Hiring a Private Driver in India: A Complete Guide With Costs and Contact Info

Hiring a private driver in India really helps to shield you from the craziness of Indian road traffic.  Besides the total lack of road respect and etiquette, drivers have to avoid cows randomly walking across streets.  Since traveling in India is both exhilarating and exhausting, you truly need a space where you can relax.  And hiring a private driver in India helps you accomplish that.

Hiring a Private Driver in India: A Complete Guide With Costs and Contact Info

The Taj Majal in Agra. I shot this photo at dusk from the roof of our hotel, The Tajview Agra, using a zoom lens. 
The Taj Majal in Agra. I shot this photo at dusk from the roof of our hotel, The Tajview Agra, using a zoom lens. 

I have spent a significant amount of time traveling through India by car always using a private driver.  We explored New Delhi and Rajasthan in the north.  Additionally in Mumbai, Cochin and Varanasi we traveled in a similar fashion.  Between the livestock and maniacal motorists, I can comfortably attest: I am well-versed in the basics and necessity of booking a chauffeur in India.  As such, kindly find my complete guide to hiring a private driver.

Table of Contents

  1. Why You Should Not Drive Yourself
  2. Why Public Transportation is Not a Good Option
  3. Why You Should Hire a Private Driver
  4. Costs of Hiring a Private Driver
  5. What You May Not Know
  6. Contact Information for Drivers

1 – Why You Should Not Drive Yourself

You can let a vehicle in India and drive on your own.  Most major car rental companies have offices in India.  However, it is not recommended.  Driving in India is like playing adult bumper cars.  This is mostly because other vehicles do not follow any rules.  Cars will cut in front of you without notice, swerve into your lane and even drive the wrong way in traffic.  This behavior is commonplace and expected.  Never mind the cows roaming freely on public roads.  Unless you seriously like road rage and high stress, please avoid self-navigation.

On the streets of New Delhi outside the spice market. We had to ditch our car and hire an auto rickshaw to easily reach this part of town due to the narrow streets.
On the streets of New Delhi outside the spice market. We had to ditch our car and hire an auto rickshaw to easily reach this part of town due to the narrow streets.

2 – Why Public Transportation is Not a Good Option

Public transportation like buses and trains tend to be overcrowded, uncomfortable, odiferous and without climate control  Plus when heading to some cities slow and cramped buses are really the only alternative.  Therefore if you are a serious budget traveler with days to waste and no need for personal space, you may consider trains and buses as viable options.

As for taxis, you really can’t rely on their honesty, reliability and integrity.  Taxis are just not a secure choice in India.  The only time I would suggest taking a taxi is if you speak Hindi and know where you are going.

The ceiling of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. Formerly known as Victoria Terminus, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the busiest train station in all of India.
The ceiling of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. Formerly known as Victoria Terminus, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is the busiest train station in all of India.

3 – Why You Should Hire a Private Driver

By far hiring a private driver provides a ton of flexibility.  Go wherever you like and make your own schedule.  Plus you have an expert who knows how to navigate through the chaos of Indian traffic.  They have years of experience driving with a populace with dismal road etiquette.

Moreover, they intimately are acquainted with city layouts and road conditions.  India can be a thrilling and exhausting country to explore.  Having a safe space to relax and enjoy truly helps you recover from the electrifying atmosphere that is India.  Getting lost or in an accident will easily add unnecessary anxiety to an already nail-biting adventure.

On the streets outside Varanasi we ran into this horse on its way to a wedding. We eagerly wanted to go to an Indian wedding but missed the opportunity this trip.
On the streets outside Varanasi we ran into this horse on its way to a wedding. We eagerly wanted to go to an Indian wedding but missed the opportunity this trip.

4 – Costs of a Hiring Private Driver in India

Really the price depends on where you are going, how long you need the car and what type of vehicle.  For example, for a 4 door sedan we paid about $30 USD for a one-way airport pick up in New Delhi, then $20 USD for driving around the city from 9am – 5pm and about $100 USD a day for a full day, 24/7 tour of Rajasthan including overnight.  Similarly in Mumbai it cost roughly $100 USD for an evening airport pickup followed the next day by a full day city exploration. Expect to pay slightly more for an SUV.  These prices include all gas and tolls.  What’s not included are tips and perhaps an allowance for the driver’s accommodations.  Factor in for tips about $10 – $30 USD per day, depending on service.

