Hints for driving in Mumbai

Hi Everyone

I know, I know. It sounds wrong that a Norwegian who has had a car in India for less than a week should give hints about driving in India. You wouldn’t ask Arsene Wenger to tell you how to defend against set pieces would you? But at the other hand, if I don’t write about it now, I will probably forget how it was to drive here the first few days. And I still think I’m one of very, very few foreigners who actually drive a car in Mumbai. Have seen a very few on motorbikes, but that’s it.

So how is it to drive here? My first trip alone was from the shop to my home. There are two things I remember more than anything else from that trip. First of all it is the pedestrians. They are absolutely everywhere! At the sides of the street, in the street, in the center strip. Everywhere. I was suggested to drive as close to the center strip as possible, because it would be fewer pedestrians there. That’s maybe right, but fewer surely do not mean any. Quite a few people had crossed the other lane and were in the center strip, just eager to cross even the lane where I was. And yes, they wanted to do it as quickly as possible. In Mumbai there are no crosswalks. People just put out their hand and hope (or expects) the cars to stop. I must admit that I have done the same. Most often it works. But if the car cannot see you, well, you are the one having some problems… The best hint I can give is to always look for people walking. You never know where they are. The other issues I remember from my first trip are the traffic lights. If green, then fine. If red, you have to consider what to do. Wait or just drive. If you wait, you can be sure there are some people from behind that will honk on you in order to get you to drive! I found one easy way to deal with this. Try to be overtaken by some other vehicle before you get to the light. Then you can see what they do and just do the same. Easy peasy. Also I early learned that you should always try to get ahead of the busses. Just speed around them as quickly as possible. If the street then gets narrower, other cars might not be able to pass the same bus, so you can drive kind of undisturbed, at least for a while.

My second trip was a long trip, all the way from Powai to downtown Mumbai, Colaba. It was late Sunday, and luckily not too many people around there. I decided to just go for a ride, with no specific target in my mind. Just give it a try. First lesson; if you see something that look like a one way road, just go there. If there are no police around, you are ok, and other will do the same. I’m honestly not sure if I was one a one-way street or not, but well, other cars drove the same way, so I just did the same…

On my way home, I went up the Western Highway. Mostly ok, but I got one big chock when a big lorry came up from behind. It passed me on the left side (remember, that is the passenger side in India), I heard a nasty slam and thought that I had some serious problems. Luckily it “only” hit the mirror. So one more lesson learned: Don’t expect cars coming from behind to drive all the way around you, they might try to take a shortcut through you… So I guess that I either have to make sure no one ever passes me, or that I have to look more in the mirror for cars coming from behind.

Yesterday I drove to the office and back again without any problems. And to the office again this morning still without problems. Well, some cars do honk on me, but I think they honk on anyone, so it doesn’t really bother me anymore.

Talk to you soon!


2 thoughts on “Hints for driving in Mumbai

  1. “Don’t expect cars coming from behind to drive all the way around you, they might try to take a shortcut through you” — Too good! LOL!

  2. Hi Karsten,
    Great that you are learning something new here. I also dared to drive this time in the US and since I am a ‘master’ driver here in India, I was really low on confidence in the US. If someone doesnt drive in India, it must be getting easier for that person to drive in the US. Driving in India is completely different and in most of the cases, it’s just about reaching the destination….survival !! In the US or probably in Norway as well, pedestrian is god, here the bigger the vehicle is, the bigger the rulers they are….till they cause some accident. Once that happens, the bigger the vehicle is, the bigger the bashing will be, to the driver, from public :).
    While I was in the US, I was amazed at human being’s ability to adapt since I didnt even honk once and followed all rules. Here, you will find ‘horn OK please’ :).. people encourage honking and it is not a sign of arrogance or offense.. it is needed here so feel free to honk !! Happy and safe driving buddy.


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