Long Drives in India – A ready reckoner

I started driving long distances after Oct 2001, when I bought my first car, a Maruti WagonR. Before that I have been a co-passenger, and my city driving was mostly on my 100 CC Bajaj Caliber. My drives were mostly around 250-300 Km radius in initial years. In Feb 2004, we bought a Mahindra Scorpio and over time our long distance drives have gradually increased to 500+ KMs a day. The longest single day drive for me, so far, has been from Delhi to Jaisalmer , and Delhi to Allahabad.

Its Aug 2010 now and a lot has changed in last 8-9 years. The changes are for better and what appeared like a real long drive in 2002 now looks like a morning drive to a lot of us. Drive from Delhi to Agra is not considered as a long drive and we all aspire to do Delhi-Manali or Bangalore-Mumbai in one day. We have better roads, improved infrastructure of supporting services like telecom, power and most importantly self driving is beginning to become a preferred mode of transport, at least for short family vacations.

So in light of all that, I thought that I would write a small tip-list based out of my personal experiences. A lot of it is standard stuff and you would know them by heart , e.g. check tyre pressure but I am hoping that some of these are new to you and are helpful.

The tips are not in a order, and I have not taken a lot of time thinking/planning so this is mostly from what I could remember.

Let me divide the tips in three sections.
A. Before the drive
B. During the drive
C. After the drive

A. Before the drive

1. Prepare Route maps from multiple sources. These can be from Lonely Planet Road Atlas, Google Maps, Map My India maps or even from someone who belongs to that area. Never ever rely on a single source.
2. Sleep enough and sleep well. Avoid heavy food / heavy drinks the previous night. A peg of 30 ml can be rather useful but decide for yourself.
3. Check oil (engine oil, brake oil, power steering oil). This may sound a little geeky but trust me, these are very easy to check. Check tyre pressure including the fifth tyre. Get the fuel tank full.
4. Try to eat something, a sandwich or a matthi or a roti before you leave.

B. During the drive

The most important thing is to keep the cabin atmosphere cheerful. In long drives, its common for your co-passenger to get edgy, esp during the last lap, so be extra sensitive to them. A cheerful cabin is the key for a happy and stress free drive.

1. Drive steady, it saves fuel, gives you more control and makes the drive comforting for your co-passengers.
2. Put seatbelts on during the entire journey. All seats.
3. Carry a baby seat if you are traveling with kids. Not only for safety but also for comfort.

4. Visibility is prime. clean windscreens, clean lights, get a different light. just be sensitive that being able to see well is key.
5. Do not ever tail gate especially behind trucks, buses. you should be able to see ahead.
6. Do not double overtake, i.e. if the vehicle in front is overtaking someone, let it finish the act and then you overtake. Tailgating while overtaking is dangerous. Its worth the wait.

7. Take breaks every few hours. I have found that a break of 15 minutes every 3 hours work wonders. I typically break in 4-5 hours.
8. Avoid driving at night, and never drive alone during night. This is not for security reasons, but for road safety reasons. Our roads do not have enough sign-ages warning drives for a curve, road-closure or anything like that. Top it with the fact that a lot of us love to drink and drive. A big percentage of fatal accidents happen during night. and remember my visibility angle. Not worth it.

9. Keep munchies, chocs, fruits. They keep you away from sleep and they help you remain cheerful.
10. Remain hydrated
11. Measure the progress. never ever try to catch-up but knowing how are you doing helps a lot. This also helps you to be more practical in estimating your journey time. If you are doing an average of 50 (which is very good in India) than its futile to plan next 200 KMs in 2 hours.

C. After the drive
1. Check the bottom of car
2. Clean the cabin of all the garbage and give some fresh air to interiors

and finally do something nice for yourself, have a beer, have a choc or just give a big pat, you deserve it.

This is not a exhaustive list so add the ones as comments which have worked for you and I would update this master list once in a while.

4 Replies to “Long Drives in India – A ready reckoner”

  1. Long drives in India…It is very interesting. I lived in India during my young age and by age 29 after working close to 10 years I decided to move to Canada with the help of my brother who had already settled in Canada by that time. During the 70s driving was a breeze in south India as well as North East (Assam,Nagaland Region). Traffics were smooth and accidents were very minimal(do not really recall any accidents at all).Now that I live in Canada and driving a 1000 miles is just a breeze. 4 lanes highways, devided highways makes you feel safer.I have driven in all the provinces of Canada and many states in the USA . I enjoy travelling and seing new places.

    My last two visits to India, I had to keep my eyes closed
    while my nephew or my brother drives a short distance in Kerala as I am petrified watching the traffic. There is no rule or traffic cops that I came across in any of the streets in Kerala. People drive right side or left side of the road and overtake on either side of the road. If that ever happens in North America, you surely can count on major accidents as we drive at 110km speed on highways
    or even higher on better driving conditions..

    However…Please drive safe.

  2. NANDAN i am planing a trip from g.noida to jaiselmer via route you suggest in my RITZ diesel in november , tell me about roadscondition, petrolpumps & service stations , tell me RITZ is safe for such along distance ?

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