Doing the Rickshaw Run

Camping for Women Doing the Rickshaw Run

By Kristine MacMillan

International Travel & Adventure: Completing the Rickshaw Run across India.

The Rickshaw Run India3 times a year a British company loosely organizes a race across India over a 2 week period. There are 3 different routes, usually one in January, one in April and one in August.

I took part in the north to south route and drove an auto rickshaw some 3000km from Rajasthan to Kerala with 2 girl friends. When I say it’s loosely organized I mean there is a starting point and an end point. How you get between the 2 is up to you. You figure out your route, where you’re going to stay each night and what to do when the rickshaw breaks down. Because, trust me, you will break down.

Our race started in the city of Jaisalmer, so to get to the race starting point we flew from the US to Delhi and then to Jodhpur where we had a driver take us the 5hr drive to Jaisalmer.

Best time(s) to visit:

Personally I think January was the perfect time of year to do the Rickshaw Run as it was cool in northern India and warmed up as we drove further south. The April and August Rickshaw Runs often encounter much hotter temperatures and rain. We were lucky to have excellent weather during our 2 week adventure.

Climate/weather/temperature & appropriate dress for the area and culture:

Rickshaw run 3Outside of Goa I think it’s important to dress conservatively in India. As western women we stood out pretty much everywhere we went, and seeing as we were western women driving a hot pink 3 wheeled rickshaw it was pretty difficult for us to blend in.

The northern part of India was pretty chilly in the mornings and late evenings and we wore fleece jackets and blankets as the back of the rickshaw gets very breezy. As we drove south we needed lighter more breathable clothes.

Main attractions/Must dos:

rickshaw-run-5Here’s the great thing with this adventure- you make your own route. So if you want to detour and head for the Taj Mahal then you can. Our 2 main stops were to Sula Winery in Nashik- did you know that there is good wine in India?

Our other stop was to have 2 nights to stay in Goa with a full day of relaxing and not having to drive the rickshaw.

Other teams got to Goa as fast as they could and stayed there several nights. It’s really up to you and what you want to see!

Rickshaw Run – Key Highlights for me:

Rickshaw run highlightsThe main highlights for me was the interactions we had with local people. When you’re driving in a vehicle that has no doors and a maximum speed of 50km/hr you interact with the environment in a way you can’t in a car. You smell the scents of the passing villages, you can hear the school children calling out as you drive pass. People would wave and follow us all day long.

Sometimes the getting followed part was a little unnerving, sometimes they would pass us cold drinks as they drove alongside us. We had our photos taken hundreds and hundreds of times. We met some extremely kind Indian men who helped us out and without them our journey likely would’ve been different. Many of them came to our rescue during one of our many breakdowns- they never allowed us to pay them for their help- we instead handed out ballcaps as tokens of thanks.

Things that make this experience different or unique:

Rickshaw run 8Everyday on the Rickshaw Run would just happen. We couldn’t plan it out, It just unfolded however it would. I loved the unpredictability of it. We might start the day with a plan and then we might break down 10 times and have to scrap the original plan and just roll with it. It’s not often that you get the opportunity to travel this way. It was a very authentic type of travel and I think that’s one of the things I loved the most- the not knowing who we would meet or what might happen. It really forced me to live in the moment.

Things visitors should be aware of:

The Rickshaw Run is not for the faint of heart and neither are Indian roadside bathrooms. But in all seriousness Indian roads are dangerous. Other teams had bad accidents, some were unable to complete the race. I know a team of 3 girls who recently did the race and their rickshaw flipped when their brakes failed coming down a hill- one of the girls broke her neck. She has recovered, but there is a level of danger with participating in the race.

Travel insurance is essential. Even with insurance you could find yourself in a situation where you are injured and the nearest hospital is a few hours away. We never drove at night as a general rule. We tended to stay on more major roads. Thankfully, we never encountered any situations that we felt our physical safety was an issue.

While here you should:

Interact with the locals and eat local food. Indian food is fantastic. Make sure to stop off at roadside Chai truckstops and have Chai tea with other road warriors. Let go of planning and live in the moment. Trust in yourself and your teammates. Don’t let people tell you that 3 women can’t drive across India safely because I’m living proof that women can!

