Rickshaw Run - India
The length of India in a glorified lawnmower
Rickshaw Run India
Hopefully, by now you should know the Rickshaw Run; it’s basically, you and a couple of mates, wrestling a three wheeled, 145cc Rickshaw from one corner of India to another with as little preparation as possible. There are other things you might like to know though, which is why the pages below this one aren’t blank.
1. You're on your own
We recommend an insurance company with a high level of medical cover and watertight emergency evacuation plans but self-reliance is what separates the big fish from the minnows.
2. The Rickshaw, Test Driving and Pimping
The rickshaw is a shit vehicle, we make jokes about them being rubbish because they are; the main point of taking a rickshaw across India is that it is unsuitable and it will break down. That said, the reason why rickshaws are great is that they are easy to fix and they enable you to experience India in a way you otherwise couldn’t. They are remarkably well received by the locals and the lack of windows mean you are properly immersed in every situation you encounter. Whether you like it or not.
Here are some lovely rickshaw stats:
Engine: 2 stroke, single cylinder, forced air cooled
Power: 7 HP at 5000 rpm (equiv. 1 family dog)
Transmission: 4 forward, 1 reverse
Fuel Capacity: 8 ltr + 1.4 reserve
Top Speed: 55kmph (downhill)
Engine Size: 145.45cc
System Voltage: 12V , DC
Test DrivingThe first two days of the Run are spent test driving, this enables you to learn to drive the vehicle in the relative safety of the test driving arena. By the end you will be able to start, turn and stop your rickshaw with relative ease; the more proficient amongst you will even be able to change from one gear to another smoothly and without stalling, almost every time. We also give mechanical demonstrations of what the most likely things are to go wrong and how best to right those wrongs. Once you’ve got the hang of your trusty ride - or decided you will leave all the driving to your team-mate, you can also finish customisation of your vehicle by adding things you really need like air-horns, flower garlands and glitterballs, and things you don’t need like roof-racks (which actually are there on each vehicle already - but are so crap we recommend you don’t use them).
PimpingBefore you launch on the Rickshaw Run you submit a paint job to our team of rickshaw pimpers, who turn a small 2d diagram into a life-sized custom masterpiece sometimes even slightly similar to the original design. The more absurd and original the design the faster and more reliable your rickshaw becomes. This might not actually be true, but you are probably 2% more likely to be helped when you break down if you’ve got a giant smiling Ganesh painted on your trusty steed.
3. The Un-route
There are three Rickshaw Runs each year, either heading from Cochin to Jaisalmer, or Jaisalmer to Cochin. The bits in between are where the adventure is though. And you can make it as difficult as you like, either by dodging trucks on the ocean highway, like the avatar from a 1980s video game, or (which we suggest) by heading inland to get lost in the jungles, mountains, deserts, back roads and remote villages of rural India.
Planning your own route gives you the freedom to go at your own pace and take in the sites that interest you. Want to look for tigers, rhinos and elephants in the nature reserves? Go for it. Want to check out hilltop temples and hidden yoga retreats? Why not? Prefer to do a local homestay and cook with a local family? Good call. The rickshaw is the perfect tool to take you to your definition of adventure.
Jaisalmer, Rajasthan to Fort Kochi, KeralaDecember 30th - Optional Test driving
If you want an extra day to practice, or just to meet everyone else
December 31st - Test driving day 1
Test driving, mechanical briefing and the chance to enhance your ride
December 31st - Party
Needs no explanation
January 1st - Test Driving Day 2
In case the first day wasn't enough. Test Driving, mechanics briefing and Q&A.
January 2nd - The Launch
What you've been waiting for, to jettison off into the great Indian unknown
January 15th - The Finish The finish party, the awards, the all important podium photo
Fort Kochi, Kerala to Jaisalmer, Rajasthan3rd April - Test driving day 1
Test driving, mechanical briefing and the chance to enhance your ride
3rd April - Party
Needs no explanation
4th April - Test driving day 2
In case the first wasn't enough. Test Driving, mechanics briefing and Q&A.
4th April - Cricket match
What better to remind you that you're totally out of your depth than to be thrashed by locals in a sports match?
