A rough guide to Indian roads.
After nearly two years of experience of living in India, I would risk a thesis, that cultural difference is nowhere as visible, as on its roads. Westerner who makes a foolish mistake of heading out on the road without proper preparation, would find himself in a “shock and awe” within a minute from starting his car (or any other vehicle for that matter).
As a quite experienced driver in India – both bike and car – I think I’m ready to share sort of a basic guide, a crash course… (believe me, every attempt to drive here inevitably begins or ends up with a crash) on driving in India.
But no worries, driving in India is actually way simpler than anywhere else in the world. Forget all the complicated rules and trust your intuition. Drive where the place is on the road, no matter which lane is it or even which direction. If you follow few basic rules mentioned below and move slow but consequently, so that others could adjust their behaviour to yours, you’re on the safe side. Remember – nothing is impossible!
Ladies and gentleman. Fasten your seatbelts if you have any!
PS. Following stunts had been performed by a crazy man. Don’t try it at home! Driving in Delhi is the deadliest in India!
1. Preparing a vehicle
Enter the vehicle, start the engine, check the horn* and dipper. If you have rear view mirrors – make sure they’re hidden, otherwise you will lose them soon. Now, you’re ready to go.
2. Signs and traffic lights:
green light = go
orange light = go
red light = you might consider stopping or slowing down, but not necessarily
Haven’t seen any other signs than speed limits, “bikes not allowed” and “rickshaws not allowed”. If you see any of them just ignore it.
c) Communicating with other drivers
Indicators – blinking (usually) orange lights on a vehicle, used together if you want to signal you are about to do something weird on the road (i.e. backing up on the highway or driving against the traffic)
Full headlight – always on. There is a competition called “I got stronger lights than you”.
“Dipping” – acts like a horn at night.
Horn – remember, “Horn OK Tata”. Sound of the horn is the national anthem of India. Indicates any action you want to take on road or even just your presence. In example:
You want to go straight – honk and go straight
You want to go right/left – honk twice and go right. You might consider sticking your arm out of window while turning to show you’re turning.
– you want to overtake – keep on honking till you’re done
– you’re happy – honk
– you’re sad – honk slowly
– you’re angry – honk furiously with no reason
– you’re Punjabi – honk the bhangra sounds
– you’re truck driver – honk BIG
– you have a scooty- get yourself a BIG horn and pretend you’re a truck, people will make space on road before they realize they’ve been punked
3) Priority on road:
first – the biggest (truck, bus, train) – WARNING: this rule can be observed also on a one way road. Trucks tend to go against the traffic for a shortcut. Don’t try to play James Dean with them!
second – the biggest horn (mimicry technique)
later – the fastest one to enter
very last – trespassers
* Once we were driving down the mountains, from app. 3000m altitude, in a rain, in the evening . Our cab wasn’t in perfect condition – lights were working like they wanted, our wipers weren’t working at all, breaks seemed to be a bit too soft, but our driver wasn’t discouraged until the horn went off. Then he has slown down, gripped the steering wheel tight and leaned towards the window… and stopped by the next mechanic to fix it.
** Observe number of scratches on the car. The more it has, the least you can trust the driver.
*** BONUS: How to deal with the police (WARNING: applies to firangis/goras ONLY) – since police guys, as most of the other people around, would be pretty curious(and maybe even astonished) about you driving a car/bike, you can use it as your asset. In example, imagine you wanted to take a shortcut and go against the traffic, since the nearest U-turn was two kilometers further down the road. And just after you started doing it, you noticed a police officer few meters ahead. Solution? Just approach him and ask for direction, tell him you’re from *** country, look lost and at the end, tell that you don’t understand his explanation and can ou just go ahead against the traffic. Believe me – he’ll let you go! Tested!
Please share with me if I missed anything important!
Few nice examples: