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Authored by Amit Yadav

India is a diverse country full of incredible history, culture, and nature, and one of the most popular ways to explore is by road trip or bus tour.

But I’ve never felt that flashes of a destination through a window is enough to fully experience its true beauty. I believe that “what we see through the windows is nothing but moving pictures which is kind a like watching TV”. After-all, should we not aim to feel and sense our own presence in the scene, as opposed to just watching it?

For this reason I became a fan of motorcycle travel. And where India is concerned, it’s very easy for tourists to buy or rent a bike. But riding a motorcycle in India is a whole lot different than riding in the west. So, here are my few tips and tricks to easily ride your motorcycle on Indian Roads.

 Motorcycle Tips: Riding on Indian Roads

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Pick Your Ride

It’s probably obvious but your first step should be choosing your type of ride; choosing the perfect bike is one of the most important aspects of traveling by motorcycle. And your bike needs to be in accordance with the demands of your trip.

Your checklist for choosing the right bike should focus on aspects like mileage, low maintenance and most importantly, a comfortable seating position so that you don’t strain your neck and/or back over the course of a long journey.

If your budget won’t get you a sport bike you can consider options like renting a scooter, which is quite cheaper and lighter to start with. Once you rented your ride, check for engine and parts. Take it to test drive and make sure everything works properly.

Think Like an Indian

Many tourists are wary of riding on Indian roads because they can be chaotic. And you do need to be extra careful. Unlike Western countries, people in India usually don’t follow the road rules. They switch lanes, use hands as an indicator, and don’t mind giving you a bump if they’re in a hurry (so give way to especially big vehicles).

For example, in UK when rider flashes his headlights it means he is letting you go. But here in India, it means I am coming through, so make way.  Also, vehicles will often stop in the middle of road for no reason. So you have to be mentally prepared.

Here, you will see children crossing roads, animals sleeping at corners, and improper road works. Moreover, you’ll be sharing the road with all types of vehicles; motorcar, motorcycle, scooter, bicycle, camels, horses, trucks, tractors, buses.

So be prepared to think like an Indian. Don’t expect a peaceful ride, be very aware of your surroundings at all times, and be ready to expect the unexpected. Also, use your horn. In India, the horn plays a major role in traffic to intimidate other vehicles and people who cross roads unexpectedly.

The traffic on the streets of Pune is busy with rickshaws, bicycles, buses and pedestrians.

Riding a motorcycle in India is a whole lot different than riding in the west. So here are a few tips to easily ride your motorcycle on Indian Roads.

Get the Right Gear

It’s essential to prepare for every circumstance if you plan to ride on Indian roads. You will likely experience a lot of dust in the air which can make your clothes dirty. So, avoid wearing light colors, and use goggles while riding.

Like-wise, there are also many insects and other air-borne obstacles, so research the best full-face safety helmet to protect your face and eyesight. While sporting a biker’s jacket and gloves will help you fight the heat and avoid dehydration, always ensure you wear a good-quality helmet as this might be the difference between life and death.

Make sure you wear motorcycle boots to ensure a good grip on the brakes. Other important accessories include biker boots, biker gloves and traveling backpack.

Be Extra Careful at Night

It goes without saying, but we all need to be extra careful when riding Indian roads overnight. It’s very common for people to drive without lights here, and you never know when they might veer out in front of you.

Make sure your bike is kitted out with properly working full-beams and headlights if you plan to ride at night.

Paperwork and Documents

Make sure you have all the necessary paperwork of the vehicle you have rented or purchased. The last thing you want is police on your tail. Here, in India, rules exist in a grey area, and you never know when a police officer might stop you to check your papers.

Tourists riding without proper paperwork may see huge fines, and it’s important to note that you will also lose big money for not wearing a helmet.

✈ Flights & Accommodation

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Amit Yadav is a Motorcycle Lover who love to travel and explore destinations by Bike. Here at Mapping Megan He Writes on travel tips for riders.