4th April - Adventure briefing
So you have no doubt about the ridiculousness you're about to undertake
5th April - The Launch
What you've been waiting for, to jettison off into the great Indian unknown
April 18th - The Finish
The finish party, the awards, the all important podium photo
5. The Costs
VEHICLE£0This is an easy one; Nothing, nada, zero, zip. It is included in your entry fee.
VEHICLE PAPERWORK AND INSURANCE £0This is also included in the entry fee.
GETTING THERE AND AWAY £0-£1000Obviously this depends a lot on which is the nearest airport to where you call home. It is also affected by what time of year you are doing the Rickshaw Run (January is peak season so tends to be a bit more expensive), and how far in advance you try to book. There are lots of price comparison sites out there and if you are prepared to be a bit flexible and book in advance you can pick up a bargain.
INSURANCE £50-£100You need insurance and it needs to be good. This is not a very clever place to try to save money. When you book your insurance you need to explain exactly what you are doing and where. For Rickshaw Runners from Europe we recommend Campbell Irvine; they have been helping reckless fools on our adventures for as long as we’ve had reckless fools on our adventures. They are not the only insurer available and remember that it is your responsibility to ensure that the company you use understands what the Rickshaw Run entails and the risks involved. The Adventurists is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Campbell Irvine Ltd who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
FUELAbout £250Fuel costs can vary according to how much you choose to go sightseeing or get lost. It also depends on how much petrol your little beastie will glug. Some tend to sip on the petrol and oil mix like an elegant lady enjoying her afternoon tea, and some tend to knock it back like a boisterous, fairly annoying rugby team at a student night in Leeds. Petrol prices in India tend to fluctuate rather wildly too, with increases and decreases (but mainly increases) happening often. It also varies hugely from state to state just to keep you on your toes. The final thing you have to consider is how much you’ll get ripped off. Buying it from a petrol station is the cheapest - but if it’s 2am and you’re in the middle of nowhere and have to wake up an old sleeping gentleman, who then has to go and syphon some out of his nephew’s bike, then it’ll cost you more.
FOOD TO EAT£50-£500Food will depend on how much luxury you afford yourself and how brave you are with the street vendors. The local roadside dhabas and truck stops are highly recommended and will give you some of the best and cheapest food around - and is very often safe enough - especially if it’s busy and the food is hot. However if you want to splash out on regal fare you should expect to pay for the privilege.
A PLACE TO REST YOUR WEARY HEAD£50-£3000Again you can splash out on some real luxury and find a palatial five star hotel to stay at. As part of their service they will kindly relieve you of the burden of a load of that money you’ve been carting around. The cheaper option of hotels and backpacker type establishments mean that not only can you save your money for important things like beer and scale models of the Taj Mahal, but also you get to experience the joy of a budget hotel in India. Ah, the memories (and the scars).
REPAIRS & SPARES £0-£250Mechanics are cheap in India, some of them even know what they are doing too. Spare parts are also pretty cheap. Some teams are unfortunate enough to never break down on the Run, sadly this can’t be helped. Others have the joy of continual reliability issues to contend with. How much work your Rickshaw needs often depends on how well you treat her. You need to make sure you get the oil/fuel balance right and you need to stop every couple of hours for your rick’ to catch her breath (did we mention they weren’t designed for long distance travel?). Because this is India the cost of spares and repairs are directly linked to how rich you look and how bad you are at haggling. While not everyone in India will try to rip you off you should be prepared for it to happen at some point, much like it might at home.
VISAS £100 (ish)Visa costs depend a bit on what coat of arms is embossed on the front of your passport, but they seem to be about £90 at present. Expect to have to pay more if you leave it to the last minute. The cheapest thing to do is usually to go to the consulate and pick them up yourself, but it is a good idea to use a visa agent like The Visa Machine.
OTHER THINGS YOU PROBABLY NEEDMost things like spares and tools you can save yourself a few quid (and weight in your hand luggage) by buying in India. Every nut and bolt on nearly every rickshaw is a different size anyway, so just buy ones there that fit. You might find it prudent to see what vaccinations you need before you go, the cost of these depends on if you get them at a ‘travel clinic’ or at your GP and which ones you decide you need to pick up.
