Rules of the Indian Roads

Now, many of you hardy adventurers might not have driven in places such as India before, if this is the case then you’ve not yet lived. Of course if you have driven in India before then you know what it’s like and are probably rather pleased with yourself for still being alive at all. There is a certain code of conduct to Indian roads, a sort of organised chaos that somehow sort of works (sort of...). In order to help you to survive with a little more finesse we’ve trawled through the best this net of inter has to offer to bring you the following pointers to help you not end up as a truck-front panini...

Rules of the Indian Roads

Article I: The assumption of immortality is required of all road users at all times. 

Article II: Indian traffic tends to work on something resembling the olde caste system. The following precedence must be accorded at all times.  In descending order, give way to:  cows (do not mess with these ever), elephants, heavy trucks, buses, official cars, camels, light trucks, buffalo, jeeps, ox-carts, private cars, motorcycles, scooters, auto-rickshaws (you), pigs, pedal-rickshaws, goats, bicycles (goods carrying), handcarts, bicycles (passenger carrying), dogs, pedestrians, gap year students.

Article III: All wheeled vehicles shall be driven in accordance with the maxim: “To slow is to falter, to brake is to fail, to stop is defeat.”  This is the Indian driver’s mantra. 

Article IV: Use of Horn:

(IV, A-C): Cars:

  • Short Blasts (urgent): Indicate supremacy, ie. in clearing dogs, rickshaws and pedestrians from path, and meaning “Im late home for my tea - the wife won’t be happy”.
  • Long Blasts (desperate): Denote supplication, i.e.  oncoming truck “I am going too fast to stop, so unless you slow down we shall both die”
  • Single Blasts (casual): “I have seen someone out of India’s 1.2 billion whom I recognise”; “There is a bird in the road ahead”, “My word, I had an epiphany” or simply and most commonly “I have not blown my horn for several minutes”. 

(IV, 2A): Trucks and buses:

  • All horn signals have the same meaning, viz, “I have an all up weight of approximately 12 tons and have no intention of stopping, even if I could”.  This signal may be emphasised by the use of headlamps (full beam is usually preferred here). Be aware that many truck drivers rest bricks on the accelerator and take up a cross-legged seating position. They will not touch the brake, ever.

(Article IV is subject at all times to the provisions of Order of Precedence in Article II above.)

Article V: All manoeuvres, use of horn and evasive action shall be left until the last possible moment. If the manoeuvre is left until too late then the horn should be used again.

Article VI: In the absence of seat-belts (which there is), passengers shall wear garlands of marigolds. These should be fastened at all times. In the absence of marigolds passengers shall close their eyes.

Article VII: Right of way: Traffic entering a road from the left has priority. So does traffic from the right, and also traffic in the middle.


  • Lane discipline: All Indian traffic at all times, and irrespective of the direction of travel, shall occupy the left, the right and the centre of the road. If the road is full to capacity, the occupation of the hard-shoulder is more than acceptable.

Article VIII: Roundabouts:  These are fondly known as circles in India. Circles in the middle of crossroads have no traffic management function.  Any other impression should be ignored. If in doubt use your horn and close your eyes.

Article IX: Overtaking:  is mandatory. Every moving vehicle is required to try to overtake every other moving vehicle, irrespective of whether it has just overtaken you.  Overtaking should only be attempted in suitable locations, such as in the face of oncoming traffic, on blind bends, at junctions and in the middle of villages / city centres.  No more than 2 inches should be allowed between your vehicle and the one you are passing – one inch in the case of bicycles or pedestrians. When overtaking is not possible then undertaking is just as good (sometimes better) 

Article X: Nirvana may be obtained through the head-on crash, alternatively, you may find it whilst squatting at the side of the road, emptying your bowels of that ‘bad idea curry’ you had the previous night.

Article XI: Reversing is no longer applicable, since no vehicle in India uses their reverse gear.

Article XII: The 10th incarnation of God was an articulated tanker.

Article XIII: The state of the road is non-negotiable. If there is a road you should think yourselves lucky.