Experience of Having a Car and Driver in Northern India
Let’s start by saying that not all cars, drivers and roads are equal!
India Someday has offered me a broad spectrum of travel for getting from city to city in Rajasthan. For a few of my journeys, I’ve had the opportunity to sprawl out in the backseat of a car, taking in the street scenes around me. I’ve had mixed feelings about these car experiences. But, hands down, my recommendation is to mix it up – try getting around every which way you can in this country!
At first, the idea of having a car to myself felt amazing. From reliable AC to bathroom breaks on my own schedule, I was stoked to sample another flavor of luxury travel I’m not quite used to as a backpacker. As with other aspects of higher-end style, I savored in the indulgence and enjoyed feeling pampered. But, I also started feeling as if I was gazing out at Indian life from a bubble. I would stare out the car window and see the beautiful wind-blown hair and saris of the glowing women sitting sideways on the back of motorbikes and would dream of traveling with the wind in my hair instead. I, of course, thought about pushbikes as well – and how amazing it would be to properly gear up and cycle these long stretches.
At Chandleao outside of Jodhpur, where I was excited to hop on some wheels and cycle around the villages one evening, I sweat bullets and found myself working much harder than usual on pretty flat land. Needless to say, I chuckled at the thought of riding in the beating sun and toting my gear – and once again felt quite grateful for the private car!
For the car journeys between cities, I find myself going back and forth between enjoying the solitude and break from the noise – and longing to be fully immersed in it. It can feel a bit lonely or isolating, far removed from the commotion of the public transportation scenes and even other tourists who can be fun to speak with and learn from. Understanding the distances and limited public transportation between some cities, I can surely say that the car/driver combo makes a lot of sense.
Within cities, especially Jaipur, where things felt spread out, it was quite ideal to have a driver and I truly appreciated the demeanor of the sweet man who shared lots of information, was incredibly accommodating and struck up some decent conversation.
Even for group trips, a rental car can make sense and prices can be split between the group
I must say that the car/driver experience is very much shaped by the driver himself (so far, I’ve only had men). My first one wasn’t my favorite (he was definitely not bad) it was just that I didn’t connect with him. But I absolutely trusted him and felt safe, however, he was not someone I would rate as the best driver on my journey. When I think of it now, all of my other drivers have been incredibly friendly, quite knowledgeable and good in English, which makes a lot of difference
The roads themselves likely make a difference too! While trains are steady and smooth, I found some of the car rides to be incredibly bumpy and somewhat nausea-inducing. Some drivers handled the terrain far better than others – or perhaps their vehicles were better equipped.
If I knew about a site along the way, my drivers were always happy to stop for me. We enjoyed a quick break at a temple devoted to motorbikes which was a fun scene.
One of the best parts, after a late night, very early morning or full day in the heat, is that the backseat of a car makes for an ideal bed, with no need to secure bags or worry about anything else. I should also add that all of my drivers have been incredibly punctual, never leaving me to wait anywhere. They also seem quite experienced at managing the INSANE traffic situation – cows, trucks, buses, cars, bikes, people, goats, camels and more – all moving in every direction possible.
The scenes out the windows, however, never ceased to excite me. Whether we were passing lush green mountains, small villages or entering bustling cities, I loved watching life outside the car.
The roads were full of people walking, many carrying flags, all heading on a pilgrimage to a temple near Jaisalmer. Some barefoot and some piled high in rickshaws, they all looked thrilled with their journey, unbothered by the extreme heat. I loved seeing them.
Bottom line, getting around by car/driver can be incredibly helpful, time-saving and pleasantly chilled (this country is HOT!) As with any other situation, having realistic expectations and putting forth positive energy will help make a smooth ride.
Looking forward to more scenes from the road!
You can find very friendly and chatty drivers – Credit: Fabio Campo
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