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Driving Guide For Expats! Rules & Basics To know Before You Get Into The Driver’s Seat In India

You know you’re a fabulous driver, if you can manoeuvre like an F1 driver through the Indian roads. I am not exaggerating here, that you can measure your level of perfection, if you are able to drive on Indian roads… read Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, UP, Kolkata or the likes. The road rules are…… there are no rules!


But as a part and parcel of this haphazard culture, we maybe tuned in, but for an expat, it may be a challenge unsurpassable! So, if you’re an expat in India, and own a vehicle that you drive yourself, I suggest….. Get yourself covered with facts about the legal beagles that you may need, to be out of sticky situations. My driving guide for expats gives you a good idea of what to expect!

The Rules Of The Game

Let’s not get judgemental about the traffic rules in India. we do agree that a large majority of the population does seem to be strollers in their gardens, when driving…… YET….. there are rules that the other side follows… there are rules that should and must be followed. The cops are getting stricter too!


  • The legal minimum age for driving a car in India is 18.
  • Indians drive on the left-hand side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.
  • The blood alcohol content limit is 0.3% and going over this limit while driving, can land you in prison for up to six months and/or a fine of up to 2,000 INR. A second offence within three years of the first will be two years of imprisonment and a fine of up to 3,000 INR.
  • Using a handheld mobile phone while driving in India, may get you charged 1,000 INR.
  • Wearing seat belts and helmets is compulsory!

A piece of advice- Even if the conversion to your currency (for the fines imposed) is next to nothing…. believe you me, spending months, or even a few hours in an Indian jail isn’t what an ideal Indian tryst is!

Get To The Basics!

The first and foremost aspect to know is that India does not consider foreign licenses valid. Though you can apply for an international driver’s license in your home country if you are in India on a short-term assignment for less than a year.

But if you intend to stay in India for longer, however, be sure to have an Indian driver’s license, which is administered by the regional transport office — under the governance of the state, not the federal government. There are several types of vehicle licenses you can apply for, the most important being:

  • motorcycle license (2 wheeler)
  • light motor vehicle license (LMV) to drive passenger cars (3/4 wheeler)
  • heavy motor vehicle license (HMV) for driving a bus or truck

Get Your Vehicle Registered

To register a car in India, you have to go to the Regional Transport Office in your area of residence and request a registration form. Along with the completed form you will need the following:

  • the original sales certificate of the car issued by the dealer indicating you as the new owner
  • the original invoice
  • a roadworthiness certificate issued by the car manufacturer
  • a “pollution under control” certificate concerning exhaust fumes and emissions
  • the customs clearance certificate for imported cars
  • an attested copy of a valid insurance policy
  • a proof of address
  • a one-time road tax fee
  • a registration fee

Words Of ‘Indian’ Advice!

Now that I have covered the major areas that can be bones of contention, I, as an Indian, a girl and having been driving for over 15 years, must offer you some pieces of advice and safety tips that could get you about safe and breezy…..

  1. Always have your registration certificate (RC) , vehicle insurance papers and Pollution check papers in the car at all times….. But never the originals… Only photocopies.
  2. Taking into account the state of the roads and general living conditions in India, you have the choice of adding a full-coverage policy, which includes liability against theft and damages by fire, flooding, or earthquakes.
  3. Never overtake from the left.
  4. Indicator must be used for even the slightest manoeuvring.
  5. HONK! I know most of the Western countries consider honking abusive….. in India it is a necessity! So, Honk away without a care!
  6. Never offer a hitch to a stranger.
  7. KEEP YOUR CAR DOORS LOCKED AT ALL TIMES!
  8. If you are a woman driver, you cannot be stopped by a cop at night. (But never stop for anyone at night)
  9. Keep a rod or a pepper spray in the car.
  10. A fire extinguisher too!
  11. Having said that, a whole lot of Indians will also be ready to stop and help you change a tire for you!

Now, you are ready to take on the battle called ‘Driving In India’!


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About Author

Dipti Datta

Dipti is an entrepreneur and a libertarian. Previously associated with some of the most renowned television channels and personalities as a stylist and being a qualified fashion designer her creative bent is apparent. Also,Having worked copiously with a team as an Operations Manager on an online portal, her conviction to work as a team player is undaunting. Her inclination to write is very strong as well, inevitably, as she holds a bachelors degree in English literature. Dipti is A travel buff, an avid reader and a painter and also dabbles in writing poetry. She believes that creativity is the best form of reform.Dipti is determined to associate herself with people and work alike, that refine her tastes and sharpen her sensibilities.

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