Earth > Asia > Southern Asia > India
|Language:||Hindi, English, various regional languages|
|Currency:||Indian rupee (₨) (INR)|
|Hitchability:||<rating country='in' />|
|Meet fellow hitchhikers on Trustroots or BeWelcome|
|<map lat='21.739091217718574' lng='82.177734375' zoom='5' view='0' float='right' />|
India is a land of diverse cultures, faiths, languages and people. For all practical purposes though, English is widely understood throughout the country. However, throughout the northern regions Hindi is also widely spoken apart from the regional languages.
The condition of road surfaces, driving habits, vehicles and driver profiles varies greatly from region to region even in the same state. Sikh drivers are generally friendly and can be generally trusted - hospitality is part of their religion after all. Although hitchhiking is allowed as in it is not illegal, it is not something which is common, except in the western states. A ride may be sometimes difficult to get as some local hitchhikers actually turn out to be robbers and dacoits who flag down vehicles and loot them.
However, hitchhiking is possible. The Academy of Free Travel organized an expedition in India in 1998 where nine participants hitchhiked the entire length of the country north to south. There is a growing Indian hitchhiking community, and the rise of the car-owning middle class means that hitchhiking from cities to popular excursion sites is increasingly simple.
To hich-hike, hold your hand horizontal to the ground.
User Craig: Iran turned out to be the best country to thumb up lifts. Even the other countries were far easier to hitchhike than Germany. With one exception … India. We had an awesome time hitching Indian tractors etc. but hitching there is exhausting: Sometimes it takes you more than half an hour to simply explain what you do. Other reasons: Extreme cheap public transport and scarce long distance traffic on roads. Can you imagine that one of the four principal highways leaving 20-million-Mumbai is a two-lane (!!!) road? Anyways. If you can stand long waits go for it! It is possible!
Gesturing for a ride will inevitably attract a taxi, bus or the three wheeler auto rickshaw or cycle rickshaw. Rates will vary from region to region.
In the adjoining Punjab and Haryana states in the north and in the western provinces of Rajasthan and Gujarat, particularly on the road from Jaipur and Agra and in rural areas, it will be possible to hitch a ride on the back of a Jugaad or another home-made vehicle. Jugaads are constructed by fitting locally available 10-14 horsepower diesel pump sets, normally used to draw up water from underground wells for irrigation. These are connected to steering wheels taken from abandoned jeeps or trucks using other similarly cannibalised parts. The entire contraption is then mounted on a long wooden, trailer-like chassis on four wheels. If you ever decide to hitch-hike to and from a rural village in these areas, chances are you will get a ride on a home-made vehicle - it is a way of life for the driver and the locals. Usually, a payment of up to 10 rupees per journey is expected.
In Sikkim in the Northwest it is common for drivers to pick up locals as well as hitchhikers and charge them the same price for the ride as the scarce official jeeps would.
Rides on Trucks
In some regions, the only vehicles which may bother to stop and pick up hikers would be long distance trucks. They generally ply between cities or villages. Speeding is common and trucks are often involved in accidents. Drunk driving is also fairly common. If offered a ride on the truck, it is best to humor the driver and helper by engaging in small talk as far as possible. Silence may lead to sullen behavior and even hostility. On the good side, truck drivers may press food upon you and you can sleep on rope beds at the truck stops. There’s also water in the trucks for you to wash in your underwear (men only)!
It is very easy to hitch short distances in India on the back of someones motorbike. Even in the big cities, short lifts can easily be had. A foreigner flagging down a motobike is not a very common sight, so often the first bike to see you will enthusiastically stop. Most bikes travel only short distances, a few km. Long journeys will involve changing bikes very often. Works perfectly for example if you can't be bothered to walk half a km to the train station. Just flag down a bike, point in the right direction and off you go!
Even passionate hitchhikers often resort to train travel in India, as it offers its own kind of adventure. Most trains in India, with the exception of the Rajdhani, Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi and Garib Rath express trains, have four carriages marked General class (two at the front of the train, two at the rear). Riding in these carriages requires only that you buy a ticket just before boarding or paying the conductor, while other classes require reservations days or weeks in advance. General Class carriages do not guarantee a place to sit. You might encounter carriages where people are packed together as tightly as cattle, while at other times the carriage might be half-empty and you can lie down and sleep. An overnight journey in a General Class compartment costs only around 100Rs, making them a good alternative to hitchhiking.
Sleeping outside is accepted in India, and millions of urban poor do it. Theft is rarely a concern if you are sleeping among a large crowd, though you ought to secure your bag in some small way. If you need a place to overnight, head for the nearest train station, where you can spread out your sleeping bag and no one will bother you. Often there is a waiting room for those with train reservations (called "Upper Class Waiting Room" or similar), and foreigners can usually enter those and sleep without being asked to show a ticket. Earplugs are useful.
The Sikh religion of India emphasizes hospitality and at any Sikh temple (gurdwara) you can find meals. Don't be ashamed to ask anyone standing around there where you can find the dining room, as many Sikhs voice regret that few foreigners come and accept what they offer. There is no religious proselytizing, and because everyone eats sitting in a row on the floor, it's a great way to strike up conversations with everyday Indians.
- Mumbai (Bombay)
- Kolkata (Calcutta)
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