Driving a Motorcycle in India at night is insane.

That sentence is in bold font for a reason. You see,  you have to be bold to drive a motorcycle through India at night and probably stupid. Like I was.

I know this first hand. I just spent the last few hours driving my Royal Enfield motorcycle through the blackness of rural India.

There is a whole other set of rules for driving at night here.

The 6 Rules for Driving a Motorcycle in India at Night (pedestrians and livestock as well)

Driving a Motorcycle in India at Night

Rule #1: Always keep your hi-beam’s on no Matter What

As you drive through India at night you must never dim your lights, they have stay on full blast, always.

You may flash them from low to high a bunch of times at the driver coming towards you, but after you have finished flashing them, they must be put back to high right before you pass the other driver, essentially blinding them.

This includes: trucks, cars, rickshaws, farm equipment, and motorcycles driving through India at night.

If your vehicle has no lights, such as a bicycle or ox-drawn cart, don’t worry about it; you may just drive down the super dark roads where no one can see you, that’s cool.

Rule #2: You Must Drive Faster at Night

The sun was setting on me as I was driving my motorcycle through India at night, and the speed of the other traffic was increasing. Our second rule states that the darker it gets, the faster you must drive.

Night driving is reserved for those who are in a hurry. If you have to get somewhere in India really fast, at an extremely unsafe speed, then night is the perfect time.

Step on the gas or pull back the throttle, close your eyes, and just go for it.

Rule #3: When your driving a motorcycle through India at night you are non-existent

This one is no joke, in India the bigger vehicle has the right of way.

As I drove through the darkness I saw a blinding set of lights coming towards me, hi-beams on of course. It was driving superfast in the wrong lane right towards me. Guess what? I got the hell out of the way, it would have creamed me.

Driving a Motorcycle in India at Night

The exception to this rule is the farmers driving the ox-carts in the centre of the road at night, with no lights whatsoever. They are allowed to hold a steady course and remain an obstacle.

Rule #4: It is ok to Drive for Long Periods of Time on the Wrong Side of the Road

While driving at night, if you wish, you may drive on the wrong side of the road for as long as you’d like. This goes well with driving too fast and with your hi-beams on.

While on a motorcycle, since you are on the bottom of the vehicle food chain, you have to do whatever you can to get out of others’ paths. When a huge truck sees that single, dim, motorcycle headlamp, they expect you to get out of the way and believe me, you do.

About 3 minutes after it got dark I was almost taken out by a car driving head on towards me, I had to pull off the road and stop as the guy blew past me at break-neck speeds.

Rule #5: Cows must Sleep in the Street

During daylight in India, the cows like to walk around the street. So at night, it is only fitting that they sleep in the street as well.

Driving through a city tonight there was a sudden confusion in the flow of traffic. When I got to the scene of the crime, it turned out to be a family of cows huddled together in the centre of the street. Everyone was just going around them without a second glance.

I wonder if a man lay there, if he would get the same courtesy.

Rule #6: Pedestrians are Allowed to Cross the Street Without Looking Both Ways

At night, while on your motorcycle, you must be on constant alert and watch out for random men carelessly crossing the road.

This is especially common on the outskirts of any given city. Men seem to be wandering around these areas aimlessly, and like to walk to the other side of the street, looking the ground, while cars and trucks whiz past them.

These random men walking around never seem to be phased.

Driving a Motorcycle in India at Night was the Most Insane Thing I Have Ever Done

This article was written with a sense of humor in mind. But make no mistake; driving a motorcycle in India at night is a dangerous operation. I lasted about 2 hours until, while driving through a random city, I spotted a hotel and immediately pulled over.

Driving a Motorcycle in India at Night

When I got off the bike my hands were shaking. I am not easily shook.

I sit here now in what is actually the nicest room I have been in some time, in a town called Koppal writing down this experience. If you are an adrenaline junky with a death wish, then this may be the newest sport you’re looking for. Otherwise, I recommend sticking to driving during daylight hours.

Let me say though, I am so thankful I bought a sim card here and had my GPS, it’s literally a lifesaver.

You will never catch me driving my motorcycle in India at night ever again.

Have you ever driven through India and lived to tell about it? Do you have another place you recommend to stick to daylight hours? Leave a comment with the story below!

If you liked this little story of todays adventure on my Royal Enfield, then subscribe to get the newest stories to your email; there will be a new one very soon recapping this part of the journey from Goa to Hampi.


If you liked this post, you may also like to find out How to live on the Beach for Less then $500 a Month! I did it, and it’s easy.

35 Responses

  1. The HeartBrokenBiker

    You forgot,
    + Vehicles can be stalled 90 deg to the road in highway
    + Illegal U-turns from where vehicles pop up at super speed drifts
    + Probability of running over a stone or speed braker or a dead body in the middle of highway
    + If you stop for food roadside, the crowd that will gather around you will make it impossible to breath.
    + And very importantly, someone in a car is already racing with you, hot on your heels.

    • Alex

      Hahaha! All very true points! The possibility of running over a speed bump or pothole you can’t see is seriously nerve racking isn’t it!

  2. jai

    Crazy man. Driving at night in india. You never know what is going to happen. Pigs, cows, sheeps roam around and a big chance of you getting rammed into the herd if you are not careful. Same experiences happened to me also.