A driver and his truck on the way to Ranthambore. Truck driving is one of the largest sources of employment in India.
A driver and his truck on the way to Ranthambore. Truck driving is one of the largest sources of employment in India.
 

5 – What You May Not Know

Driver’s only make about $50 USD per month.  It’s really pittance compared with the hours spent on the road, not to mention the difficult task of safely maneuvering on hectic streets.  Chauffeurs depend heavily on tips.  That’s why I recommend paying more than the customary $5 – $10 USD per day stated on other sites, especially if your driver is excellent.

As for meals, most drivers eat for free at restaurants in private rooms designated just for them.  On the other hand, hotel rooms do charge them anywhere from $5 – $15 USD per night in dormitory style setups often with no air conditioning.  As a result, some drivers opt to sleep in their car to save money as many bosses don’t reimburse for sleeping arrangements.  That is also why I suggest tipping more.

You may be invited to sleep over at the driver’s home.  This is normally a friendly endeavor in hopes you will tip more.  Generally this is a safe move, but expect living and sleeping conditions to be subpar as compared to a hotel.  We declined the offer as we prefer our own space and a large bed.

Next, please consider that vehicles will need to be returned to their starting location once your voyage has completed.  When planning a large trip, figure this cost into the equation.  If you travel far, it can add a lot more.

Lastly, please fly whenever possible.  Spending hours on the road in India drains you mentally and can be unsafe given the driving habits.  We wound up spending upwards of 8 hours a day on the road.  Although we enjoyed the adventure, next time we would most likely fly between certain locations rather than drive.

A groom atop his horse on the streets outside Pushkar. I asked our driver to stop the car so we could take pictures. Within minutes the wedding party was encouraging us to dance with them. This may have been our chance to participate in an India wedding, but unfortunately we decided to head onto Pushkar.
A groom atop his horse on the streets outside Pushkar. I asked our driver to stop the car so we could take pictures. Within minutes the wedding party was encouraging us to dance with them. This may have been our chance to participate in an Indian wedding, but unfortunately we decided to head onto Pushkar.

6 – Contact Information for Drivers

I highly recommend Subhash Chand if you are heading to New Delhi, northern India or Rajasthan.  A friend and former Air Canada flight attendant passed me his contact.  Subhash was the dedicated driver for the Air Canada staff, and drove us all over Rajasthan. He’s honest, friendly and eager to make your stay enjoyable.

As an example I forgot over $7,000 USD in camera equipment in my hotel room in New Delhi.  Since I was already at the airport and could not return without missing my flight, I called Subhash to help.  He picked up the camera and lenses and then shipped them back to me in the USA.  Now that is a helpful and honest friend to have.

Outside of the Rajasthan area I used Marc Zakir’s services.  Marc’s a tour guide who can set you up with drivers all over India.  So when Subhash was unavailable, we called Marc. 

Please feel free to use either of Subhash or Marc.  Both speak English and can act as guides.  Please find their contact information below.

I don’t recommend using anyone you find on your own. We tried that once in Cochin, and do not care to repeat the experience.  He was less expensive than Marc but more costly mentally.  The driver turned out to be a sadistic maniac aimed at terrorizing other motorists and us with his antics.  He passed other cars at high speeds, cutting off other drivers, risking our lives and those of other motorists.  Never again! 

Subhash Chand: Tel: +91 98996 78919, Email: subhashchandanju@gmail.com, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/subhash.chand.3323457
Marc Zakir: Tel: Email: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maczakir

Painted elephant and his handler near the clock tower in Jodhpur. This is a major roadway with active traffic. But motorists just drove around him as if this was normal.
Painted elephant and his handler near the clock tower in Jodhpur. This is a major roadway with active traffic. But motorists just drove around him as if this was normal.

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Matt Weatherbee
Matt Weatherbee

Hi, I’m Matt.  In 2008 I quit my job, sold everything and drove from Boston to Mexico to start a business.  Now I live and work in the Carribean, and spend my free time traveling the globe.  Learn more.

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