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Public Transportation

Discussion in 'Travel advice' started by PrincessTigerLily, Jul 12, 2016.

  1. I was wondering if anyone has much experience with public transportation in India. How much of the language do you need to know to converse with a bus or taxi driver, for instance?

    Also, how easy is it to get around both major cities and more remote sites with public transportation? Are there instances where renting a car might be advised, or would you suggest going with public transportation all around?

    I have traveled extensively in Europe, where I found that a lot of drivers knew English, but I've never been to Asia and am somewhat concerned about this aspect of traveling in India.

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello and welcome to the forum!

    India is the second largest English-speaking country in the world as per a 2005 survey conducted by the India Human Development Survey. About 10.35% of the population are English speakers. The total number of English speakers are 125,226,449 and those who use English as their first language are about 226,449. At least 28% of men do know some English words and 72% don't know English while the remaining are fluent in English.

    So with these statistics, it's safe to say that a huge number of the Indian population do know English. Even if some of the bus or taxi drivers aren't that proficient in English, they do know some of the basics. Communication with them for directions, tourist spots and restaurants can be quite easy. I also think that the statistics are a little bit outdated and more Indians do know English as compared to the numbers above.

    Especially if you're travelling in the Souther parts of India where English is mostly spoken as compared to Hindi. The same goes for most of the North Eastern parts of India. Most of the tourist attractions have English signages as well. For sign boards, most of them have an English counterpart too.

    You'd have some trouble if you're travelling in rural areas where there's a local language. You'd find the locals not speaking Hindi or even English. In such cases, it's best to study some phrases from the local language. The issues here are: 1. There's a lot of different languages in India and 2. It's hard to pronounce words in Hindi, Telugu, Urdu or any other Indian language really. I think there's about 22 recognised official languages in India but there's a lot more dialects than that.

    So if you're travelling to the cities like Delhi or Mumbai, you won't have a problem and you can get by with just English. But if you're travelling to say, Kerala, at least learn some basic Malayalam words or bring a dictionary with you. Just remember, each state has their own individual language.

    All railway stations in India have English signs mentioning the name of the station as well as other details. In case you still have a problem understanding the signs, just talk to the station master or station superintendent as they do understand and speak English. Also, most urban roads and signages have an equivalent English translation as well.

    Buses also have corresponding English signages especially at Bus Stands. With auto rickshaws and motorcyle taxis though, you'd have to communicate with the driver to tell them your destination. The same goes for taxis, although if you book them online with an agency, you can just write in the message your pickup and drop-off point.

    The good thing is, India as a whole is well-connected even to remote areas by rail and buses. Of course, with cities, you won't have a problem as there's the railway trains, metro stations and buses.

    Renting a car might be advisable though if you do not know well the area you're visiting. Like in remote areas or rural areas where you might get lost. Hiring a local driver might be the best option. For the cities though, you can get by with using a bus, the train or the metro. For convenience though, nothing beats a higher class train or bus or hiring a car.

    I would say that you won't have much problems. India itself is a tourist destination and tourists all over the world visit it. The locals are quite used to talking to tourists and so they have acquired some experience as well. Although some parts of India are still traditional, you will get by in major cities and states. But you can still visit the offbeat places in India, just equip yourself with basic words and phrases used there. Otherwise, sign language is a major lifesaver in many situations.

    I hope this helps!

  3. Wow, that is extremely helpful, briannagodess. Thank you so much for putting so much thought and research into your answer. You have alleviated some of my nervousness as well as given me some things to research!

    India is very fascinating. I hope to be able to do a lot of exploring!
    briannagodess likes this.
  4. hades_leae

    hades_leae New Member

    This makes me really happy to know the statistics because I have always wondered the percentages of the populations that speak English, good enough English anyway. I have had my times when running into someone who does speak English, but when they speak, you still have to try and piece together the words as they speak in order to make out what they are saying. It's not hard, it's just that some people mis-pronounce words really easy obviously because they don't know the language.
  5. Trevlr

    Trevlr New Member

    Nowadays most taxi drivers in India can communicate in English. I think that you can find taxi services online and enquire whether they can be helpful. It will be hard for you to use public transportation means since you may not be able to know your destinations. I think that hiring a helicopter will be expensive and unnecessary. Uber is also giving services in India and I suggest that you try them out.
  6. rootle

    rootle Member

    Generally for public transport, I would avoid buses unless you really need to use them. Indian people usually tend to use auto-rickshaws for transport, they're generally much cheaper than taxis. Taxis are easily available in most cities, you can use Uber or call a taxi, you can search for numbers online. In a few cities there are Metro train services and they're usually a great public transport option although during rush hours they can get way too crowded.
  7. EdmondE

    EdmondE New Member

    Wow, I had no idea India has such a large English-speaking population. I have been extremely apprehensive about going to India because I was so intimidated by what I believed top be an insurmountable language barrier. Now that I know that in a crowd of roughly ten people, at least one will speak some English, I am feeling a lot more confident about the trip! I was just scared of getting lost and not being able to make myself understood, or some kind of medical emergency that requires fast communication and action.
  8. rootle

    rootle Member

    It's worth noting that although India does have a huge English-speaking population they're quite thinly spread out. Also depending on the region, finding people who speak English can be harder or easier than you'd expect. But assuming you stick to tourist areas, you'll be fine. There would be as many English speakers as there are in parts of Europe I should think, maybe even more.
  9. Norjak71

    Norjak71 New Member

    ^^ Exactly. Stick with people you know, go in a group, or find people there that speak the same language on vacation as well that you would like to see the sights with.
  10. Normad

    Normad New Member

    A lot of people who are traveling to India have one major worry, and that is whether or not they will be able to communicate with people while they are there. The truth is that a lot of the Indian population speak English and as rootle says, if you plan on sticking to the tourist areas then you definitely have nothing to worry about.
  11. MissT

    MissT New Member

    The public transportation system in India is not as complicated as people might think. A lot of people there speak passable English, and it is not very hard to communicate and so when it comes to getting public transport, you have a wide variety of choices, from the rick shaws all the way to the taxis and the train.