Let me get this out there – India is an incredible country to visit with its vibrant culture and beautiful attractions, BUT getting around can be a pain especially if you’re taking public transportation.
Last year, I went to 3 different places in India on my own – Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore. All are major cities. In every place, I encountered one problem. Upon arriving, I had the expectation of most people being able to speak English well. In reality, it seems that most, excluding white-collar workers, can only speak and understand very limited English. This means that you might have trouble communicating with most taxi and Tuk Tuk drivers!
USUAL MODES OF TRANSPORTATION:
Of course, you can always use Google Maps to figure out how to get to places by metro or bus. In my opinion, however, this is not very convenient because the metro system in India is not yet that comprehensive (except for Delhi, maybe) so when I tried to create my itinerary in Mumbai with Google Maps, for example, I saw that it takes a lot of time to get from one place to another. Often, you need to walk, take a bus, then take the metro to get to places. Not to mention that public transportation is often very crowded. This wastes a lot of time and energy and not the best solution if your time is limited.
As an alternative, locals would recommend that you use Ola or Uber, but to do this, you need a local number and be able to communicate with the person when they call you to confirm. Again, if the person on the other end cannot understand English well, it can be a problem. Plus, when using these services, you are at the mercy of there being available cars at any given point in time.
So here’s how I went around India.
From the airport, go to the counter for prepaid cabs. The advantages of this service are as follows – the price for your destination is fixed so you don’t have to worry about getting cheated; the person manning this service will help explain to the driver where you want to go; and, you also get a receipt for reimbursement if needed. Not only that, you also get a slip of paper with the driver’s information so you can call the hotline listed in case you have concerns.
To get around, I recommend renting a car with driver. There are many such services in India, but the one I’ve tried is Carzon Rent. Carzon is available in 11 major cities and you have the option to rent a car to drive locally or “outstation” (meaning inter-city). They also have an app available on the App Store or Google Play to make booking more convenient.
How it works:
- To book a service, you simply have to go to their website or app and input the details of your trip, your contact information, plus payment option of choice.
- On the website, you will get an estimated price for the trip. For local travel, you can choose how many hours you need the car for and choose the type of car you want for a fixed price. If you exceed the number of hours you booked for, they will just add RS.225 ($3.25) for every extra hour.
- Take note that fixed price bookings don’t include the cost of parking and toll, which is fair, in my opinion.
- For the contact information, you have to input your contact number as well, but it doesn’t have to be a local number. They will email you anyway and if you stay at a hotel, you can just wait for the driver at the lobby at the designated time.
- For payment options, you can either pay via credit card, local debit card or opt to pay the driver after your trip if the total amount doesn’t exceed Rs.10,000 ($150).
Why I like Carzon:
- Convenient, reliable, and saves time
- Affordable and easy to pay (cheaper than renting a car with driver from the hotel)
- You have the car and driver at your disposal
- Drivers are trained so I think most of them can speak English
Based on my experience, booking with Carzon was hassle-free. I got a confirmation email as well as a text message right after booking. On the day of the trip, I received a reminder text and the driver sent me a message as well when he arrived. He even apologized for not calling because he thought I was using an international number.
I gave the driver my itinerary and he used Google maps to ensure that we took the right route. He spoke English very well and was able to give me some information on the places I was visiting as well as social commentaries about India.
Since the driver couldn’t go into some of the places I visited, we agreed on meeting places. At that time, I did invest in a local SIM so I was also able to call him when I was ready to go.
After the trip, I handed over the payment to the driver and the receipt was sent to me via email.
Total cost for 8 hours on a Suzuki Dzire: Rs1,800 ($26)
If ever you’re planning a trip to India, try renting a car with driver and let me know what you think!