Hiring an autorickshaw in Chennai is a fucking nightmare. (Well all over India, but more so here). The auto drivers are illiterate, uncouth and rude assholes who are out to rip you off. All auto charges are unregulated – this means that the meter is a mere decoration – and the drivers charge outrageous prices . The drivers are school dropouts without zero education and zero road sense ; They drive the auto as if they are in a freaking video game. The bus is not a great alternative, because they always seems to be packed and you have to figure out the routes. However, hiring a “call-taxi” is a great alternative. I recommend Fasttrack. They are economical and provide punctual and efficient service. The drivers are courteous and professional. The only catch is you can’t wave them down – you have to make a booking on the phone and then they pick you up. I seriously recommend to always hire a call taxi in Chennai.
Sometimes taking the auto is a necessity, here are a few tips to make the experience slightly tolerable.
Always fix the fare before getting into the Auto. Auto drivers sometimes ask for you to quote the price you are willing to pay. If you know the realistic fare for the distance – then just quote that fare and stick to your guns. If the driver demands more, just walk away – he will most likely follow you and agree for your price. Otherwise just pick another auto which would have queued up in the background while you are haggling with the current one.
Now, if the auto driver quotes a price – a good guideline is to immediately cut that price by 40-50%. This will be the “real” price. If further negotiations ensue, do not pay anything more than 10Rs in addition to the real price. Just say balls and walk away. Supply is more than demand – You’ll always win.
The other thing to watch out for is reckless and downright dangerous driving by the drivers. Breakneck speeds, sharp turns, violation of red signals, one-ways and all kinds of depravity. I don’t know if they get their kicks out of some deranged sense of bravado. If you feel the driving is reckless firmly ask the driver to slow down. Do not be silent – the autorickshaw is an inherently unstable vehicle – its better to be safe then sorry. Sometimes the drivers are also drunk – in this case immediately bail from the vehicle. Pay some money if necessary, but just get the hell out.