Like travelers before me, I had this romanticized opinion of train travel as the only way to access and witness the incredible sights of India. But I quickly learned that traveling on India’s railways isn’t as idealistic as Wes Anderson makes it out to be. The movies do not tell of the excruciating slow speeds the trains traveled at, nor of the fact that train tickets can sell out quickly. For the flashpacker like me who was traveling on the whim, organizing tickets in advance was almost impossible.
So, I decided to rent a car for the remainder of my Indian adventure. The vehicle was a domestic Tata Indigo sedan that the rental agency claimed was manufactured in 2009. The peeling paint, roll-down windows, AM/FM radio, and general jankiness of the vehicle begged to differ. But it had a working air conditioning, and that was good enough for me.
I know that driving in India is not the brightest of ideas. Cows have the right of way, truck drivers speed at 80mph on the wrong side of the highway, and road maintenance isn’t exactly on par with international standards. Here’s an interesting fact that I stumbled upon when researching rental car options: India has the highest number of car fatalities per year at 113,938 (China comes at a distant second with 68,000).
But, I had no other choice. With trains out of the question, and air travel too rich for my dwindling funds, I was forced to hit the road.