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India at a Glance

Foreign Drivers in India: Legal Aspects

If you are an adventurous spirit, driving in India might be the thrill you have been looking for. If not, you should get a professional driver to navigate you through the congested streets and their unwritten rules. Our driving guide for expats gives you a good idea of what to expect.

Out of Chaos Comes Order: The Most Important Driving Regulations

Contrary to what you might expect when thinking about driving in India, there are specific rules and regulations to be followed on India’s roads. Although they are not always enforced, they still exist and should be obeyed:

Before adhering to the above mentioned road rules in India, be sure to have an Indian driver’s license. The driver’s license is administered by the regional transport office which is under the governance of the state, not the federal government. There are several types of licenses you can apply for, the most important being:

The process of getting said license 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: Mission Impossible?

Importing your used private car is an undertaking that is not only somewhat tricky but also rather expensive and, ultimately, pointless. As customs duties for imported used cars can run up to 160% 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 1,000cc to 2,500cc are banned from import.

Please keep in mind that the port in Mumbai is currently the only point of entrance for imported used cars.

Vehicle Registration

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:

Car Insurance in India: Highly Recommended

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 state of the roads 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 buy a car, let alone pay the fee for registering one. For this reason less than half of the demand is for 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.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine