What You Need to Know Before Getting in a Rickshaw

by Sydney Kahl / Sep 23, 2013 / 0 comments

In Delhi, India, people resort to using all sorts of modes of transportation - with their first priorities being going fast and conveniently. The last thing they seem to be concerned about is safety.  If this were the case, all the rickshaw drivers would be out of work.  Driving in this city, larger than all of New England, feels and looks like a disaster waiting to happen; and sometimes, it does.

On the roads of Delhi, motorized Rickshaws are everywhere, weaving in and out of other modes of transportation on the roads – both vehicles and animals.

What You Need to Know Before Getting in a Rickshaw

If you need a ride (and even if you don’t), if you stand on the edge of a street, a rickshaw driver will stop to pick you up in a matter of seconds - especially if you are a white tourist. However, before you jump in this common yellow and green, small, open air, three-wheeled vehicle, there are a few things you should know:

1.    Hold on! Rickshaws speed up and slow down quickly. There are no seatbelts to keep you in place - not even a door. So watch out and grab onto something, or on one of those sharp turns you may go flying out the side.
2.    Bring along someone who speaks Hindi, Punjabi, or Urdu, as not all drivers speak English! Otherwise you’ll be exchanging a whole lot of “whats?” and “huhs?” with the driver.
3.    Be prepared for persistent vendors en route!  At stop lights, vendors will weave in and out of the stopped cars, knocking on windows trying to get to the passengers to buy something. However, in a rickshaw where there are no windows to separate you from the vendors, they may tend to be a bit more determined, especially if you are easily recognizable as a tourist. They may even grab onto the rickshaw so the driver can’t drive away until you buy something. This happened to me at one stoplight, and the boy wouldn’t let go until our driver started yelling at him. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but whatever he said, it made the boy let go. At another stoplight, a young child came and grabbed my mom’s watch. He wanted the watch so much he was willing to trade one of the items he was selling for the watch.
4.    You can fit three passengers, even if not comfortably.  In fact, you can probably fit more.  I don’t know the limit and there might not even be any policies.
5.    Be prepared for loud honking; maybe bring ear plugs.  
6.    Don’t worry about a rickshaw breaking down even if they look rickety, as another working one will be coming right behind.  There are no shortages of rickshaws in many parts of the city.
7.    Hope you have good karma and survive.

After returning home to the United States after experiencing a rickshaw ride in Delhi, I felt much safer on the roads. It was a comfort to see the lines on the road again. The lines on either side seemed like protection, since they were all missing on the roads in Delhi. As terrifying as the rickshaw ride was at times, it was part of the Indian culture I didn’t want to miss.





Sydney Kahl is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program


Photo courtesy and copyright Sydney Kahl