THINGS YOU THINK YOU NEED BUT PROBABLY DON’TThe beauty of the Rickshaw Run is that you need almost nothing to do it, all that expensive survival kit and camping supplies you should leave at home. All you need is a chicken suit and your passport. persuade your team-mate to take a camera so you don’t have to.
THE UNEXPECTED From a smile to £….?It's really not an adventure if nothing goes wrong. Fortunately, no matter how well prepared you think you are, you won't be. Breakdowns and unseen potholes (figural and literal) are as certain as death and taxes, though if you pull out some cunning and some niceties it needn't cost you your first born or your grandmother. Unless you want it to of course. Maybe start with the mother-in-law and haggle up?
VEHICLE DEPOSIT £500To make sure we can have another Rickshaw Run in four months we take a vehicle deposit to make sure we can get it back in something resembling the condition we gave it to you in. The deposit is fully refundable and deductions will only be made if you fail to return the vehicle, if it is seriously damaged or if there are bits missing. If your vehicle doesn’t reach the finish line we will need to make deductions to recover it, which will not only reduce your returned deposit, but might delay its return (best to get it to the finish line yourself).
6. What you get for your entry fee
WHAT YOU GET FOR YOUR ENTRY FEEThere is a fair bit that you get for your money; to make it easy to see the lot we’ve plotted them in an easy-to-read format which they seem to call ‘a list’.
THE RICKSHAW RUNThis is the big one; your place on one of the greatest adventures on the planet two weeks threading your way across the subcontinent like a drop of moisture running down the side of a glass of ice cold beer, only a bit dirtier and more prone to going the wrong way, basically what we’re saying is you get to be a part of something big and glorious and boozy.
THE RICKSHAWYou get the two week loan of your very own Rickshaw, we’ve found this is one of the most vital ingredients on the Rickshaw Run so we have one for each team to do with as they choose as long as they look after them of course. We think that Rickshaws are the perfect vehicle for three wheel driving, and aside for the odd moment of complete despair we think you will too. Unless you don’t - which would be even better.
PRE-LAUNCH SHENANIGANSWe open our doors three full days before the Run launches, this gives you ample time to familiarise yourself with your steed, chat with us and the other teams and imbibe no small amount of lager-beer. The first two days you spend test driving and modifying your vehicles while in the evenings we meet up to ‘talk plans’. Then we have a blinding ‘Team de-briefing’ on the final night of test driving. Here you can ask us any questions you may have, and we shall try our best to bullshit our way out of them. Then, the day before the launch we play a match of sport against some locals; either of the football or cricket flavour and in the evening we hold a ruddy great party.
THE FINISH LINEHaving completed a legendary adventure we’ve found folks like to indulge in some legendary partying; sort of like patting yourself on the back, while feasting, drinking and making merry, and by jove does two weeks risking life and limb in a tiny rickshaw make folks eager to party. Like a pack of wolves chasing down and devouring a tin of wolf food the Rickshaw Runners tear down the dance floor and devour the banquet leaving no shortage of hangovers in their wake.
THE PAPERWORKOne unfortunate legacy of British rule the Indians seem to be stuck with is a mind-boggling weight of bureaucracy that accompanies everything. In order to obtain something as simple as a mobile-telephone sim card you need; 4 recent passport photos, an amazingly long and completed application form, a photocopy of the info page of your passport, a photocopy of your visa, and something with proof of address on it. In order for a group of non-residents to drive a Rickshaw they don’t own across state lines requires a small mountain of paperwork (in triplicate), stamped, sealed and signed. All of this will be taken care of before you arrive (though you will have to get your own mobile-sim).
PIMPINGTo make your steed feel a little more part of you we have a team of *cough* artists who paint the rickshaws in patterns and colours designed by you. Not only does this mean your ride looks shit-hot, but the layers of paint accumulated over the years give the Rickshaws almost 0.5% extra structural durability, which is almost entirely useless.
WEB PAGES AND TRACKINGYou get your own team pages where you can shout about yourselves, your sponsors and your charity in the lead up to the Run, through text, images and video. During the run you can update these along with your location to our live tracking map, via the medium of text message.
