With the present Indian governments focus on improving infrastructure, India has witnessed a boom in investments in the transport sector especially in Roadways. India has really good roads that tempts you to harness them or at least witness them through Road Trips.
Although driving in India is overall safe, there are a few things that you must be cautious while planning a Road trip that will give a lot of fond memories.
Here’s a few topics that I have picked up to mention here from my Road trip experiences. I have categorized them under the following headings.
- Distance, navigation and road quality
- Toll booths and amenities around them
- Your capacity to drive in a day
- Local weather
- Food breaks, Loo breaks & Power naps
- Hotel bookings
- Darshan/Puja/visit bookings
- Negotiation skills
- Information sharing
- Your favourite playlist
Even before we start, the most important thing that you must remember is-
Do Not! Absolutely Do Not start driving until every passenger in your vehicle have put on the safety gears- Seat belts in case of four-wheelers and helmets and other necessary guards on a two-wheeler. Remember even sudden brakes at a speed of 80+ KMPH may be fatal to whoever has not put on their safety gear.
Distance, navigation, road quality and yourself
The first things to determine is the distance between the places you would travel and halt for breaks during the day and your night stay/s. Google Maps or any other online map services are quite helpful in determining the distance and help you plan your trip. It’s important to determine the exact route, travel time and the road quality.
- Choose National Highways over State Highways or District Highways, although that may cost you a bit more considering the tolls for using the roads and may require you to travel a longer distance. When you have to choose between a shorter and a better quality roads, choose a better quality road. You would eventually end up saving time and your energy, which is more valuable when you are on a road trip.
- Try limit your drive to approximately 400 KMs a day on National Highways or roads with similar quality, if you are the only one driving.
- Drive through the daytime
- Avoid night time drives
Depending on the fuel capacity and the mileage of your vehicle, you may need to gauge the approximate distance you can drive at a stretch. Plan your stops in a way that you don’t run out of gas midway. If your fuel gauge says you can drive less than a hundred KMs, it’s time for you to find a gas station. Anything less than 50 KMs at the fuel gauge can be tricky for your trip.
- Filing up fuel at the start of the day (before 9 AM) may help you get fuel with greater density which would give you a greater mileage when you drive at a higher temperature during the day.
With the current Indian Government’s focus on continuously improving infrastructure, most of the Indian states have good roads and that leads to the need of maintenance which in turn raises the need of having toll booths. The tolls make the road trips quite expensive sometime. Check update on point no. 3
- Keep approximately Rs.1000 at a reachable distance, preferably in smaller denominations for a faster transaction at the Toll plazas. That should be sufficient for a day. Check update on point no. 3
- Majority of the toll booths will accept major credits but there may be exceptions. Check update on point no. 3
- Govt. of India has brought up a new initiative of pre-paid toll booth cards called Fastag. You may use them to have a faster transactions. NOTE– From 01 Dec. 2019, Fastag is being made mandatory for Toll tax payments across all highways in India. Apply for one soon to avoid issues at the Toll plazas and a last minute rush to your bank.
- If you have to return through the same route within 24 hours it’s better to purchase a return ticket. Check update on point no. 3. With Fastag in place this may not be an option any more.
- Remember, two-wheelers are not allowed on many National Highways. If you erroneously drive onto them, you may face heavy fines. However, you would always get alternate roads where you can take your two-wheelers too.
Your capacity to drive in a day
If you are the only driver in the group or driving all alone, it’s important to keep your health in good shape all through the trip. When you drive, the adrenaline flows and you are too excited. Don’t burn out in that excitement. Approximately 400 KMs a day on a National highway or any road of equivalent quality is advisable in normal circumstances. Take necessary breaks in between. Food breaks, snacks breaks, loo breaks, breaks for re-fueling your vehicle.
In case you have just finished one of your breaks and you can’t afford to take another one in this short span of time. Remember, this unplanned break will help you avoid an untoward event due to fatigue. Park your vehicle in a gas station or a restaurant or any other safer place, keep the engine and AC running, lock the doors and take a quick power nap. You’ll rejuvenate to drive a longer distance and more efficiently.
Track the weather of the place/s you would visit, at least a week in advance. Take help of some online tools that give you the cloud positions for your planned day and a few days before and later. Some paid tools can give you predictions that are more precise. This will give you a fair idea of the temperature, rain that can potentially impact your timely completion of your road trip.
Food breaks, Loo breaks & Power naps
It’s important to follow a healthy lifestyle in your usual life to be able to have a great road trip. During your road trip, a healthy lifestyle will help you timely start your day and continue reaching your destinations through the day. It’s always better to complete your early morning chores before you start your day on the road. Wake up early, clear your bowels, take bath, complete your spiritual activities (if any), little bit of exercise, have good healthy breakfast and hit the road. Even before you start your journey, you should stack up your vehicle with snacks and drinks that you may need to kill your hunger in case you don’t find a suitable food joint at the time you have planned a break. Take ample breaks. Don’t hesitate in taking a second break sooner than planned if you feel a bit tired. Always find a good place to have your breaks. This will help you be safe, and give you access to cleaner, healthier amenities. Power naps during the day can help you recover from any fatigue. Even 5-10 minutes closing your eyes and stretching your body during the breaks can bring great help. Remember, your vehicle too needs some breaks. Even if you are more than one driving person in the journey, your vehicle is just one. It needs and fairly deserves a break.
- Stack up your vehicle with snacks, fresh fruits and drinks before embarking on the road trip
- Pick up places with good food options and cleaner washrooms for your breaks
- Don’t hesitate to take breaks
- Power naps can help recover from any fatigue
- Your vehicle, too, needs a break. Give it!
There are many options, nowadays, that offer you heavy discounts on hotel rooms at the last minute sale. However, an unplanned approach towards your night stays can ruin your road trip, the next day, if not the entire trip. It’s better to get hotels booked in advance. You can get good deals even with 4/5 star hotels when you are booking well in advance. Keep looking for them. Book hotels in an interval of 400-450 KMs of drive in a day, under normal circumstances. This way you can balance fun behind and away from the wheels. Good hotels will help you rejuvenate faster and add to your good memories from the road trip.
In case you are planning to visit any temple, museum, amusement park, etc. during your trip, check if you can get an online ticket before you start your journey. Most of the Indian temples now have online presence and you can book a normal or special queue tickets at nominal prices. This will help you cut down the wait time there. Remember to carry print outs of the tickets as you may need to show them at the venue.
When you are travelling, you must invigorate your negotiation skills to its height. If not, you may end up paying unnecessarily higher prices for things and services you avail during your visit to any place on your journey. Remember– Just that everyone else has paid a higher price, you don’t need to. You need to be very cautious of your budget and stick to it.
It’s OK to share information with strangers while you are travelling. However, do not disclose specifics of your travel, stay, time and date. It’s absolutely OK to be unreasonably suspicious of over-friendly strangers. Giving them a polite cold shoulder would not bring any regrets later.
If you discover any more good travel tips for Road Trips, please do add them here as comments. We, together, can evolve the information on this blog post.
Listening to your favourite songs will energise you like nothing else, during your journey. Prepare a playlist of your favourite songs, especially categorized based on some genres. Remember, to listen songs at a comfortable volume level so that you an enjoy the music and at the same time be alert to the sounds/alerts external to your car that you may miss to hear due to a high volume.