His blog, Motorcyclist Lifestyle is full of tips for riding, and reviews of motorcycle gear. Visit his website for relevant motorcycle content, news and helmet reviews.

Photo credits: Pinterest images by Rajarshi MITRA & Ian D. Keating. The traffic on the streets of Pune by Ville Miettinen. Riding with Indian woman on the back of bike by Rajarshi MITRA.

    58 Comments

  1. I went to India and I was scared to my life on the backseat of a car because the traffic was so crazy. I can imagine riding a bike is even crazier! I m not sure if it is for me, but it must be an exciting experience.

    • It’s definitely an adrenalin rush if you’re not used to that kind of chaos!!

  2. Thanks for your tips but I’m still not tempted to get on a bike though I live and drive in India.

    • I think it’s definitely something which is probably only undertaken by the bravest souls!

  3. wow I would have never have thought to ride a motorcycle through India. I can image that you would get some great views of the countryside! What an amazing experience!

    • Absolutely – one of the best ways to explore the countryside, just need to be super careful as driving is a totally different sport here :D!

  4. Some great tips on motorcycle touring in India, and especially good that you have painted a vivid picture of what traffic is like in India – the sheer variety of traffic on the road (not to mention the cows, the kids and god knows what else), plus the lack of adherence to any rules, the lack of indication, lights at night and so on, all make for a much crazier and more stressful driving experience – you to have to much more alert than driving anywhere else!!

    • It’s definitely a completely different sport (driving)! I think it would have been irresponsible on our part to promote motorcycling here without also including a warning about the traffic and roads – crazy is a good word to describe it :D!

  5. Being an Indian i can completely relate to everything written above. Great post!

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Tanvi – thanks for stopping by!

  6. I fully agree with his tips. The pillion rider too has to be careful and have the helmet on. If you have taken all precautions the ride will definitely be an enjoyable one.

    • Absolutely Indrani – it can be crazy and hectic for sure, but if you’re safe and have taken necessary precautions India is a beautiful country to ride through :)

  7. I think that flexibility and not following the rules is probably what scares westerners the most about seeing travel and traffic this way. But if that is something your accustomed to then it is what it is.

    • Absolutely – if you’re visiting India for the first time maybe spend a couple of days getting used to the flow of traffic before taking to the roads on a bike :)

  8. Some great tips here and lovely photos! I don’t think I’ll be riding a motorcycle in India anytime soon, although, I can see it would be quite an adventure. Last time I did a road trip with a local driver, I couldn’t believe how many trucks there were on those country roads.

    • Thanks Christina – glad you enjoyed the post :) Definitely an adventure – maybe one you can live vicariously through with a local driver if you’re not a confident rider alone :)

  9. Good tips about the road ‘think like an Indian’. It’s the same in Vietnam, Westerners think about road rules and end up causing the most accidents. Great advice on the on the differences like the head lights, definitely have to think differently when driving in other countries.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Katherine – can definitely see how Westerners would cause the most accidents – it might look like complete chaos but there’s definitely an order to it, and if you go in trying to apply Western rules it’s going to cause a clash.

  10. When I was a kid, my mother had a motorbike accident when we traveled to Vietnam. She broke her collarbone… since then I avoid riding on motorbikes. So I think it’s important to give good tips like you do to people who want to ride a motorcycle in Asia. Thanks for sharing this!

    • So sorry to hear about your mum’s accident. I can completely understand why you would avoid them. There’s definitely risk and danger involved in riding, and especially if you’re a tourist on the road in a foreign land. So hopefully we can offer enough precautions to give those who are interested a 101 for India so it’s not a total culture shock!

  11. I agree!!! Indians use their hands as signals and they do not follow road rule (at least most of them). Sadly, even if they are in different countries, they tend to bring this attitude. Good tips though. People driving in foreign places, not just India, should take into account the way local people behave on the roads.

    • Totally agree that the larger point is to research and respect the road rules of the country you’re visiting, India or not :) Best way to avoid an accident is to behave as the locals do. Thanks for stopping by Trisha!

