How to get around in India
While travelling in India you got multiple choices of transportations to get around in cities or to cover long distances. I tried a lot of them and have some I prefer over others.
At train stations and airports you will mostly be able to get a prepaid taxi or tuk tuk. That will save you from major scams and made me feel more comfortable. They usually know or try to figure out where you are staying instead of driving around lost without knowing where to go.
Taxis I am not the biggest fan of them at home and same goes for the ones in India. They are (for Indian conditions) pricy. I took four taxis in India and sadly my taxi drivers made me feel very uncomfortable. One because he had literally not the slightest clue where I wanted to go and it was already past midnight. Another one was way to interested in me and my boyfriend in an extremely gross and uncomfortable way. Also I feel somehow caught in a taxi.
Tuk tuks make me feel saver than being in a taxi since they are open and I could get out of them or call for help much easier. Next to that they are usually quicker in cities because they are smaller and can squeeze trough traffic better. They are cheaper than taxis even though they never use their taximeter. You just fix the price before you go. I usually tried to get down to half of the price the driver suggested.
Cycle rickshaws just don’t really do it for me. I always feel bad when an old man is trying hard to bike me up a hill for a few rupees. Also are they usually pretty slow so I stopped using them even though they are much better for the environment and a bit cheaper than tuk tuks.
For long distances you can of course also hire a taxi, if you don not mind them and the high fares, but I personally never tried that. I took a plane once and even though it is faster and there are some low-cost airlines and many small airports as well it is for me personally to stressful since I am not the biggest fan of flying in general.
Public busses might be scary for many and especially girls on their own because they are supposed to be dirty, unreliable and dangerous. Well they have seen better times and usually do not run after a schedule, but I never felt insecure in a public bus in any way. Generally there are women only seats in the front of the bus which often have a bit more room for your bag as well. Also the busses are affordable. Like super affordable. There are tons of busses running in any direction, just show up at the bus station and hop on the next on in your direction.
Overnight busses They are usually around the same price as trains and take about the same time. Unfortunately the quality of the busses varies a lot and you never know what you are going to get. From no curtains, not shutting windows and super small beds to air con, pillows and clean wide beds, I had it all. Air conditioned busses are up there in price and not always worth it. Always try to get a bed in the front of the bus or you will not get much sleep. Since there are usually no toilets on the busses cut down drinking water because toilet breaks can be rare. Also if you are alone make sure you get a single bed or they might put a stranger next to you!
Trains There is something for everyone, AC, non AC. 1st, 2nd and 3rd class, sleeper and non sleeper. They actually ‘reserve’ a certain amount of seats for foreigners so they get their seats together and just shortly before the ride they become available for everyone. I went for 2nd class sleeper which I enjoyed. Try to get the upper berth, there you have most privacy and you do not have to wait until everyone else wants to lay down and the beds are getting folded out. There is always someone selling chai for 10R and often they sell snacks or even warm meals as well.
If you want to book a long haul train or bus you should not be last-minute or the day before since they can sell out quick. Train tickets you get cheapest at the train stations, but that is not always handy. So I booked a lot train tickets and all my bus tickets in some kind of travel agency or often the hostels or guesthouses offer tickets as well. They do charge you, but it is usually just a few rupees – inform yourself ahead how much a ticket should be round about so they do not rip you of.
I hope this was helpful for you and if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment. Save travels, Marlena