Traveling by car


Unlike in most countries, when you hire a car in India, you’ll commonly get a driver along with it! Understandably, this can take a bit of getting used to, especially if it’s your first trip to India and you’ve never experienced it before. Here’s what you need to know.


Hiring a car and driver is ideal when you want flexibility and control over your trip. You’ll be able to stop at places that interest you and not have to worry about how to get around.

Train and plane travel is useful for covering long distances, but when exploring various destinations, hiring a car and driver makes the most sense.

The price will depend on the type of car.  The charge is usually by day, with a minimum mileage per day.  Be sure to ask if  the quoted rate includes gas (“petrol” as commonly called in India) and tolls.  Also inquire about the car insurance, in case of an accident.  Parking fees are usually paid by the tourist.  Also definitely make sure that the air-conditioning is in order, and ask how old the car is, and how many miles it has on it.

I highly suggest that you get an SUV for your trip.  An all-wheel drive vehicle will be safer on mountain roads, spacious and comfortable. You also do not want to experience every bump on the road, which you will if in a small car.

Ask if the quoted rate includes driver’s food and accommodations, or if these are extra.  I have noted that some hotels offer complimentary food and lodging for drivers. Be sure to inquire with reception on that.  (this is a sort of a ‘commission’ or ‘complimentary perk’ for bringing you to their hotel.) 

Do not tip the driver continuously during the trip, rather make one lump-sum payment at the end.  Openly state this to the driver, that the “baksheesh” (or tip) will be given at the end of the trip.  

Be sure to do plenty of research and make comparisons to decide on what suits you best. Decent independent drivers with their own vehicles do exist, however, its best to deal with a hotel or reputable tour company.

What to Keep in Mind

  •  Don’t always believe the travel times shown by Google Maps! It may take you longer to reach your destination than expected, so do take this into consideration when planning your itinerary and allow plenty of time.
  • The car will need to be returned to its starting destination (at your expense), so do take this into account when planning your trip and budget.
  • Drivers don’t act as guides. They will take care of your itinerary, get you to each destination, and answer general questions. They won’t accompany you inside monuments and attractions by default. Though many may oblige if you ask them to.
  • It’s likely your driver will suggest that you shop at certain places and eat in certain restaurants. This is because he will receive a commission from those places or get complimentary food. It can become tiring after a while, especially if you’re not interested in doing so. Be firm in declining.


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