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Volle trein India

Traffic in India: terrible or terrific?

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

“Look Dad, a camel!”

A camel was slowly moving through crowded traffic on the streets of Jaipur, India. The ship of the desert didn’t seem to bother much about the noise. Cars, bikes and Tuk-Tuks were passing the animal left and right. The camel moved gracefully through this urban landscape while slowly grinding his teeth on some food. I believe we, as foreigners, were far more disturbed by the chaotic realm of things than the animal has ever been!

Camel on street

Camel tuk tuk india

Traffic in India: Tuk-Tuks

Transportation in India is impressive. Agreed, pollution can be terrible and riding a Tuk-Tuk while behind a bus spewing out exhaust gases is not a real pleasure. But it is great to experience! There is never a dull moment as Tuk-Tuks, motorbikes and rickshaws always find a way to maneuver through the total chaos and find an open space (even very, very small ones!).

Street life India

When hopping on a Tuk-Tuk in India, just switch off your ‘Worry-button’ and enjoy all that’s passing by and all that you can see, hear and smell. The video below is just to give you an impression of your regular, day-to-day traffic in the city of Jaipur.

For the long version of this video, please click here. (This long version is great as well…maybe even better!)

Some tips for people who will be riding in a Tuk-Tuk very soon (just my two cents):

  • Do negotiate about the price before you get in the vehicle. You can ask people at your hotel or other locals about acceptable price levels. Don’t bother if the first two Tuk-Tuk drivers will not accept your offer because there is always one who will.
  • You can book these Tuk-Tuk drivers for any kind of trip at any time of the day. As a foreigner you pay double (or even triple) of what locals are paying, so you can imagine the drivers are always willing to wait for you or make an appointment for the next day. Don’t worry about that, just make use of it.
  • Do be warned about Tuk-Tuk drivers trying to convince you that the place you want to visit is closed for today. Most of the times they want to bring you somewhere else, for example a shop where they get commission on your sales. Trust your own plan.

Traffic India

Traffic in India: trains

If you don’t like the roads, move on to the rail track. Compared to Thailand, the trains in India are on time, serve much more food and drinks and have a more challenging reputation (for all you adventurers out there….). We took a train from Delhi to Jaipur and found it to be very convenient and rather cheap (although the trains do look a bit dreadful don’t you think??).

Train india

Traffic India

Make sure to book your train well in advance. Trains are the most important modes of transportation for most Indian people and they are fully booked most of the times (yes, sometimes people hang outside of the train, desperately trying to reach their destination). The rail network in India is one of the most complex ones in the world but the online reservation tools work just fine.

Volle trein India

You have great views on the platform of the train station when watching trains arrive and depart. But also from the train the scenes are impressive and, I have to be honest, sometimes disturbing (poor people in the slumps and dirt lying all around).

Train India goodbye

Woman in train India

Some tips when you want to ride the trains in India:

  • Book in advance where online booking is a very good option. I discovered a superb website that explains all about train travel, including India: www.seat61.com. If you stay in India a bit longer, it’s better to buy a local SIM card with local telephone number, also in order to create your profile for online booking (more about that on seat61.com)
  • Don’t be overwhelmed upon arrival at the train station by porters, men with ‘official’ badges, and other ‘stakeholders’. Porters ask around 20-30 Rs per bag. It’s no problem if you want to carry your own bags, but for the porters it’s their way of living. If you use their services, make sure to agree on the price before your bag is lifted on a porter’s head and you see it move away in the crowd….
  • The men with the ‘official’ badges….oh my….well, some are real, most are not. If you have questions, ask locals who are also waiting on the platform. Our experience is that everybody is willing to help. Information counters are available but you probably have to queue up.

When you have booked a ticket, but are still uncertain, go to the station one or two days in advance to check the place out. It really helps when you arrive in the dark at 5.30 am and you already know and recognize the place (we talk from experience!).

On train station

It might be a challenge for some, but moving around in India is an experience! Traffic in India: terrible or terrific?

If you like this you will also want to read earlier posts about India:

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Tricia Mitchell February 28, 2013 - 09:26

Enjoyed this, Emiel! On my first trip to India, my neighboring passenger on the plane playfully said to me, “India begins at the airport.” Indeed, the traffic madness began right there. 🙂 Once we’d made it onto the roadways, I remember being surprised by the artistic ‘honk please’ signs painted on the backs of trucks, and the choir of the horns. It took a few weeks of being home to get the ringing out of my ears.

Two trips to India later, I’ve ridden on trains, overnight sleeper buses, cycle and auto rickshaws, and a motorbike. When in India, I think it’s most fun to watch the madness in the intersections from afar. It’s a chaotic dance that somehow works.

Emiel van den Boomen March 1, 2013 - 17:20

Great comment Tricia. I know what you mean, although the new airport of Delhi is much more relaxed…:)

The roads in India with all the traffic is chaos, but a feast for the senses!

GlobetrotterGirls September 30, 2012 - 19:25

Great post, Emiel! Brings back so many memories of our travel days in India. Some were horrible, some were fascinating and experiences we wouldn’t want to miss.

Emiel van den Boomen September 30, 2012 - 22:28

Oh yes, it’s really sensory overload! Thanks for your comment.

Bama September 20, 2012 - 02:11

Thanks for the tips on taking a train in India, Emiel! It might come very handy when I visit the country one day. About tuktuk, you’re so right. I love the sensation of riding one.

Emiel van den Boomen September 21, 2012 - 23:58

I know you are an experienced traveler Bama, so you will have no problems to travel in India. But indeed, some tips like these are always nice to know 🙂

OutsideTheGuidebook September 12, 2012 - 22:15

Ha ha ha!!! I’m back in India for a slightly long term vacation after seven years in the UK. Things sure have changed big time. There seem to be even more of us now!!

Claire September 11, 2012 - 20:10

Great images! I just got back from a month in Rajasthan and I totally relate to your experiences! Personally I found the trains much more relaxing than the roads!

Emiel van den Boomen September 11, 2012 - 20:59

Wow Claire, one month in Rajasthan! I think in a couple of years time we will be back with our kids for a longer period of time as well. Thanks.

Ayngelina September 11, 2012 - 17:10

I still haven’t been there yet but all those photos make it so tempting to go.

Emiel van den Boomen September 11, 2012 - 20:59

Ready, set, go!

Manuel Loigeret September 9, 2012 - 20:55

I would say it is definitely terrific. All these colors and activity… it’s life!

Emiel van den Boomen September 10, 2012 - 11:44

It’s life…and in India it sometimes feels like life is slapping you in the face!

Tracey - Life Changing Year September 9, 2012 - 13:01

Ha! We always go to the station a day or so ahead. We are so paranoid about not knowing where to go when the pressure is on!! This has saved us more than once in a foreign country!!

Emiel van den Boomen September 10, 2012 - 11:43

True Tracey! Glad we are not the only one spending time just checking out the train station 🙂

capturinglavita September 8, 2012 - 22:11

Photographs are stunning as usual Emiel, I just love the one of the woman in the train window. I have to admit though… the last one is the sweetest:)

Emiel van den Boomen September 10, 2012 - 11:43

Thanks Laurel and yes, that last one is very sweet…:)


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