Considering renting a car in India? Known for crowded, colorful cities and truly crazy traffic, India can be an intimidating place to drive. On the other hand, if you plan to explore the countryside and smaller towns and villages, having your own wheels may be a fun and liberating way to get around.
Few travelers rent a car to drive themselves in India. It's more common for foreigners to hire a car with a driver who knows the backroads, shortcuts, and somewhat lax rules of the road. But if you're set on renting a car yourself, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Essential Tips for Renting a Car in India
Book from home. Don't wait until you get to India to rent a vehicle. It will be cheaper to book your car from the United States before you go. The further ahead you reserve your car, the better the chance of landing a deal because you can watch out for price drops.
You need an International Driving Permit. To drive in India, you must either be a legal resident with an Indian driver's license or have an International Driving Permit. This document is simply a translated version of your state-issued driver's license and can be obtained from the AAA. Give yourself some lead time to apply before you leave on your trip.
You'll drive on the left. India is a former British colony and consequently a place where people drive on the left.
Pay for the rental in rupees. Although it may seem easier to be charged in dollars instead of rupees, this option will cost you more in the long run. Pay in the local currency to avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion fees. If you opt to pay in U.S. dollars, the rental car company converts the purchase amount from the local currency on your behalf. But this process is entirely unnecessary, since your credit card company will process the transaction in either currency, and you will pay through the nose for the non-convenience.
Double check your insurance coverage. Before you leave for India, contact your credit card company to see what collision coverage, if any, it offers on car rentals abroad. A car rental contract in India generally requires fire insurance and third-party liability. These supplemental fees will automatically be added to the cost of your rental.
A self-drive rental car comes with a hefty deposit. If you opt to drive a rental car yourself, then you'll have to pay a deposit that can be anywhere from $750 to $3000, depending on the type of car being rented. In the event of any damage, the deposit will be forfeited.
Rules of the road are more like guidelines. You may think you've encountered your fair share of crazy drivers at home in the US, but drivers in India likely take the cake. Don't expect your fellow drivers to stay in their lanes, obey traffic lights, or even to stay on the road (sidewalks are fair game). There's a reason for the steep deposit.
Having a rental car in big Indian cities is a nightmare. Traffic is notorious, few drivers stick to the rules of the road and parking can be extremely difficult. Be forewarned that car theft is more common in India than many other places, which is another reason for such a large deposit. If you need a car for exploring the countryside, schedule your car pickup time for when you're ready to leave the city.
Inspect the car carefully before driving it off the lot. Make sure to protect yourself from potential false damage claims by carefully look over your car before driving away. Document every nick, scratch or dent. Your smartphone will come in handy for taking photos of any imperfections to ensure you won't have to pay for them later.
Renting a Car With a Driver in India
Is renting a car with a driver starting to sound like a good option? It's much more common in India than renting a self-drive car, and it doesn't have to break the bank. When you hire a car with a driver for the day or even for a few days, you don't have to pay that large deposit, and you'll benefit from having a local behind the wheel.
Here are a few things to consider when hiring a car and driver.
Rates vary. Everything from the size of the car to whether your driver speaks English to the number of days and distance traveled contributes to the daily rate of the car and driver for hire. Do some research ahead of time and be sure to find a reputable company. Rates will usually include fuel, insurance, tolls, state taxes, parking, and the driver's food. For a multiple-day trek across India, rates will also include the driver's accommodations.
Tip your driver. It's customary for travelers to tip their driver on a daily basis. Depending on how happy you are with his services, 200 to 400 rupees per day is reasonable.
Your driver is not your personal tour guide. While your driver will be happy to get you to each destination and answer general questions, you shouldn't expect a personal tour guide who is well-versed in every historical detail of major sites and able to make restaurant recommendations. Your driver won't accompany you inside monuments and attractions; he'll wait in the car and simply be ready to take you to the next destination when you are ready.