How to plan the perfect road trip in India ?

Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been on 4 major Road trips across India now and have learnt a great deal from it. i thought its time i shared my experiences and tips on how to plan the perfect road trip in India.

My first road trip was on my motorbike 10 Years (2007) back to Ladakh region of India. Back then the region was very under developed and not at all commercialized which actually was the part of the charm back then. This trip was started from Mumbai, we crossed all states on the way namely Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and finally reaching J & K. It it was trip clocking 6000 km on odometer.  

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After that experience there was no going back and snowball effect has only started for me. After a couple of years I ventured to Bhutan and the 7 North-Eastern states of India for a month.  It was a journey to remember. Never could I have though that our next door neighbors were so beautiful and how the north eastern states of India are so neglected at times despite them being so unbelievably beautiful and the people more evolved and cultured compared to rest of India.

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After those two trips we had then gathered quite a bit of experience on planning a road trip in India. We had to do the mother of all road trips to Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh.   We went to Spiti Valley couple of years back as it was still unexplored and relatively less touristy compared to other parts of India.   The roads here were termed as the most treacherous. Riding to such remote parts of India was truly an out of world experience. I will be posting Individual blogs of these trips soon.  

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Finally just a month back I Came back from my Road trip to Coorg.  The place is really beautiful and reminds you of Scotland in a very subtle way.  We stayed at Evolve Back resorts by orange county and it was magical.  Experience and impressions of that resort coming soon.

 

After experiencing such major Road trips in India I thought it was time I share with the world what i learnt from these road trips and how my experiences can help you plan the perfect road trip in India.  

1 .  Selecting the Right Vehicle   

The vehicle that you select for you journey can really make or break your trip .  India is such a vast country with so many different kinds of terrains .   When we speak of north and north east India and you want to go on a bike here are few things that you must keep in Mind  

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 Your bike has to be oil cooled and not air cooled as the altitude increases, the air gets thinner and the amount of oxygen in the air also decreases. So when you have a air cooled engine it makes it difficult for the engine to cool down and lead to over heating issues.  

Make sure your bike is at least 150 CC

Make sure you have tubeless tires. 

Speaking of 4 Wheeler preferably an SUV, do not take risks with small cars like Alto and Nano. I highly advise against such unnecessary stunts   

2. Service the vehicle that you have selected 

Before embarking on any road trip make sure your vehicle is serviced properly.  Change the engine oil, check tire pressure, check brake oil, check the air filter, spark plug, battery and oiling of all major parts are just some of the things that you must keep in mind 

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3.Know your vehicle 

Now that you have selected and serviced your vehicle its time to get to know it better. This vehicle is like your companion and girl friend/ boy friend on this trip so know it and understand it in and out.  understand its strengths and weaknesses and do not push it to hard.  Go down to your mechanic and just talk to him to understand the basic fundamentals of your vehicle and what all first aid precautions you should take in case of emergency.  You should be able to fix your bike’s problems by yourself  just like your  girlfriend/ boyfriend. This is because in extreme parts of the country there are no mechanics and you are going to be all on your own.   

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4. Always carry a spare tire and puncture kit    

Make this a golden rule, never start your trip without a spare tire or a puncture kit. You can get into so much trouble if you don’t have this.  Even when you are using your spare, make sure to get the original tire fixed as soon as possible. Take it from me this can save you a lot of time.  

5. Paperwork and documents

When we had gone to Bhutan, we need a special permit and registration as we were taking a vehicle into their country. Even we went to the small town of Turtuk which is so close to the Pakistan border that you can see boards of places in Pakistan and the distance remaining, we had to take a special inner permit from  the Indian army.  Try and finish this paper work and documentation before you trip so that it does not create a problem and ruin the experience when you are actually there.  

Even your vehicle documents must be up to date so that you do not give a chance to the officials to create a problem for you in any way. 

