Some Rules of the Road when Travelling in India

Some rules of the road for travelling in India!

The traffic in India is insane, with big trucks and buses all jockeying for position, and smaller moving objects (motorcycles, cows, cars, elephants, tractors, pedestrians, camels, bicycles, auto-rickshaws, chickens, etc.) wedging themselves in between the larger vehicles.
Elephant 'traffic' in IndiaOn our first bus ride in India we discovered that the largest vehicles, or perhaps I should say the vehicles with the loudest horns, drove down the middle of the road forcing all the smaller moving objects to scramble for space along the edges.
Bus ride to Fatehpur Sikri in IndiaSurprisingly, this actually worked quite well. Or at least until another large vehicle came barreling down the middle of the road in the opposite direction; then a game of chicken ensued with both vehicles veering away at the last second, and all the smaller moving objects flying off the road in every direction.

I was sitting in the window seat on the side of the bus away from the traffic, and couldn’t see much but Al, who could see, told me, “You really don’t want to see this anyway!”

On a different trip we took a taxi from Udaipur to Jodhpur (as recommended by our friend Phil). Thus we were in a small car on a narrow two-lane road with barely enough room for a goods-carrying truck or bus in either lane.

Al had scooped the front seat next to our driver, much to my annoyance. I thought, “Damn, he’s going to get all the good pictures.”
BLOW HORN! Being in the back I couldn’t see much but I did learn a bit about road signals in India!

  • a vehicle coming straight at you in your lane and flashing its lights means, ‘sorry but I underestimated the amount of time it would take to pass, please slow down before we collide in a fiery crash’;
  • if it is you that is in the wrong lane and the vehicle coming straight for you is flashing its lights that means, ‘get over into your own lane, you idiot!’
  • then there’s the hand languidly waving up and down which means ‘I’m feeling suicidal and about to cut through all this traffic and turn onto the road to the right’.

Just ahead of us a bus actually used its blinker to indicate that it was heading over to the wrong side of the road. Suddenly it swerved across over the road to pick up some passengers who were madly signaling for it to stop.

Despite its obvious intentions our driver tried to whip around it as it was crossing in front of us, going off the road on to the verge, and almost mowing down the people waiting for the bus.

This Russian roulette of vehicles can get really exciting, especially when trucks carrying hazardous chemicals or highly inflammable contents get involved.
'Highly Inflammable' chemical carrying monstrosity making its way on a two-lane highway in IndiaOne tanker truck politely drives over on to the dusty verge to allow a more hazardous tanker truck to pass.
'Hazardous Chemical' carrying monstrosity squeezing its way through traffic on a two-lane highway in IndiaLater an opportunity came up to switch seats with Al (he was begging me actually) but I clung to my back seat. Here is a barely averted head-on by two trucks that have avoided each other by a bare millimeter or two; a third truck is careening along on the verge full of smaller moving vehicles.
'Blow horn' squeezing through a space in traffic on a two-lane 'highway' in India ‘Blow Horn’ or ‘Horn Please’, one of the few traffic signs in India that everyone obeys.
'Horn Please' truck on a two-lane 'highway' in IndiaI should mention that all these photos were taken by Al in the front seat while I cowered in the back shooting video – after all, you don’t have the real experience until you hear all the horns!

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12 responses to “Some Rules of the Road when Travelling in India

  1. Riding in a vehicle in India was the closest thing to a carnival ride I have ever survived. 🙂 I did love the art on the back of the trucks though. Our driver kept telling us not to worry as a truck headed towards us. In fact, he got a bit upset we were reacting to the traffic. We had the same driver for two weeks so he got used to our loud gasps. 🙂

  2. Ha ha! if you have ridden through Indian highways, you can ride anywhere. Yes, it can be shocking, moments of agony….
    Foreign travelers say that there are no rules here. True. Even then, chaos has its own order, which explains why everyone survives!
    Great post for WPC

    • Interesting comment about chaos – it seems a theme in India. Here’s a quote from the Elephant Festival in Jaipur – ‘The announcer became more and more desperate, screaming, “Please leave the field, will everyone sit down, it is chaos, well chaos is good but there must also be discipline…” ‘

  3. This is absolutely hilarious. Welcome to India. 😛 You should visit Varanasi, the traffic there is just out of this world.

  4. Organinized chaos is how I describe India’s traffic, but I loved the whole experience of being driven and having time to observe and photograph, I laughed a lot, it’s incredulous!. Thanks for bringing these joyful memories to the fore

    • A friend recommended the book ‘White Tiger’ to me, told from the point of view of a chauffeur in India. Favourite quote, paraphrased somewhat as I don’t have the book in front of me, ‘ ”Look at that,” screamed Pinky, “he’s driving on the wrong side of the road.” I checked, and he was indeed driving on the wrong side of the road. But then so was I. So what was the problem? ’

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