EXPERTISE AND BANTERWhile you’re preparing for the Run we have a team of Rickshaw Run veterans and experts at Adventurist HQ who can help with all sorts of advice and support, from advice on fundraising and rickshaw customisation to cures for Delhi Belly and recommendations on what to do when the wet-wipes run out. We also have the dubious resource of 400 Rickshaw Run veterans on the Facebook teams page who are ever on hand to dish out no end of irrelevant and out of date advice, that and some cracking stories.
&…You also get the joy of being a Rickshaw Runner, making hundreds of new chums for life of the type you only get from sharing in the agony and ecstasy of 3,000 miles of mountain and desert over the worst roads in the world. On top of all of this you’ll get an official Rickshaw Run t-shirt, and not even Ranulph Fiennes can boast that.
To drive any vehicle in India as a foreigner it’s a legal requirement to have an International Driving Permit. So make sure you have this. We’ve also found that in India, rickshaws are classed as ‘light motor vehicles’ so legally you can drive them in India with a Category A or B Stamp in your IDP.
All travel insurance policies have an exclusion saying that if you break the law they have the right to deny the claim. This would usually refer to the local laws where the incident takes place, so you need to meet the licence requirements for the country you’re driving in in order to be covered by your travel insurance. Seems obvious enough but it’s always worth double checking with your insurance provider to make absolutely sure you’re covered. If your licence covers you under domestic law on your adventure, but wouldn’t cover you to drive that vehicle at home, your insurer could argue that you have a lack of experience driving that vehicle. It might be legal for you to whizz around in a Rickshaw in India on your licence - but maybe not in your country of origin, so it is entirely your responsibility to make sure your insurer will cover you with whatever licence you have.
There are several options now including an Electronic pre-approved visa and the traditional one where you need to hand in your passport to the local embassy. Each has different rules that are often changing. You can check your nationality's visa requirements through our visa partner The Visa Machine
8. Saving the world
If you raise £1000 or more for Cool Earth you’ll be entered into the raffle with all the teams on The Adventurists adventures for a chance to win a money can’t buy trip to the Peruvian rainforest to see the work they do first hand.
Cool Earth works alongside indigenous villages to halt rainforest destruction. Local people stand to lose the most from deforestation but the most to gain from its protection, that’s why they are the forest’s best possible custodians.
All Cool Earth partnerships are community-owned and led.
By developing local livelihoods, their mission is to end the cycle of deforestation entrenching villages into further poverty. Creating strong, self-determining communities.
WHY?We need to save every rainforest in the world so future generations have somewhere to get stuck. Not because we’re tree hugging sandal weavers, but because the world would be shit without them. It’s not about the carbon off twatting, the point is rainforests are indescribably excellent. We don't just want to have adventures across this here planet, we also want to save it a bit too. We're working with the lovely folks at Cool Earth trying to not just save a tiny piece of the world at a time, but by saving the whole thing in one go.
HOW?The best way to raise these funds is through your friends and families, people you work with or anyone who's got a dirty little secret only you know about. We've found that the best way to collect these funds is through an online platform such as Virgin Money Giving as they make it easy for us to count the funds, the cash goes straight to the charities and also because it is possible for the charities to claim Gift Aid. Different charities can use different fundraising platforms in different countries so it's best to check with the charities which is best.
WHEN?You've got until 6 weeks after the adventure to collect that cash, this means you get as long as possible to raise funds including the duration of the event and shortly after.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I MISS THE TARGET?If you can't reach the target, unfortunately you will go to hell. Together with the charities we give you tips and resources to help and when the time to count up what everyone has raised comes about we will pester you somewhat, but we won’t set any dogs on you, or force you to sell your children. We will be very, very disappointed though and do a sad face at you.
10. The Warning
Your chances of being seriously injured or dying as a result of taking part are high. Individuals who have taken part in past Adventurists' adventures have been permanently disfigured, seriously disabled and even lost their life.
This is not a glorified holiday, it's an unsupported adventure and so by its very nature extremely risky. You really are on your own and you really are putting both your health and life at risk. This is what makes them adventures.