Cycling Across India: What You Need to Know

Boys on a bicycle in Udaipur, India

Cycling across India. Sounds like an adventure, that you would love to go for? Then read on, because here I’m going to share with you things we learned during our 5300+ kilometer cycling across India trip.

To cycle around India and to spend on this trip approximately 6 months, maximum time you can be in India on an Indian tourist visa. That’s how our initial plan looked like, when we arrived to Delhi on October 12, 2013. Yet at no moment after that we actually planned how to make it happen. We had no experience in long distance cycling and we didn’t know what to expect from India either. So we decided to simply give it a go and see how it goes.

India appeared to be much bigger. And so cycling across India and finishing our journey roughly on a half way around India was that what we actually did.

boys on bicycle India Udaipur - Cycling Across India

Children in Udaipur – Cycling Across India

Our route started in Delhi. Then we went North to Shimla. And then counterclockwise through the deserted state of Rajasthan to the Southernmost tip of India. Then by the coast we cycled up North again, until we reached Chennai. In total it took us 5 months and we cycled in India for more than 5300 kilometers (see our route across India in 121 photography).

Cycling Across India: Road Quality in India

Bad and only bad? Not so fast! I remember that moment, when after approximately 3000 kilometers of cycling across India, for the first time in our trip I was thinking: “Finally. Finally we have found a road of such a quality, that before going to India we imagined as a road in India.”

Of course there were bad stages of the road before that, but all of them finished soon enough to not be something really noticeable.

narrow road India - cycling across india

“This one was real India road we imagined.” – Cycling Across India

This one was real Indian road we imagined. One lane. Only about 2 meters wide. In some places even more narrow, thanks to ages and ages of it’s usage. But still… still for cycling this tarmac road was quite good. Only really old looking and narrow.

Later on we cycled also on the worst roads we had ever seen in our lives. On destroyed tarmac roads. And also on sand and rocks.

road to Jaipur India - Cycling Across India

Road to Jaipur, India – Cycling Across India

But now we know – road quality in India is the same as varied as everything in this huge country. Here you can get everything from the very best to worst roads you can imagine. If you choose so or you are lucky enough you may see mostly good ones as well. It’s possible, and not only on the main highways, most of whom really are a very good quality roads.

Cycling Across India: Finding Spare Parts and Bicycle Services in India

There are a lot of bicycles in India. BUT most of them are single speed. It means that at least once you with your modern bicycle will get in that situation, when some spare part you need will be available only in that one shop some thousand kilometers away.

Otherwise. Because of a large number of bicycles around you will be able to get technical help everywhere. With prices for the work being around 1-5 USD.

Once I broke my back wheel in the middle of nowhere, between two cities, at a place with only one gas station. And yet I got help. Girl from the gas station called a technician, who brought me and my broken wheel to the city, where my wheel was repaired. And it cost me less than 2 dollars.

broken bicycle India - cycling across india

That’s my bike… (on the right) – Cycling Across India

If your bicycles inner tubes are with auto valves, you can get them inflated in most of the gas stations in India. But remember, that gas station workers most probably will say, that it’s not possible, just because their bicycles usually have different type of valves.

In most the gas stations you also will be able to get free filtered drinking water. Look for a sign “Drinking water”!

Cycling Across India: Traffic on the Roads of India

Be aware of bus and tuk-tuk drivers. Seriously! These are the craziest people on the roads of India. Keep distance from them as they can overtake you to stop just few seconds later directly in front of you.

At the beginning you may need to adapt to such an active and chaotic (!) traffic. It’s especially crazy in bigger cities in India. You may also be surprised, that in so many places traffic lights are just lights. More or less seriously people take only those which has a counter. Otherwise – how can one know, how long does he need to wait there? And why to wait if he can go now? That’s how Indian logic looked for me. But you get used to it.

busy street India - Cycling Across India

Busy street in India – Cycling Across India

And of course – everyone is honking!

Cycling Across India: Food and Accommodation

When planning our cycling across India trip we were planning to camp most of the time. But we failed. There in reality we saw why India so often is called as one of the worst places in the world where to camp. The reason is simple – people are EVERYWHERE. And so it’s quite impossible to find some peaceful place, where no one will come and disturb you during the night.

But at the same time – hotels and simple shops also are EVERYWHERE. Cheap hotel room mostly will mean a bed, shower (or tap and bucket) and TV. That’s it, often there will be no WiFi. Of course, I’m talking about the cheapest hotels, where double room costs not more than 5 – 20 USD per night. But these are also the ones available more often, while cycling in India.

Simple roadside shops will provide you with bottled water (if you don’t trust the one available at gas stations), soft drinks, biscuits, fruits and some snacks. But even in the simplest cafes you will get rice, chapatis and daal. In largest cities you will find everything – grocery stores, all kind of hotels and restaurants.

Don’t hesitate and ask hotel personal, where you could put your bicycle. During our cycling across India journey we got offered to put our bicycles also inside the hotel or in private indoor courtyards.

fruit seller India Ahmedabad - Cycling Across India

Fruit seller on the street, Ahmedabad – Cycling Across India

grocery store India Ahmedabad - Cycling Across India

Grocery store, Ahmedabad – Cycling Across India

small roadside shop - Cycling Across India

Small roadside shop/cafe – Cycling Across India

I hope it will help you, when planning your bicycle trip in India. If you still have some questions, write in comments, ask me on Twitter or contact us on Facebook!

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Author: Kaspars Misins

Kaspars is a long term traveler and a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.