India at a Glance
Foreign Drivers in India: Legal Aspects
Rules and Regulations
Contrary to what you may think about driving in India, there are specific rules and regulations that you are to follow on India’s roads. Although they are not as widely enforced as may be necessary, they still exist and should be obeyed.
- The legal minimum age for driving a car in India is 18.
- Indians drive on the left-hand side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side of the car.
- Blood alcohol content limit is 0.3‰ and punishment for going over is severe: First offense may include imprisonment for up to six months and/or a fine of up to 2,000 rupees. A second offense within three years of the first will be two years of imprisonment and a fine of up to 3,000 rupees.
- You may not use a handheld mobile phone while driving in India.
- The use of seatbelts, although only mandatory in major cities, comes highly recommended.
Before adhering to the above listed road rules in India, you must be sure that you have an Indian driver’s license. The driver’s license is administered by the regional transport office which is under the government of the state, not the country. There are several types of licenses you can apply for, the most important being:
- Motorcycle license: self-explanatory.
- Light motor vehicle license (LMV): This license will apply to all people wishing to drive passenger cars.
- Heavy motor vehicle license (HMV): If you plan on driving a bus or truck, you will need this license.
The process is fairly similar to most other countries. You need to apply for a learner’s license and take a written and practical exam in order to get a permanent license for driving legally. India does not consider foreign licenses valid. Alternatively, you can apply for an international driver’s license in your home country if you are in India on a short-term assignment for less than a year.
Import of Vehicles to India
Importing your used private car is a task that is not only somewhat tricky, but also rather expensive and, ultimately, pointless. As customs duties for imported used cars can be higher than 100% of their actual value, you should only really consider this option if there is absolutely no other way for you to obtain a car that fits your needs.
Most people need an import license in order to take their car with them to India. There are, however, a number of categories for exemption from the need for a license. Customs duties have to be paid in both cases. The exempt categories include, for instance, disabled persons who rely on vehicles customized to their needs, Indians returning to India after a period of at least two years abroad, honorary consuls, and branches or offices of foreign companies.
The vehicle you wish to import has to fulfill a number of requirements, such as a right-hand steering wheel and a speedometer indicating the speed in km/h. Cars whose engine capacity ranges from 1000cc to 2500cc are banned from import.
Please keep in mind that the port in Mumbai is currently the only point of entrance for imported used cars.
To register a car in India, you have to go to the Regional Transport Office in your area of residence and request a registration form. Along with this completed form, you will need:
- sales certificate of car issued by dealer and indicating you as the new owner
- roadworthiness certificate issued by car manufacturer
- “pollution under control” certificate concerning exhaust fumes and emissions
- customs clearance certificate for imported cars
- attested copy of a valid insurance policy
- proof of address
- one-time road tax fee
- registration fee
Car Insurance in India
The only mandatory vehicle insurance in India is third party liability insurance. You have the choice of adding a full-coverage policy, which includes liability against theft and damages by fire, flooding, or earthquakes. Taking into account the road conditions and general living conditions in India, this is probably not a bad idea. There are several good vehicle insurance companies in India, which offer solid and comparatively inexpensive policies.
Most Indians cannot afford to pay the fee for registering a car, let along pay the price of a car. Therefore less than half of the transport demand is made up of private vehicles. However, as an expat, you will probably find cars fairly cheap in India. In fact, the world’s cheapest car, the Tata Nano, was manufactured in India at the selling price of about 2,000 EUR.