Friday, March 20, 2015

The best daily transport in India for business tourists

Ok, you’re planning a trip to India with scouting or prospective business goals. Have you thought about how you’re gonna get from A to B on a daily basis?

The following is based on my personal preferences during past business trips to India. I’ve listed the pros & cons for two modes of transport which have served me well for trips to suppliers and manufacturers locally & across India. Considering the vast dynamics of daily life in India (Heat, Crime, Pollution, Communication, Over crowded transport, Dense population etc), I’d recommend the following to anyone based on their simple & sufficient nature.

Auto Rickshaw aka 3 Wheelers

Quick guide to 3 wheelers

The undisputed backbone of India’s transport network & daily life, with a sensible seating capacity of two people, allowing for a comfortable ride. I've seen as many as 6 people in a 3 wheeler, but pushing for 3 adult passengers WILL result in grinding hip bones and you’ll do a Luke Skywalker & scream out, “Shut down all the garbage mashers on the detention level!” 

Bone grinding 3 wheeler ride in India
This WILL BE YOU, sat in between 2 passengers in the back of a 3 wheeler!

  • Cost per mile appx 30-80 Rupees (20-90p) very cheap for tourist.
  • Great fun to ride in, you’ll feel the sights, smells & sounds of India.
  • Vehicle size allows drivers to squeeze through tight spots in traffic, saving you time.
  • Plenty of 3 wheelers in the bigger cities, so you’ll never be stranded.
  • Great for nipping out for food & enjoying a KFC Mango Krushem in the blistering heat during the ride.

  • Bumpy rides due to epic pot holes, so if you have back’ve been warned!
  • Driver can sometimes be intoxicated - risk to personal safety or accidents!
  • 3 wheelers are 2nd from bottom in the transport food chain, cyclists are bottom meaning your driver will be more susceptible to road rage abuse and accidents.
  • Carrying valuable items (briefcases etc) at your own risk, as snatch and grab theft is high.
  • You’ll be exposed to grizzly sounding exhaust pipes with enough fumes to knock out a herd of elephants, so if you get stuck in traffic it can get very uncomfortable!
  • You’ll have less privacy whilst stuck in traffic as beggars & street traders fight for your attention. 

  • Ask the driver to ride slowly over bumps etc to reduce risk of accidents or personal injury.
  • As a visitor you’ll be charged near the top end rate, so feel free to ask the driver to wait for you for the return journey, if you’re making a quick stop.
  • Fixed fee or meter? - Meter rates are usually cheaper than fixed rates.
  • Wear a scarf to cover & protect your face from pollution during traffic jams.
  • Don’t be tempted to dangle body parts out of the sides as passing mopeds are well known for scraping through tight spaces at speed!

Private Car & Chauffeur service

Hiring a car with a driver for 8 hours is a standard service which can cost between 800 - 2000 rupees. The prices reflect the size of vehicle from small hatch backs to 7 seaters.

You have the option of paying a premium for large luxury vehicles from a professional chauffeur service, but I prefer to use local firms with drivers who are from family communities rather than corporate groups. You can usually get these services from the reception desk at your hotel.

  • Air conditioned.
  • Driver on standby for 8 hours.
  • Privacy from aggressive street traders & beggars.
  • Carry valuables in security & comfort.

  • Parking in some areas may be a problem, so expect to jump out and walk to certain final destinations.

  • Ask hotel staff to recommend any chauffeur service. Local drivers & hotel staff usually are well connected! (Friends & family etc)
  • Check if the driver has a license to drive, although it’s quite common that people drive without one.
  • If stopped by the police, the driver usually pays a fine, (Bribe in most cases & NOT at your expense!)
  • Get the drivers mobile number to maintain communication, as he may be asked to move from a parking space whilst waiting for your return.
  • Hire a smaller less prestigious vehicle to avoid unsavoury attention from thieves, plus you’re more likely to find parking & squeeze through tight spots in traffic.

For bigger businesses who want to portray their branding & business image, then hiring a luxury car is ideal, but at far greater expense.

Long distance travel across India:

If you’re planning longer trips across India then using Train or Domestic Airline services are ideal. However I prefer to hire a large vehicle and travel by road instead. This allows me to travel at my own pace with flexibility to stop for breaks or visit historical landmarks on route. Drivers usually charge a rate per kilometre plus their daily charge. 

India’s roads have vastly improved over the last 10 years which will reduce your trip time and reduce the risk of accidents. Road works across India can sometimes add to traffic, as many unfinished flyovers are scattered across the country, due to corrupt contractors and money being siphoned off road projects. 

Avoiding traffic for long distance trips is simple, just set off in the early hours. An 8 hour drive from Delhi to Punjab for instance will take just 5-6 hours if you set off around 3-4 am. There’s no such thing as anti social working hours in India as drivers prefer to start early so they can find more clients in the evening.

Other modes of transport - local & national

Cycle rickshaw - Dying out in bigger cities partly due to how they reduce traffic flow.

Old buses - Crowded rust buckets; this experience could put you off India for a while, with a high risk of spontaneous combustion. NOT YOU, the bus!......I rest my case!

Indian death traps
Old buses, still widely used in India

New buses - Red & Green buses were introduced during the recent Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Red buses provide air conditioning, but the overall punctuality and poorly communicated bus network & services could cause you some delay. 

New Green buses in Delhi - No Air conditioning 

Thanks for reading, and if you're looking to do business in India then get in touch!

If there’s anything I missed or other topics you want to read about, then you know what to do!

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