Owning a car in India

One thing that strikes newly-arrived British expats or long-term visitors in India is the difference between owning a car in their adopted home and owning one in Britain. There are, for instance, no cheap car insurance comparison sites such as www.moneysupermarket.com, www.monthlycarinsurance.biz or www.confused.com! Given the very different geographic features and economic and social structures, it probably shouldn't come as too much of a surprise - yet it never fails to.

The Basic Requirements

While many of the basics of car ownership, such as insurance, tax, registration and a valid driving licence are requirements in both countries, the way things are done in India is what brings home to British expats the reality that they're no longer in Britain. Indian bureaucracy can be a nightmare; a fact that soon becomes clear when trying to buy and register a new car.

Car Sizes

While India now has a huge range of car models available, small cars are what most expat drivers in India prefer. The obvious reasons are economy and efficient fuel consumption coupled with fuel being around 40% cheaper than in Britain. Other common-sense reasons for this are traffic congestion and lack of decent parking spaces in Indian cities. Basically, the larger the car, the greater the chances of it receiving scrapes, bumps and dents in congested cities where vehicles are continually attempting to squeeze past each other. Hatchbacks are especially popular among middle-class car owners with small families, and manufacturers have seized upon this market as the most lucrative.

Toll Roads and Interstate Charges

India has far more toll roads than Britain. Additionally, while there are no charges levied upon drivers crossing British county boundaries, drivers in India may be subject to interstate charges if their car has been registered in one state and is taken to another state for longer than the time period allowed. What frustrates most drivers is the lack of consistency between different states. Drivers can never be sure about charges as it depends on various factors including the type of vehicle, and whether or not the driver is in possession of various government-issued forms in addition to vehicle documents. Unfortunately, this can, and often does, leave drivers, especially foreign drivers, at the mercy of corrupt officials.

Speed Limits

Unlike in Britain where speed limits are applied nationally, speed limits in India vary from state to state, with significant differences between different vehicle types. It's essential for every driver to be aware of the local laws of each state they're entering so as not to fall foul of them.

Driving in India

Traffic flow in Indian cities is far more chaotic than in Britain. Rules of the road exist, but everyone seems to have their own unique understanding of them. In a strange way, this seems to work. Everyone driving in India knows that everyone else's driving is unpredictable, and so they allow for that.

Experienced British expat drivers soon get into the Indian way of driving. They've no choice. If anyone were to drive through an Indian city like they drive through British cities, with their various 'Stop', 'Give Way' and 'One Way' signs that actually mean what they say, they'd never get anywhere. That's an exaggeration, of course, but it highlights the essential difference between British and Indian attitudes to driving.

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