January 26 – February 9, 2015
Finding a car and driver for our two week road trip through South India was not an easy task. While companies abound, there are very few with verifiable reviews, such as on Trip Advisor. India by Car and Driver is well rated for trips in North India but were somewhat unresponsive to my requests for a trip in the south. On the other hand, Padimini Ramkumar at South India Tours and Travels was very responsive. While her company is also highly rated on Trip Advisor, I found the reviews rather canned and strange with very few coming from the US. I asked Padmini to give me the name of a former client I could talk to in the US and after a pleasant conversation with her referral I was sold.
The contact in NY had used South India Tours to book her entire trip. We, however, were looking for just a car and driver service as I had booked all our other transportation and hotels myself. That said, when we needed a quick hotel reservation for a last minute change of plans Padmini was very attentive and efficient. We were also quite happy with the add-on sights she suggested such as the temples outside of Hassan.
Traveling by car in India is not easy and I would recommend not doing such a long trip by car alone. See the previous post for details. It is, however, a great way to see a slice of India. Our drivers – we had two for the trip from Chennai to Hampi – were both very courteous and friendly. As far as driving styles, one driver was quite conservative while the other driver was more typical Indian aggressive. English skills were somewhat lacking making details outside the normal when and where type questions difficult. For us this really didn’t pose many difficulties, but if you are looking for a driver with good English skills you may want to use another company.
Both vehicles, Toyota Inovas, were comfortable, clean and in good condition. The one mechanical issue, a radiator hose that was not connected properly, was actually the fault of the dealership and not the driver or the result of poor maintenance.
I paid all fees up front via international wire before we left the US. As promised we paid no additional fees during our trip, although we did give the driver about a 10% tip.