.
- Your train will be late and you will arrive late to your destination – once we had to wait almost 3h. Not bad as know many people who were waiting 8 and 9h.
- Trains get cancelled frequently, and you might find out a couple of hours before if you are lucky.
- Get ready to run. normally I’ve traveled with 3AC and those are usually at the end or at the front of the train. This can be an issue because you might be standing at the front but your carriage might be at the back or vice versa, so yeah, you might have to run like a maniac with all your begs trying to pass through all the people trying to board or leaving the train, and you just have a few short minutes and a very long train… oh its an adventure.
- toilets…. wow, what can be said about the toilets.. this could deserve an entire post…. lets just say that in the first trips, me and the girls would completely refuse to use them, after looking at them. Eventually we got used and use them normally… ohhh the beauty of traveling… p.s they are squats, and smell like … well, its bad. And trust me, trying to do a wee when the train is not very reliable (it does stop a lot, maybe there’s cows in the tracks? .. anyway…. you better be careful and please do not use flip flops… I have always use tennis shoes 😀
- You want to sleep? well, you will be lucky to not to have a bunch of locals coming in the train at 3am and acting like its 2pm.. I have to say I was shocked by the way people have absolutely no respect on the trains. They talk really loud, have the lights on and scream from a compartment to another, and if you tell them off because its 4am and you want to sleep, well, they will mostly laugh at you and mumble something as its their countries.. yep, true story. it happen to us a few times.
- Chai chai chai chai, it will be 5am and the tea guy, will wake you up trying to sell you chai by screaming chai non stopping…
- But being with an organised tour had a lot of advantages here:
- Never had to book tickets, apparently is a headache and you have to buy weeks in advance as good seats sells out.
- At the train station you need to find your track and platform, and trust me, it isn’t easy as once the train arrives, you usually have between 3 to 5min for people to leave the train and for you to get in. Now these trains are loooong and you better be close to the door of your carriage and compartment or you will be in trouble.
- Where to get out? Are you kidding me…. this is another issue…. massive, as the train don’t announce, so you would need to know the station before yours and make sure you are awake and aware at all times. So glad I didn’t need to worry as someone would tell me when to get ready to leave as we only have a few min to get all our luggage and leave the train… not an easy task at 6am when you half asleep.
- etc etc
Still, there’s nothing like using the train in India. Or anywhere else. Usually my eyes are glued to what is going outside of the window (if I am not having a train party). And you can see from deserts to tropical jungles, people doing their business (yep.. I saw several people brushing their teeth from their houses, or from people doing other things… like … yeah, what you think… pee and other stuff aswell….; you can pass through a slum or through palaces. Also is great to meet people, specially the locals and get to know them quite well… after all the you have 12h next to that person and trust me, they will be talking to you. Also, I must say I end up having my revenge while on the train. I end up organising train parties – but of course, where we dance and sang and people even drink. It was past midnight and this time I had the indians asking me not to make noise ahahah the irony 😀 I kept partying by the way!!!
Well, I guess this is enough and well done you if you managed to read it all 😀 Hopefully this gives you an idea hows the transportation in India.
However, I really advise you to come and have a look yourself and feel it in your skin.
Good night everyone and be careful on the road …
Ps do NOT blow horn!!!