  12. Riding a bike in India is more like having your own roller coaster ride. It is always good to have the best gear when going on a bike ride.

    • Haha that’s a great way to describe the experience – and yes, always a good idea to have the best safety gear when riding, but in India particularly so! Safe travels

  13. Been planning to go to India for it’s culture but even though I haven’t been there yet I know that the percentage of people using motorcycle there is larger that people who are using vehicles. Anyways, thanks for sharing this tips!

    • Yes motorcycle is the most popular method of transport by a long way – definitely an experience to ride among the madness!

  14. Wow, I think it’s better to get taxis, someone who’s familiar with how to drive here.

    • If you’re not a confident rider, taxi’s or public transport might be a better option, because it can definitely be a shock when you’re not used to Indian roads :)

  15. Thanks, Amit Yadav for talking about Motorcycle Tips. You mainly talk about Indian Road motorcycle riding. I am waiting for your next post about Motorcycle Equipment.

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Sakib, you can find Amit’s blog link in his author’s bio – we don’t personally publish a lot of posts about motorcycle travel ourselves, but are happy when experts like Amit want to guest post on our blog :)

  16. I can’t for my life picture myself exposed in a motorcycle in the streets of India. People drive like mad men over there.

    • Definitely takes some solid nerves!

  17. Two tips should see you through your ride:
    1. The roads are quite bad, especially on the country side.
    2. The other drivers could be sometimes insane, assume that nobody follows traffic rules, only then you’ll be safe 😃.

    • Great tips to add Parikshit, thankyou! And lol I agree – re two, I’ve found that only when you give up and join the madness are you safe from it!! Safe riding :)

  18. It is extremely dangerous to ride a bike and have your dog run alongside with a standard lead in your hand or wrapped round the handle-bars of the bike. You are at risk of being pulled over or the dog getting hurt by the lead getting tangled in the wheels or the dog getting in the way of you.

    • Definitely wouldn’t recommend it – I think that’s very cruel and dangerous for the dog. Is this something you have seen?

  19. Thanks for the tips, i took the 5 bikes on rent from Kashmir biker, they have choices of bikes on affordable price.

    • Glad you enjoyed your time biking in Kashmir Prem!

  20. Seem to be great to bookmark. I will share with my friends about these tips. I will back with some more questions regarding riding tips. Thanks.

    • Glad the post was helpful Thomas. Safe riding out there :)

  21. This is what I am looking for. I will share with my riding team about this. Thanks for your suggestion and explanation.

    • Glad the post was helpful. Wishing you and your team a wonderful trip!

  22. Thank you for your sharing, It’s very helpful for me, I’ll share it to everyone

    • I’m glad to hear that the post was helpful for you Bun. Happy travels :)

  23. This will be a very useful experience for a tourist to come and integrate into the transportation culture in India. and I hope to experience a motorcycle in India. thank you, admin

    • Thanks Johny, I’m glad you enjoyed the post – I hope you have the chance to (safely) experience a motorcycle in India at some stage too :)

  24. Informative post.

    • Glad it was helpful, happy travels :)

  25. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material. Fantastic read.

    • Glad the post was helpful Kyle! Happy travels :)

  26. Informative post. Thanks for your sharing.

    • You’re welcome, glad it was helpful :)

  27. Riding a motorbike require many thing, many skill, you should have courage too, but remember to ride safely, this tips is really needed

    • Absolutely Lavine, you should only ride, especially if you’re in another country, if you’re confident enough in your skills to ensure your safety :)

  28. Indian roads are often crowded with motorbikes so a lot of dust in the air. Therefore, you should wear protective goggles and masks for yourself to avoid harmful pollution.

    • Great tip Jenny, protective goggles are definitely a must!

  29. Compliance with Indian street rules will also help keep you safe. Thank you for sharing useful information about India.

    • Absolutely, you should always check the road rules if you’re driving in another country. For avoiding legal trouble as well as safety :)

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