  • Vehicle Registration (RC) 
  • Insurance
  • Driver’s License  
  • PUC Certificate

These 4 things you must always carry whenever you are road tripping across India.

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6. Maps 

It is really difficult to carry physical maps in this day and age.  But in India there are still many parts where even simple 2G connectivity is not that great. For that i suggest to make your google maps offline for the region and route you are going to be traveling to. There is an option in google maps where you can select the the area to be downloaded and you can enjoy navigation without any need of an active internet connection . If you still have doubts check out my video linked at the end of the blog 

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7. Fastag  

Recently NHAI in collaboration with a few banks has released an automatic electronic toll deduction system for all toll roads in India. In a country where the queue for the toll can be as long as 1 Km this is a very good solution to the problem. Yet i do not see many people using it. They have now dedicated lanes for Fastag users and even have 10% cashback on all the transactions. When the government is doing its bit we must co-operate and use this system. This can save you a lot of time and money when road tripping across India 

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8. Essentials for the Car 

Whenever you are on a road trip, you are going to be spending a lot of time in the car so make sure you have ll the things necessary that will help you enjoy journey rather than the destinations.  I have made a list of few things for a check list which i usually use. Hope this helps you as well. I have linked all these products towards the end of the blog from where you can order.   

  • Chargers and USB
  • Power banks
  • First aid kit  
  • Snacks
  • Water Bottle /Camelbak for bikers  
  • Napkins  
  • Extra car/ bike keys

9. Music

Music is more of a personal choice. You love it or you hate it while driving, make sure you have your favorite music on you when on a long road trip.  For bikers i highly advise not to listen to music inside their helmets. It is not safe and I strongly advise against it.

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10. Research your Route 

Before you start any road trip, make sure your are researching the entire route before hand.  This gives you a hint as to where you should stop for breaks, where there are good sights on the way so that you can make strategic stops.  Other advantage of studying the route before hand is any expected delays, Google maps shows areas where there are land slides or road construction going on and suggests an alternate/ faster route. Going through all this does save you time and can you can enjoy a more scenic route on the way. 

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11 . Ask for help when in need 

The Indian highways can be very intimidating for the first time traveler.  There might be times when you need help.  India is a place where if you ask anyone for help with a smile, no one is going to say no. You must also be aware of all the emergency contact numbers like local hospitals or highway patrol, 108 emergency number. If you find yourself in a pickle ask for help.  

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12. Planing vs Spontaneity vs Practicality 

Planning your trip is important, but at the same time don’t forget to have fun on the way. Don’t be a rigid person the road trip. The journey is more important than the destination. There will be times when you come across a random waterfall or a beautiful lake or a nice hill side cafe. take 10-15 minutes out enjoy the place.  At the same time be aware of the time and you can’t be spending 3-4 hours on your way. Its not advisable to drive at night and also reaching before sunset is advisable.  To enjoy a perfect road trip you must find that sweet spot between  planning, spontaneity and practicality. 

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13. DO NOT PANIC IN CRISIS ! ! !  

I really want to stress on this point. I have seen a lot of people who freak out easily at the smallest of things. When especially traveling in a group anxiety can be a big buzzkill.  Anxiety is nothing but the far of the unknown. Hence go through the above mentioned points and there will be nothing to worry about. Even if you do not know the solution to the problem panicking is only going to make things worse.  Whenever you start panicking, you lose the ability to think rationally and just end p making the wrong decisions. Just take a deep breath, wait for 5 minutes and then think about what the right thing to do  

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14. Do not Drink and Drive

For obvious reasons do not drink and drive. One more thing to add here is not to carry alcohol across states. There can be check posts where you might be held responsible for transferring alcohol from state to state which is a crime in India 

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I hope this blog gives you a brief understanding on how to plan a road trip across India. If you still have any doubts feel free to contact me anytime. I am also attaching a video of how to plan a road trip in India to clear out any other doubts you might have  

That’s it for now.  Until next time, Keep on traveling 

 

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