On the day before India was to debut a new 6-lane expressway that halves the travel time between New Delhi and Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, I made the trip on a road that was decidedly NOT an expressway.
Road to Agra
The last time that I visited the Taj Mahal, it was in 1990 and I was with my husband (boyfriend at the time,) and even so, the experience was rough. We stood out as foreign tourists, and were treated as such. We couldn’t take a step without being surrounded by beggar children, scam artists, and desperate rickshaw drivers.
So, when I discovered that the Leela Palace (our hotel in Delhi) could arrange for a car and driver directly to the Taj Mahal, I jumped on the offer. We were given a choice of two levels of comfort – a Toyota Camry, or a BMW sedan. I chose the cheaper option, but – knowing that we wanted to watch the Gandhi film en route – the ever helpful concierge staff gave us a complementary upgrade.
Even without the new expressway, the drive isn’t so bad – 3.5 hours each way – just long enough to finish the entire historical drama, and to watch the even more fascinating scene on the road to Agra.
Driving rules are a little different in India from the USA. While I’m accustomed to using turn signals to indicate to the cars behind me when I plan to turn, it’s reversed here. In India, the driver indicates when he is about to pull to one side – presumably to pass the car in front. And in case you forget, many vehicles remind you with bright signs telling you to “Blow Horn” if in daylight…
… or “Use Dipper at Night,” the dipper being the turn signal – sort of like how you might say “blinker” in America.
We also saw vehicles on our Delhi to Agra road trip that I’ve never seen elsewhere. Of course, we saw lots and lots of rickshaws – some more highly decorated than others.
Instead of a refrigerated truck, the nimble Indian milkman weaves through traffic on a motorbike.
And some vehicles that make it on the road route from Delhi to Agra probably wouldn’t pass the road test in America.
Seeing how exciting it is to drive on the road from Delhi to Agra, my daughter asked if she could take the wheel. That’s not going to happen, but I was glad to learn that the minimum driving age in India is 18-years-old. Driving in India is not for kids.