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Why I Love Riding in Auto-Rickshaws (and Why Many Others Don’t)

April 17, 2010

Remember how fun bumper cars were as a kid?  Especially when you would sneak up on your friends from behind and then send them flying.  Or, even better, when you would just barely miss a collision.  That’s kind of what riding in auto-rickshaws feels like to me.  Except that they can travel three times as fast, and the whole city becomes your arena.

I love riding in auto-rickshaws, but many other people don’t, and understandably so.  They tend to be dirty and somewhat unreliable.  They can break down (which has happened to me a handful of times), or the driver can drop you off somewhere other than where you requested to go (which has also happened to me a handful of times).  The drivers are also known for trying to overcharge people, especially tourists.

But… if you’re able to look past all of that, then rickshaw rides can be absolutely exhilarating.  As soon as you climb into a rickshaw, you never quite know what kind of adventure you’re in for.

Some drivers, or rickshaw-wallas, take great pride in the appearance of their vehicles.  They’ll dress the rickshaws up with decals and stickers of Bollywood stars and starlettes, or Hindu deities.  Some even take the time to string chains of fake flowers from their mirrors or suspend them from the ceiling of the rickshaw.

Some of the drivers, though, are just downright crazy.  The first time that I visited Agra with friends, we had a rickshaw-walla who agreed to drive nine of us in a three-person rickshaw for only 50 rupees.  For those of you unfamiliar with traveling in rickshaws, that is a.) an insanely low price and b.) an insanely large number of people for one little old rickshaw!  There’s no way the driver could have made any money on that trip, nor could he have been comfortable with three other people squeezed into the front seat with him, and another six in the back.  I’m pretty sure he agreed to do it just to prove that he could.

I’ve also encountered some really kind rickshaw-wallas who are completely fair with their prices, offer to drive me further than originally agreed upon, shoo beggars away from the car, and give other drivers directions if they’re lost.

Rickshaws and rickshaw-wallas are one of the many reasons that I love India.  They make each day a little more interesting.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. OhioMom permalink
    April 18, 2010 1:16 pm

    Please comment on people on the streets begging, or insisting that you buy from them. Are they “in your face”? Is it difficult to ignore them? What if you give someone money? Does it satisfy them, or does the situation just get worse?

    • April 26, 2010 1:02 pm

      Begging in India is a complex issue that is not always easy to address, especially for first-time visitors to the country.

      Some beggars can be aggressive or persistent and may tap on car windows or even touch the person inside the vehicle.

      In general, it’s better not to give money to beggars, as difficult as that may seem. Often, the beggars on the street are part of an organized begging ring. If you give money to them it will not go directly towards them or their families, but rather to the group leader who organized the begging scheme.

      Giving food to beggars is a better option. However, beggars will sometimes reject the food, asking for money instead. Or, handing out food can sometimes draw unwelcome attention, and soon a whole crowd expecting handouts will gather.

      For more information on begging in India, please see here: http://goindia.about.com/od/annoyancesinconveniences/p/indiabegging.htm

  2. October 14, 2010 9:48 pm

    Have you ever been on one of those BIG autorickshaws which carry 15 passengers in addition to the driver who somehow manage to squeeze in? They ply from Anand Vihar(East Delhi) to Indirapuram(Ghaziabad, NCR). 8 passengers sit in the main cabin(in two rows facing each other), 4 passengers sit on the back side meant for luggage facing backwards and their legs very often dangling in the air and three passengers in the front along with the driver. Oh! its quite an awful ride…and believe me women too travel like this in this part of the city.

    • October 15, 2010 7:42 am

      I’ve seen and ridden in that style of rickshaw outside of Delhi, but I had no idea that we had them here in the capital, too! I can imagine that that would be quite a harrowing ride in Delhi’s traffic!

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