Budget considerations:

A lot of things factor into how much you budget. We stayed in mostly middle of the range places, though sometimes super cheap places and a couple more expensive places. We also had our 2 nights in Goa comped as we had contacted the hotel prior to going to tell them about our adventure.

The Adventurists (the company that organizes the race) charges $2100 US per team and you’re required to pay a $1300 deposit which is returned if there’s not severe damage to the rickshaw at the end. You’re also required to raise money for charity- the minimum amount is around $1300. The Adventurists have a charity that they support, but you can choose to support another charity as long as you raise half of the minimum amount for their charity. We supported an Indian based charity for sex trafficked women and children which we later visited to volunteer.

You need to also budget for fuel, parts, food, and alcohol. I would guess that we spent about $3000 each including airfare.

Facilities/nearby activities:

The major centers have all the facilities you might need, but in the villages things get a little trickier. More remote places tend to have more questionable accommodation choices and access to medical facilities is more difficult.

If coming here, don’t forget to bring:

An international driving permit is a great idea. We got pulled over twice- both times while I was driving and the police asked to see my license. I’m pretty sure we could’ve bribed our way out of the situation though, had I not had one. Some basic first aid knowledge is a good idea. We brought gifts from home to give to the kind people that helped us along the way- ball caps and flashlights and such.

Reviewer’s rating out of 10:

An 11. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my time on the Rickshaw Run. It will likely be one of the biggest adventures of my life and I dream of doing it again. It was such an incredible experience and it taught me that you can trust in the kindness of strangers.

Location/Activity relevant websites:

theadventurists.com – the website of the organizers of the race.

kickinitsaristyle.com – the website of the Kickin’ it Sari Style Team.

See the video:

Highlights of the entire trip were captured on video, from which a number of clips were compiled into a single video for Camping for Women readers and subscribers.  The video appears below:

 

Kristine MacMillan, a Canadian expatriate nurse living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She blogs at kristinewanders.com 

Kristine has visited 50 countries and counting. She has spent over 3 years living in the Middle East and has travelled extensively throughout the region. She will be leaving Saudi Arabia this fall to walk the Camino de Santiago with her Dad and then spending some time exploring Paris, Amsterdam and Iceland before deciding if she’ll return to the Middle East.

19 thoughts on “Doing the Rickshaw Run

  • May 11, 2019 at 7:07 pm
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    Rickshaw run is a fun adventure for sure. I have heard its tales from fellow bloggers. You did have great stop-overs at Sula in Nasik and Goa. Yes, January was the great month to do. And yes the best part is meeting the locals, stopping st not so popular places and enjoying the little joys of life. I am sure the rickshaw will have a breakdown and people must be prepared to face it and get over it.

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  • May 10, 2019 at 9:30 pm
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    I’ve never heard of the Rickshaw run before and it truly seems like you had an amazing adventure. The vehicle you where driving looks so charming and I can imagine that this was a great and authentic way to experience India.

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  • May 10, 2019 at 3:32 am
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    I am aware of the Rickshaw Run adventure as one of my fellow Indian Travel Blogger did it a few years back. What an adventure to explore places in India. You must have had the time of your life, exploring everything. I am sure that you had cultural shocks as well. But the idea of going places, figuring out everything on your own is quite an adventure. I had a similar road trip with 3 strangers with MTV a few years back and it is still my best adventure trip.

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  • May 9, 2019 at 12:21 pm
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    Rickshaw Run sounds like the Amazing race across India with less clues and more challenges. I like the fact that you can have a great time with this experience while being able to extend help to a charity. And you get to see Incredible India too!

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  • May 9, 2019 at 8:20 am
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    I’ve never heard of the Rickshaw run but your post was quite enlightening. It was interesting to learn that you can make your own route and detour if you wish. In all my travels, I like to interact with the locals and I see there’s a lot of that when doing this challenge. The most important thing to learn is that money is raised for charity.

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  • May 8, 2019 at 11:18 am
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    I had heard of the Rickshaw Run, so it was really interesting to read this article. It sounds super fun and what a unique way to see India. I can imagine it could really test your patience at times with breakdowns, but I guess that only adds to the experience…and at least you can laugh about it afterward!! Not sure I would be brave enough to do it myself, but if a group of friends were up for it then I’d definitely consider!

