What is Self Drive
Self-drive tours are perfect for those, who are equally concerned about the journey as they are about the destination. Driving endlessly through dense forests, desert areas or on superhighways will surely get you more excited and thrilled about your destination. The best thing about self-drive road trips is that you get the chance to explore the place at your own pace with full freedom and complete flexibility. How great does it sound that you do not have to follow any strict itinerary or a schedule while touring! You do things that you like, when you like and how you like. You can change the itinerary at any step or even elongate the tour if you like.
Another good thing is that you can go on such a tour any time of the year. Whether it is winters, summers or the monsoon, a self-drive tour can be arranged whenever you like depending on the destination.
History of the Activity
Self-drive tours have been around for a long time in the Western world. You can say that this concept is as old as automobiles themselves. Self-drive tours are quite common in the United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and gaining popularity in South Africa as well. People from there often take their family or friends on a national or international tour. For Americans, Mexico and Canada are the two top destinations for international road trips, while in Europe people often go on such trips between Paris, Berlin and other popular destinations.
Activity in India
The concept of self-drives may not be as old in India as it is in other parts of the world, but it certainly has gained popularity in the recent past. Instead of booking trains or flights, many are now renting cars or taking their own for touring. Those, living in North Indian states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab or Delhi, often take road trips to hill stations like Manali, Shimla, Nainital or Mussoorie. Further south, Lonavala, Khandala and the hill stations of Kerala are emerging as renowned self-drive destinations.
Where it is offered in India
Ladakh is among the most preferred self-drive destinations in the northern part of the country. People often come here to explore its palaces and monasteries, and what could be better if you could also enjoy the mesmerising beauty of the Himalayas en route. During these tours, you can also enjoy a camel safari in the Nubra Valley and drive over some high-altitude passes. While Leh to Delhi self-drives are famous, you can also choose a Manali to Leh tour. Another fantastic destination that can we explored with a self-drive trip is the district of Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh. It is one of the remotest areas in the Himalayas and is accessible only via road. You can do this trip either via Shimla or Manali.
Road trips to Jaipur are also a hit among travellers from North India. If you want, you can choose to go on a tour of the Golden Triangle, which includes Agra and Delhi along with the capital of Rajasthan. A tour of these destinations will give you an insight into the Mughal and Rajput heritage of India and allow you to explore all the attractions en route.
Sikkim is another great destination, where you can go for your next long drive. Travelling on its mountainous roads, past high-altitude lakes and to old shrines, you will see a side of Sikkim that you would have never seen before. The hairpin bends of Ravangla will surely give you a strong adrenaline rush. Meghalaya, the Abode of Clouds, is also a brilliant destination for a self-drive tour. There are many other prominent places where self-drive tours are organised, including Madhya Pradesh.
Best season for Self-drive Tours in India
The best time for self-drive tours depends on your destination. For instance, for Leh and Spiti, the summer season is considered the ideal time because in winters, the highways and roads are often closed due to heavy snowfall. If you are planning a trip to Jaipur, then the period from October to March is the best. During this time, you would not have to face the blazing heat of Rajasthan. You are advised to not plan a tour in the monsoon season, which is usually in the months of July and August. This is when most parts of India experience heavy rainfall, leading to wet and slippery roads.
Tips for People Going on Self-drive Tours
- Make a list of all the things you could need during your tour, and make sure you carry all these
- Before you embark on your journey, ensure your vehicle is in a good condition. Also, carry all the spare parts to avoid getting stuck on the highway if it breaks down
- Know the exact route you are going to follow, and it is also beneficial if you consider alternative routes, in case you face traffic on the primary one
- Remember to carry snow chains if you are travelling to a high-altitude destination, where you may have to drive on snow. These chains provide increased traction on the icy or snowy surface
- Carry all the documents you might need on the tour. For instance, if you are driving across international borders, you will also need your passport. Also, make sure that your driving license is valid in the country you are travelling to
- Do not drive for too long in one go. Take breaks, and if possible take turns driving
- If you are going to a high-altitude destination, take a powerful car which can easily climb on steep slopes. An SUV or a bike with a powerful engine will be good for this purpose
- If you are going to a hot and humid destination, keep yourself properly hydrated
- Ensure that the air conditioner of your car is working properly, especially if you are heading to the desert
- At areas full of snow, blow horn as less as possible as loud noise may trigger an avalanche
Self-drive does not involve too much physical activity; therefore, no special physical requirements are there. However, long hours of driving can cause exhaustion, so take regular breaks and rest whenever you feel tired. If you suffer from high-altitude sickness and you are going to a place like Ladakh, Spiti or Gulmarg, remember to carry your medicines with you. In this case, you may consult your doctor beforehand. If the altitude you are going to is more than 10000 feet, you may even start exercising in advance. Acclimatising at a place with a little lower altitude before ascending higher is also a good idea.
CO2 emissions are the biggest ecological concerns of driving. Before embarking on the trip, get your vehicle serviced so that the engine works smoothly. This will keep the fuel consumption low and result in less exhaust. If possible, you may even take a vehicle, which runs on CNG to further reduce air pollution. Another way to do this is by using the gears judiciously and not pressing the accelerator too hard on a low gear. The environment can also be kept clean by not throwing waste on the roads and instead keeping it with you till you find a place for it.