Driving standards in India are not known for being too high. In my experience of Delhi, tuktuk drivers are among the worst in the entire world. Even though they are usually honest and friendly, they have absolutely no concept of safety on the road!
I can remember my first experience of Delhi being very scary, and that was in a taxi from the airport! It was a smelly, damp taxi with no suspension whatsoever. As we drove further and further out of the airport road, we joined the regular Delhi highways to take me to my hotel. Every roundabout we encountered was a terrifying affair, as there is simply no conventional right of way here – whoever has the biggest balls gets the right of way and everybody else must keep out of their way to avoid crashing! So you can imagine the terror that is multiplied by ten when you leave the relative comfort of a taxi and join one of Delhi’s tuktuks.
In India, tuktuks are often called auto rickshaws or Bajaj. However, I like to just call them tuktuks. Whatever you call them, they are omnipresent in Delhi with their loud horns and striking yellow and green colour scheme. As I said before, drivers are generally very polite and friendly (although let’s be honest, taxi drivers from any country will do anything for your money!), but I just wish they adhered to the Highway Code! I always asked the drivers to drive slowly (“S-L-O-W?”) but I am not sure if they understood – or cared. You need big balls to drive on the roads in India, and I am not sure I would be brave enough. Tuktuk drivers here are skilled in avoiding crashes, as plenty of times I was sure we were going to hit other tuktuks as I clung on for dear life, yet always they lived to tell the tale with their vehicle remaining in perfect condition.
Delhiites rarely seem to use tuktuks (they are very clever, are Delhiites), so they must be more geared up for the tourism trade, rather than for local people. That said, it would be good if there was some kind of control over how many of the blasted things are allowed on the road at any one time, because with the sheer amount of people (and cows) on India’s streets at any one time, it’s no surprise that tuktuks create even more terror! Or maybe I’m just a wimp?
Always agree a fare before getting in the tuktuk. If the driver doesn’t seem trustworthy, your first impression is usually right – does he make eye contact? Because if he doesn’t, then he isn’t agreeing to a price like a professional driver should, so beware! When inside the tuktuk, it goes without saying that you need to keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times (like a rollercoaster, I guess), and most importantly of all, beware of bag snatching, which does happen all too often in Delhi. Hold on to your bags and belongings, even when at full speed, as who knows who might be willing to injure themselves to snatch your purse?!
Have you had any terrifying experiences on tuktuks in Delhi (or elsewhere in India, for that matter)?