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  • May 8, 2019 at 9:35 am
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    I haven’t heard about the Rickshaw Challenge before but it sure seems like an awesome experience. It’s also a great chance to mingle with locals and learn a lot about the country. Finally, the good cause is the most important aspect of it all. Thank you for sharing this amazing article

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  • May 8, 2019 at 4:16 am
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    This is the first time I heard about the Rickshaw Run and it’s very interesting. I couldn’t help admiring your pink vehicle! I think I should learn to drive first before experiencing this run 😀

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  • May 7, 2019 at 3:56 am
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    The rickshaw run across India sounds totally kickass! Nice to know about the charity. It is also a great way to mingle with the locals and you see so much of the culture like hands-on experience. It is really important to have the license as you had mentioned, else bribing policemen can cost a lot. I must say you were brave enough to pull this off, very inspiring!

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  • May 6, 2019 at 8:43 pm
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    Wow, the activity looks really cool, I never heard about Rickshaw Run. When I visited Madagascar I had similar vehicle called Tuk-Tuk. The machine had also maximum speed of 50km/hr. I’m planning to visit India in this year in November. It’s good know know that they have similar transport in India.

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  • December 7, 2018 at 8:33 am
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    Wow, what a cracker. I have lived in India for a long time and would have never thought of this option even. I must say it would take courage to travel around the mad streets of India for a long period in these rickshaws. The other thing you quite rightly mentioned is the bathrooms. Indeed not for the fair hearted and something to think about before you get out. Overall a great experience I must say and might give it a shot with a small team of friends on my next visit to India.

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  • December 7, 2018 at 5:46 am
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    I always go for a Rickshaw ride when I visit India as it is my favorite transport. But you really did an adventurous trip with this rickshaw. Touring and exploring many cities with this Rickshaw run needs lots of guts as sometimes on highways rickshaws are dangerous but must be fun also. You proved that in India 3 women can alone drive the Rickshaw safely and enjoyed your trip. And thanks to you that you scored 11 that +1 on the scale of 10 to this adventure run in India. I believe you would visit again and explore more fun and adventure here in India.

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  • December 7, 2018 at 12:45 am
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    Wow! The Rickshaw Run sounds like an amazing adventure!! I have never heard of this! I admire your bravery and sense of adventure! I also love that donation to charity is included as well.

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  • December 6, 2018 at 11:18 am
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    I have never heard of the Rickshaw Run across India but it sounds amazing! How fantastic that you actually took part. I love that you set your own route, and that it gave you the opportunity to meet and interact with local people.

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  • December 6, 2018 at 6:48 am
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    I heard about the Rickshaw Run before and I was planning to attend next year when I visit. It’s definitely an awesome adventure while exploring India while choosing your own route and stays.I can’t think of a better way to get up close and personal with the people and the food

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  • December 5, 2018 at 4:07 pm
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    This is so amazing! I didn’t know of rickshaw run even though I live in India! You girls had so much fun and your joy is contagious. I can feel the thrill too. However, I need to up my driving skills a lot before I take part in this.

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  • December 5, 2018 at 10:04 am
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    I really admire you! Although it sounds like a pretty cool adventure, I don’t think a lot of women would have the guts to do it, especially in India! It can be very unnerving at times, like you mention, to be followed. And although many people are nice, you can come across all kinds of not-so-nice people also and as an Indian women, I have faced certain not very pleasant situations with the men myself so I cannot begin to imagine how it would be for foreigners, making it all the more important for you to blend in! Kudos – you did something really brave and I respect that greatly.

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  • December 4, 2018 at 1:43 pm
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    What a fun and meaningful adventure! I love that there’s a charity component to it, and I’m sure the memories you made with the locals along the way are irreplaceable. Of course there are risks, as with everything else in life, but the rewards certainly appear to outweigh the risks here! I’m so glad I stumbled upon your posts and learned about the Rickshaw Run!

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  • December 4, 2018 at 4:03 am
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    The Rickshaw Race sounds like an awesome adventure while exploring India! I like the flexibility of choosing your own route and stays. While I’m a bit of a control freak, the unpredictability of the rickshaws sounds challenging. But I can’t think of a better way to get up close and personal with the people and the food (and no, I didn’t know India had wineries!). And of course it’s all for a good cause!

    Reply

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