So you think we have bad traffic jams in America huh? Well, just like everything else, it depends on the basis of your comparison. Traffic in India can be some of the worst in the world, but there are different causes depending on whether you are in city or rural traffic.
In the city: Probably the biggest factor leading to the awful traffic jams is the sheer number of vehicles on the road. There are over 8 million vehicles per day on the roads in the greater Delhi area. Many commuters take metro, ride share in a tuck tuck, or ride a bicycle, but the roads aren’t designed to handle the volume. Many Indian workers commute over 2 hours each way without air conditioning and arrive to work already dirty and sweaty.
Herds of cows and goats wandering through the streets is a normal occurrence, as is the occasional wild pig or dog. Cows are sacred in India so commuters just patiently wait for them to get out of the way.
One way streets
The majority of streets in the Delhi/Gurgaon area are one way with few exit points. Generally you have to drive way past your turn to find an exit and then double back to where you need to be. The result is that it takes longer to get to your destination and also people often pull illegal u turns or just go the wrong way on a one way street!
Slow moving “vehicles”
Every day I see tractors, bicycle rickshaws, hand carts and a number of other similar things that often cause traffic jams. When you get outside the city you’ll see carts pulled by camels, oxen, horses and donkeys. Drivers do their best to maneuver safely around them but it is a constant problem.
Road construction is non stop in India and the impact on traffic is not managed well. I’ve yet to see a flagger, warning sides or caution cones anywhere.
These are a joke! Periodically the police put up barriers that reduce a 3 or 4 lane road down to a single lane, presumably so they can look for violators or do random safety checks. These always cause big traffic jams and 9 times out of 10 there isn’t a policeman to be found, and if there is they are smoking a cigarette, napping or messing around on their cell phone.
Again, these cause more problems than solutions. These are men (never have seen a female “official” here) that direct traffic. They don’t seem like they know what they are doing and often drivers just ignore them.
Many roads outside the city have similar issues as the city streets, but the drivers also have to deal with unimproved roads. The pot holes are huge and numerous! Often nice paved highways just turn into kilometers of gravel roads and then become pavement again, for no obvious reason. Plus, most highways have speed breakers (speed bumps), so if you are able to finally pick up speed you suddenly have to slow way down again.
In conclusion, don’t plan on getting anywhere quickly in India. I’ve learned the hard way, if google maps says it’s an 8 hour drive you can easily ad 50% to the time of travel and expect a 12 hour drive!