The humble three-wheeled auto-rickshaw might not attract the most attention on the road, but for many travellers in India, it is actually one of the most affordable ways of getting around the country. It is much less expensive than a taxi and thanks to its compact form factor, it can easily not just manoeuvre its way through tight traffic situations but can also make its way into narrow gullies and side roads that are a trademark of many Indian towns and cities. What’s more, they are often very easily available than other means of transport.
There is a catch, though. A big one.
The fares of auto rickshaws are notoriously inconsistent and often differ from driver to driver within the same town. Yes, there are meters on each of these vehicles, but they are often tampered or ignored altogether. And if you are a traveller not familiar with conditions, the chances of your being ripped off are very high indeed.
Fortunately, there is Google Maps. Yes, we all mainly use Google Maps to find out the locations of different places and how to get there as soon as possible. And yes, Google Maps also comes with local public transport options to help you reach your destination. But what not too many know is that Google Maps also shows estimates for auto rickshaw fare. At least on Android at the time of writing (sorry, the iPhone guys and girls do not have it at this moment). All you have to do to use the function is follow these steps:
- Load Google Maps (duh!). You do not have to bother downloading it, as it comes preinstalled on almost all Android phones. Just remember to keep it updated, though.
- As you would normally do, enter the place you wish to go to.
- The app will then show you different navigation options, including by car, on foot, by bike, by public transport, and finally the “hailing” option. It is this last option that you need to tap on.
- Once you select it, you will get a number of choices including cab services and of course, auto rickshaws, labelled “auto.”
- Select the auto option and you will see the rough auto fare from your location to the destination you wish to go to. You will also get an approximate indication of the time it will take to get to your destination using an auto.
Of course, the auto fare services on Google Maps are not available for all cities at the time of writing, but we would recommend trying them out anyway. One of our friends was pleasantly surprised to see it working in some of the smaller towns of the country.
Traveller’s Tip: Most auto-rickshaw drivers are unlikely to agree easily to the fare that Google Maps shows you. But it definitely gives you a rough idea of a figure to negotiate around – it is definitely better than negotiating in the dark.