I sometimes share e-mails under the tag “ask me anything“. I get a lot of very similar e-mails which means there are a lot of people out there thinking the same questions. Why not address them to everyone? You can search more like these by clicking that link above.

I got the most interesting e-mail from two girls coming to backpack India:

“…planning a four month trip to India from July – October. I was just wondering what you thought about buying a used car for the 4 months instead of getting busses and trains? If you think it’s a good idea, too much driving, safer or too expensive? “

omni, india, expat, driving in india, taxi

First, I told her she was ballsy as shit to consider this option!

Second, I told her she totally should not buy an old car.

So, here’s my two cents on why buying an old car isn’t good for travel in India:

1. Driving in India is stressful, best to be avoid when traveling is stressful enough. Why stress more?

2. Filling petrol is expensive. The car plus the petrol will be a lot. Plus time getting lost will waste petrol.

3. You’ll get lost. A lot.

4. Buses and trains are SO inexpensive. You can take a Volvo instead of local bus and a 2AC train instead of sleeper and be fine.

5. Police problems: crossing state borders without proper plates, driving without Indian license, insurance problems, paying bribes just to drive because they can…

6. Getting ripped off buying the car, the car breaking, repair costs, getting ripped off during repairs (welcome to my life with my Omni! lol we didn’t get ripped off buying, but repairs we’ve gotten screwed)

omni, india, expat, driving in india,

7. It’s so hot, you’ll need AC and it’s not so cheap to find a used AC car.

8. Do you know the Indian road rules? It takes a long time to learn how to deal with cows, scooters, no traffic laws, roundabouts which are totally ignored, and more.

omni, india, expat, driving in india, cows

9. Legally as a foreigner, I’m not sure you can buy and insure a car. Even my car, although paid for, is not technically- it’s an Indian friends and I’m borrowing it so to speak.

10. That time when you and your travel buddy are argueing over directions or that you need to pay the other back for petrol, you could be sleeping on a cozy train instead instead of a hotel (saving on room for the night as well) waking up where you want to be, hassle-free.

Now, here’s my two cents on when it does make sense to buy an old car!

If you’re going to be in ONE state only, you have an international drivers license, you have the cash to buy a used car (at least 1,000 USD), you are a good confident driver, you know you’ll be needing wheels everyday, you are staying in a place (like Goa) where taxis are insanely priced and renting a scooter is cheaper, you can’t ride a scooter, or you’re going to be in India a while… these are times getting a car makes sense.

Ben’s omni (that I share) cost about 1000 bucks. It breaks, but it works and has been in our care for two years. We need a car and any expat in India should get their own set of wheels, even if only a bike.


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