Getting around

Shared auto riksha

I decided to change my chronological narration towards a highlight and topic oriented approach – I simply can’t keep up with time. So, here are some lines on the public transportation in Gurgaon.

You don’t get the German infrastructure here with the safe and comfortable busses and trains connecting most places. Instead, you take a riksha, taxi or squeeze yourself into a bus (which you should not do as a single woman).

I believe it would be accurate to say that the riksha is the main means of transportation for short distances. One typical riksha distance is for example the way to Sector 14 or the mall area. There are basically three kinds of rikshas, from the classical bycicle one with two/three seats, a motorized shared one for up to 9 people and a private motorized one. For Sector 14, we usually take the bycicle riksha, which is least expensive (around 15/20 rupees), but for the malls area, the motorized one (whether it be shared or private) is most comfortable, as there are wide streets with a lot of traffic on the way. Everyone needs to negotiate on the price in advance, especially foreigners. If you ask for a fixed price, riksha drivers will invent an amount way above the average. Thus, it is advisable to check with Indian students on the common pricing before getting a riksha.

Of course, there are also cabs, but they are more costly and normally need to be booked by telephone. They are advisable for longer distances or for women travelling alone at night (rikshas are not too safe). For example, yesterday I was out with my Anne from Belgium and her friend Rakhi (Anne used to study at MDI and now works in Gurgaon, thus she is an excellent resource person. Her friend Rakhi is her roommate. We went out to Metropolitan Mall and subsequently had a South Indian dinner at the City Centre Mall across the street). When we were finished, it was about 9 PM and dark already and we couldn’t get hold of a taxi – as it was Saturday night, all the taxis were booked out. Riksha drivers were more or less fighting for us, but we thought it was not safe enough. After waiting for a taxi for ages we finally decided to sit on the back bench of a motorized shared riksha (see photo above). With one hand on the metal bars of the cover, the other on my handbag, the bad condition of the streets and several yelling Indians following us by bus or by bike, it was quite an experience. Still I was glad when I got off safely at MDI. Anne and Rakhi had kindly joined me there before they went back to their apartment.

For longer distances there are also busses and trains (and obviously flights, but I will leave this option aside). I didn’t take a bus so far, but from what I saw and heard, they are always overcrowded and not the best transportation for women (unless they are in groups and a bit used to India). Also in the summer, it is not great to have the sweaty armpits right next to you.

Trains are for the real long distances and quite good, from what I heard. If you take one of the better classes or even book a woman’s compartment, travels are supposed to be safe and comfortable. Didn’t try it out yet.

So far, I have not gotten out of Gurgaon. I had planned to go to Delhi today with another student from MDI (male, for my protection and local expertise), but there have been quite serious bomb attacks in the area, so we cancelled the plan. I will probably do the trip with the other newbies next week or so. By the way, for this trip we had reserved a taxi for one day, which costs around 700 rupees from what i remember and drives you to any place you want on an entire day (there is a limit in kilometres though).

This is it for now. I will now to to Ambience mall, THE mall to go which is not in the mall region, but a bit further down to the East. We have booked a taxi which will get us here in…OH…in 5 minutes…gotta go! 🙂

In 2008, I had been selected for the European Business School ESCP’s “Master in International Management” Programme, which was to be taught in two different countries. For my 7 month first semester, I had chosen their partner school “Management Development Institute” (MDI) in Gurgaon, a suburb of Delhi. Not having been to India before, and coming from a non-business background in humanities, it was an exciting time, which I documented on my blog.

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