Public transportation in India

Planning to live in India without a personal car? No problem! The variety of public transport options that are available for you will take you wherever you need to go!


Local buses with the conductor at the gate

Buses are the most common form of public transportation in cities and are most busy during rush hour. This means that you will most likely not get a chance to board it unless you make it to the starting bus stops or are comfortable pushing your way in. Routes typically cover as many stops as possible and they can take the longest time to get somewhere. Since the routes are pretty fixed, plan your travel with enough time to accommodate waiting in traffic snarls.

Fares are typically low, even on air conditioned buses and tickets can be purchased from the bus conductor using cash only after you board. Be prepared to pay for the tickets in exact change for a smooth transaction and watch out for pickpockets.

Some buses have separate seats assigned for men and women and designated seats for people with disabilities. 

Local Trains

Similar to buses, trains are packed to maximum capacity during rush hour depending on the direction of travel but are usually empty through the rest of the day. Local trains connect the city with it’s surrounding suburbs. Trains are usually on time but be prepared for last minute reschedules. 

Purchase your tickets using cash at the railway station ticketing counter. You can buy several trips at once if you need to use it regularly. Crowded trains also invite pickpockets so stay alert and keep your belongings secure at all times.

Local trains have a few compartments assigned just for women. Men are not allowed on these compartments but women are allowed on all compartments. 

Also read: Train travel in India for first time travelers

Metro rail

All major cities enjoy metro rail service. These trains are super fast, generally on time and connect all major destinations in the cities.

Low fares and convenient connections all around the city also mean that they are overcrowded to the point of discomfort during rush hour. They are usually also quite crowded throughout the day.  You can purchase your ticket at the ticketing counters at any metro station within the city.

Priority seats are marked and other seats are available for everyone else. 


Yellow taxis

Yellow cabs are still one of the most common taxis found in Kolkata and Mumbai. Other cities also have regular taxis that are usually not yellow in color. Taxis can usually be hired from taxi stands. In Kolkata and Mumbai, empty running taxis can be hailed from anywhere.

Taxi meter

Fares are generated by the meter reading inside taxis. Payment is generally made by cash after you reach your destination and most of the time, if you can’t pay the exact fare amount, then you can forget about getting the balance change amount! Taxi drivers are also known to decline rides as often as they wish and often quote a fixed fare amount instead of using the meter. You can negotiate a deal that works for you. You can book the taxi all to yourself or use one as a shuttle service open to others as well. 


Replacing the monopoly of taxis in most Indian cities are uber cars. You can expect polite drivers who issue a printed receipt at the end of your ride. Uber services work pretty much the same everywhere – get the app and book your ride. In India you can pay for the ride at the end of the trip by cash. Uber services usually charge a little higher than other public transportation but they are fairly reliable and not fussy.

You can call the emergency number to resolve any disputes you have with an uber driver. The emergency number will connect you to your local police station where you can register a complaint and uber will call you back with a solution.

Book your Overseas Coach


This cab service is similar to Uber but for some routes they are a little less expensive. They are available in most Indian cities. Ola rides can be booked through an app or you can hail and board an empty Ola ride without booking on the app. You can pay for your ride through your registered card or by cash at the end of the journey.

For any disputes, call the emergency number and fare errors can be adjusted during your next ride.

Ferry Launch

Some cities, like Kochi and Kolkata offer ferry launches to travel across rivers.

Tickets can be purchased at ticketing counters at designated zones along the river banks. Fares are low and you can escape terrible traffic snarls by using these water routes. Routes are limited to destinations close to the water bodies. People board and disembark in an orderly queue and you can watch the beautiful city lights as you escape the smoky streets. 

Auto rickshaws

The notorious auto rickshaws

These are probably the craziest ride in every city. Autos are small vehicles that are open on two sides. They are ideal for short distances but some cities offer longer connections. In some cities the routes are fixed and some cities you can book them to take you anywhere within their permitted zones. You can board them from their stops and hold on firmly so that you don’t fly out. 

Fares are low and you will do well to pay in exact cash when you reach your destination.

Cycle rickshaws

Cycle rickshaw

Need to get somewhere within a few kilometers but don’t want to walk by yourself?  Use the services of a cycle rickshaw. They are suited for narrow lanes within residential localities. They are especially useful when the sun is scorching hot or if the rains cause the streets to flood. 

Payment is made in cash after you reach your destination.

Also read: Living Overseas: Reflections about India


Kolkata is the only city that still has a functioning tram network and connects a few iconic places. Even though it is used as public transport, they are slow moving and ideal for a touristy ride of the city.

You can buy tickets after boarding the tram and before getting off at your destination. The tram conductor will come to you during the ride for your tickets.

Safe travels in and around India!

Which of these rides are you planning to use during your visit? Share with us in the comments below! 

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