January 26 – February 9, 2015
Connecting the major sites of South India is challenging at best with transportation options between destinations inefficient and slow. While some major cities can be reached by plane, the best option where available, many can only be reached by train, bus or car. As traveling by train and bus is often inconvenient and slow we opted to “splurge” on a car and driver. This option is much cheaper than it would be in other countries, but unfortunately is not much faster.
The simple reality is that the road conditions in much of the South are pitiful, especially in the more remote areas. Even where there are stretches of good road, something will eventually slow you down – town traffic, trucks and busses, animals, pedestrians, festivals, parades, protests, breakdowns, etc. If you google driving times between cities be sure and add at least an hour or two to estimated times. The following is a list of our driving times and the conditions we encountered.
Chennai to Puducherry via Mamallapuram – Despite heavy holiday traffic leaving Chennai the drive took about 2 hours to Mamallapuram and another 2 hours to Puducherry.
Puducherry to Madurai via Trichy – This was one of the smoothest driving days – 3 hours to Trichy plus another 3 hours to Madurai.
Madurai to Munnar via Samanar Hills – 30 minutes to Samanar Hills plus another 6 and half hours to Munnar. A long, slow day plagued with about every reason a journey can be delayed – slow winding roads, truck and bus traffic, herds of animals, car troubles and a political protest just outside of Munnar blocking the traffic in both directions.
Munnar to Alleppey via the Toyota dealership – Seems there was a problem with one of the radiator hoses requiring that we stop at the dealership on our way to Alleppey. I’m happy it was a simple problem, but it cost us time nonetheless – 7 and half hours including an hour and half at the dealership.
Alleppey to Ooty – A very long day, 10 hours, winding mountain roads, heavy bus and truck traffic and an extra slow server at lunch.
Ooty to Mysore – Just 4 and half hours. An amazingly easy day – light traffic through the wildlife reserves north of Ooty.
Mysore to Hassan – Dreading the drive to Hampi from Mysore we decided to leave Mysore a day early and stop in Hassan. A great idea and an easy drive, just 2 and half hours.
Hassan to Hampi – Unfortunately we really didn’t drive far enough to break up the long drive to Hampi. Roads in the state of Karnataka were the worst yet. We never did find out if there was road construction on the main road or what but we took a detour along the slowest roughest roads in India. Fabulous people watching, but the 12 hour drive was exhausting.
Hampi to Goa airport – about 8 and half hours with little difficulty. Once we hit the state of Goa the roads instantaneously and dramatically improved.
What would I do differently? We could have taken the night train between Mysore and Hospet (Hampi), otherwise there really isn’t much we could have done besides choosing a less ambitious itinerary. I have no one to blame but myself and I would do it all over again.
If after reading this you are still looking for a company to provide a car and driver in South India I would recommend getting in touch with Padmini Ramkumar at South India Tours and Travels. Overall we were happy with the services she provided. See the following post for a full review.
Photos from the road: