Wide road with motorbikes and cars
One Word Sunday,  Street photography,  Themed galleries

Gallery: dodging traffic around the world

Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?

George Carlin

Sitting in the lobby of our hotel in Agra I was amused to eavesdrop on a conversation between another tourist seated nearby, an elderly English woman, and her guide. She had just arrived by road from Delhi and was insisting that never again would she travel by road in India; it was just too dangerous. Despite being right at the start of a tour planned around road travel she was imperative that the rest of the tour must be conducted by train or air, and that the guide should arrange this for her. We left the room before hearing the outcome of this conversation, but it left me bemused. For me, road journeys in India were, if unnerving, nevertheless among the great joys of travelling there.

While I would hate to drive in many of the countries we’ve visited, and have been known to grip my seat in the car from time to time, somehow I enjoy the excitement of being on these roads. The constant activity, the often deft weaving of vehicles of all kinds among and around each other. It’s so very different from driving in the UK (thankfully!)

In Delhi I shot some video footage from the back seat as we navigated the city’s traffic:

Elsewhere I have taken photos both from cars and from the roadside. Here for Debbie’s One Word Saturday theme of Busy (rather belatedly) are some of my favourites.

Wide road with motorbikes and cars

Traffic in Saigon / HCMC, Vietnam

[my feature photo was taken on the same road]

Bikes and a van on a busy road at night

Night traffic on another road in Saigon / HCMC, Vietnam

Tuk-tuks and bikes passing a domed building

Traffic by the Central Market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, made visiting the market something of a challenge!

This was where we had to master the South East Asian technique of simply walking out into the traffic at a steady pace and NOT STOPPING, however scary it looks!

Lorries and a moped on a dug-up road

The traffic on this road in rural Laos wouldn’t be too bad were it not for the road works!

Queueing traffic on a rural road

More road works, this time near Quilotoa in Ecuador

Taxis, vans and cars on a city street

Traffic near Times Square in New York City

Cars and a bus on city street

Rush hour traffic in Nairobi, Kenya

Motorbikes and cars on a busy road

Now back to that traffic in Delhi that I featured in my video

Tuk-tuk, motorbike, hand-cart and cars

Delhi again, where motorbikes, tuk-tuks, handcarts, cars all jostle for space on the road!

Bikes and motorbikes passing an advertising hoarding

It’s a bit less manic in Agra, but still busy

Street with donkeys, bikes and a tuk-tuk

Donkeys, motorbikes and tuk-tuks share the City Palace Road in Udaipur

Herd of camels on a road

And to finish, a very different sort of traffic jam in rural Rajasthan!


  • equinoxio21

    Very good. The worst “bike/moped” traffic I ever saw, even worse than Bangkok was in Leticia, Colombia, on the Amazon, at the border with Brazil and Peru. Sheer madness. 😉

      • equinoxio21

        Bogotá is a major traffic nightmare. And some of the roads to “tierra caliente” too on holidays.
        Leticia was different. 95% mopeds and bikes…

        • Sarah Wilkie

          I agree about the amount of traffic in Bogota, the jams were horrendous. But it didn’t feel like dangerous driving such as you get in many Asian and African countries. Maybe we didn’t go to the ‘right’ parts!

          • equinoxio21

            Horrendous jams indeed. Last time we went we spent 3 hours on the highway on a 3 kms stretch. There’d been an accident.
            IN West Africa, careless drivers were called “S’en fout la mort.” (Don’t give no sh.t about death!)

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I agree, I wouldn’t drive in a busy city – we don’t even drive in central London! We prefer to use public transport in cities wherever possible 🙂

  • Rose

    While I love road trips and driving, I’d have second thoughts about trying to drive in some of those conditions. It might take a long while to learn the rhythm of those roadways. As others mentioned that camel traffic jam would certainly be interesting to see.

    • Rose

      Also I laughed at the George Carlin Quote, and it seems that all the slow ones drivers are in front of you and all the fast ones are right up too close behind you. 😄

      • Sarah Wilkie

        Yes, that’s very true too Rose 😆 And I love road trips, but only when someone else is driving – my husband usually in the US and an experienced local in places like this!

  • wetanddustyroads

    We’d rather take back roads to avoid traffic … but I don’t think that’s even possible in Delhi 🙃. I much rather prefer traffic jams with sheep over a narrow dirt path somewhere on a farm (your camel traffic jam looks quite intimidating).

  • Anne Sandler

    First Sarah, I love the camel (dromedary) jam! Just look at their faces, they don’t like it! Traffic is everywhere. I once took a picture in Yosemite Valley where the traffic was gridlocked. I enjoyed your video and pictures!

  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    Oh my goodness. I hardly want to drive around our small city where traffic can be awful at times by my standards. But driving, walking, pushing, scootering or whatever would terrify me in the cities you highlighted. I suppose their infrastructures just can’t keep up with the growing populations. Thanks for sharing your interesting insights, Sarah.

  • thehungrytravellers.blog

    Great idea for a post, Sarah! I love it all…whether learning the techniques of driving in an unfamiliar style or just learning to cross the road (as you say) over here in South East Asia, it’s all part of the absolute joy of travelling to different cultures. As of now I’ve driven in 23 different countries, each of them requiring something different. India is the one country we’ve visited so far where I wouldn’t even contemplate driving. Everywhere else is fun….except UK where everybody is aggressive and rude and impatient! I am firmly of the opinion that whilst Brits aren’t the worst drivers in the world, they (we) are definitely the ones with the worst attitude.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Phil 😊 You’re much braver than us when it comes to driving abroad! We’ve only done so in a handful of countries – the US, Canada, Australia, Namibia. It’s partly being wary of traffic conditions but also the fact that only one of you really gets to enjoy the scenery etc. As for Brits, you could be right. Certainly we’ve found that, on the whole, US drivers are far more courteous 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I agree we have chaotic traffic here in India. The sheer population load is probably one of the reasons and of course the number of two wheelers on the road. Most people from less populated places find it challenging. I could actually relate to the traffic in Vietnam but that ride on the cyclo was too scary even for me!!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you for this thoughtful comment 🙂 You’re right of course about population size and two wheelers, but I think the other factor is a culturally different approach to driving, less focused on rules than we are in the West!

  • margaret21

    A great evocative post. I’ll never forget my first morning in India, in Bengaluru. Your video is positively sedate in comparison. I absolutely knew I would die crossing the roads. Oddly, I got used to it pdq … and didn’t die.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Margaret 😊 Yes, it’s amazing how quickly we can adapt our behaviour to cope with these very different conditions – do as the locals do is always a good idea! We were surprised not to see more accidents on Indian roads but our excellent driver Mehar told us that although chaotic in appearance it works because everyone understands that there are no rules and rives accordingly 😀

  • Life...One Big Adventure

    I wish you lived closer. I just finished a book about the slums of Mumbai and I could give it to you – All the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. You really evoked the chaos of India in your photos. Thanks for the memories. Mel

  • Amy

    Traffic around the world, busy indeed! It reminds me the traffic in Cairo. I like how you wrap it up with he traffic jam of the last image. 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Oh yes, I know exactly what you mean about Cairo! If only I’d got around to scanning my old slides of our visit I might have had examples from there to share as well 😀

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