  3. deepak Chaudhary

    You are absolutely right. I have ridden in mixed condition with or without light.
    On NH8 at night two times. One thing is that car drivers literally race on this highway. If someone is doing 80 km/ph at night, the cars zoom by your side and it is very risky at that point of time. Plus trucks seems to go slow and they are all over the highway, have to think twice before overtaking them. The people crossing on this road are crazy they just appear from nowhere and one can only see their shadow because high beam from opposite lane blinds us, unable to see the people.
    I once slammed brakes hard enough to save a man who crossed from front of a truck.

  4. Sanket D.

    Hi buddy,

    Firstly, your post really cracked me up and is true almost to the point. Just this past weekend I was driving (in a car fortunately) from Mumbai to a beach on the outskirts and I left at dusk. By the time I got of the freeway, it was dark and I was literally on top of my steering wheel trying to peer at the road ahead with the high beam of the vehicles coming from the opposite direction completely blinding me! Managed to fortunately get to my destination safely somehow! HA!

    It’s incredible how a lot of us live without as much as realizing how this could be so dangerous, but I reckon that’s one of the joys of this place isn’t it? I hope you had a great time in India buddy 🙂
    Sanket D. recently posted…A Weekend in the Lake District of EnglandMy Profile

  5. Rajesh

    I had a sole ride in Nov wth my 14 year old son from mumbai to shirdi & back by d time we reached mumbai it was past 9 & i was driving in d dark since 6.30pm & it was also drizzling but luckily d 4 way national highway was good i drove at d speed of 60-80 wearing my glasses in d dark as it was drizzling & u all know how this rain drops hit on ur face when u r riding but for me it was a bit tensioned riding was relaxed once we reached thane

  6. Pavan Meshram

    It was a pretty interesting read. The rules you mentioned can actually be a guide for everyone visiting my country. They are the unofficial rules followed by many here. Even I have followed rule nos. 1 & 4 on numerous occasions;-)
    Pavan Meshram recently posted…The Best Of Me – 2014My Profile

  7. Dhruv

    Yo Alex my man!!! I see you are racking up one experience after the other, and you truly had a taste of and explained something you can get maybe ONLY in India! 😉

    Well, to be honest, I know these are crazy experiences, but having lived in Europe for a while, I miss driving here a lot, but not so much at night due to the above mentioned and hilariously put points, even though I drive a car. I specially hate all of those high-beam morons, and unfortunately 90% of the drivers are like that! 🙁

    But all in all, I love your blog entries, so true to the core, and a very fair view of my very interesting countries – it’s beauty as well as flaws! 🙂

    • Alex

      Thanks man! Its too bad I missed you while here, I am sure we will run into each other again very soon!

  8. frank

    yes its crazy, I did it 15 years ago also with a rented Enfield. a lousy unresponsive motorcycle. a speed bump put my partner in bed for three days before he could get back on the bike. Its self homicide
    also, thanks for the info Alex, I just got back from Kurdistan, Dahuk ,Erbil and Suli

    • Alex

      Hi Frank, thanks for reading. I recently went to Kurdistan as well! Great place isn’t it?

  9. Richelle @Adventures Around Asia

    That “random men wandering around aimlessly” comment made me laugh so hard! The one time I got in a horrible e-bike accident in China was when some random man just walked right in front of my e-bike without looking. I slammed on the breaks so I wouldn’t kill the guy, but it was raining, so instead I almost killed myself when I crashed. It happens all the time here. I think Chinese people have a death wish! Apparently Indian men do too hahaha
    Richelle @Adventures Around Asia recently posted…The Foods You Need to Try in ShanghaiMy Profile

    • Alex

      Yes they don’t seem to care or they just know we will go around. In any case you must keep your eyes open! Thanks for reading 🙂

  10. Dana (@WantedAdventure)

    Whoa. What a crazy experience. Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be doing that any time soon!! But it was fun reading about your experience with it from the safety of my chair ;D

    • Alex

      haha thanks Dana! I’m sure you have some crazy adventures under your belt as well

  11. Shyam

    What ever you have stated is absolute truth mate..Am a night crawler myself and have been a victim of the road rage by bigger vehicles many times..But as they say in an old movie..The show must go on…

  12. vivek

    It is very sad to see such description of driving on Indian Road. Being Indian myself I feel ashamed at the way we all behave & drive on roads. Suddenly from sober man one becomes demon sitting behind a wheel. It is suicidal driving in Nights. Your eyes are like they will pop out due to glare from on coming vehicle high beams. One should avoid driving on Indian highways in Night unless he wish to do suicide. Hope some day we all will improve.

  13. Vyshakh

    Very well written article bro. I want to mention a few things that can increase the chances of you being alive, if you are crazy enough to ride again during the night in India. .. 😛
    First and foremost is ABS. I ride a cbr 250 with abs and had done plenty of night rides. ABS has saved my life many times, I wouldn’t be sitting here on my chair and typing this comment otherwise.

    And the second one is led auxiliary lights. I would suggest spots instead of flood lights due to the high intensity longer throw. These things are so power full that the oncoming traffic can be blinded if they come head to head towards you. So they stay away from your line.

    And the rest you can leave upto your luck… ;P

  14. Srinivasan

    Interesting. One more. I don’t know whether any one already given an insight in to this.

    When you drive a vehicle in the wrong lane, you are supposed to switch of the lights and hide in the dark so that no one will know it is coming in the wrong lane.

    This is a double disaster. First vehicle in the wrong direction. Second lights switched off deliberately.