Self-drive holidays in rented cars, a new way to explore
A holiday is always much awaited thing in any family. How the entire experience starts can actually make it or break it. As I landed in Chennai a few weeks back I had my apprehensions firmly in place. That’s because I was going to try something I’d only heard about and had no idea just how the entire process would play out. I’m talking about self drive car rentals, an idea slowly but surely picking up in our country.
On paper it sounds really attractive. It costs much lesser than hiring a cab and if you love to drive then this is just for you. I had booked a Zoomcar for three days for a weekend getaway to Pondicherry. The process was pretty simple; choose your vehicle online from the list of available options , make an advance payment and it’s done. The fact that my flight landed earlier than the expected time of arrival only increased my uncertainties.
But one call to the Zoomcar representative was enough to the put all that to rest. He was already at the airport waiting for me and as soon as I stepped out I saw a bright red XUV 500 coming towards me. A Zoomcar logo was on the front door enough for me to recognize the car and I stepped into a world I had never experienced before. Zoomcar holds the distinction of being India’s first 100% self drive car rental company.
It allows users to rent the cars by the hour, day, week or month. Founded only in 2013, it presently services customers across Bangalore, Pune, Delhi NCR, Chennai, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Some of these cities offer an option of customers receiving the cars at their preferred address (chargeable) while in others you may have to go to a nearby location to pick up the car.
The company can boast of an expanding fleet which is currently clocking over 1500 cars which includes Ford Figo and Ecosport, Honda City and Amaze, Mahindra Scorpio and XUV, Tata Safari and Nano, and even the BMW 3 series & Mercedes A class and GLA class. Once you leave the madness of Chennai behind the drive along the east coast road was as scenic as ever. The roughly 150 kms journey was full of beautiful sights of the sea and backwaters.
Owing to the road widening, the highway was full of bumps and diversions, but this where a car like XUV helped, soaking in all those bumps. And instead of relying on a self minded cab driver, you can drive the way you want, at your own pace. It wasn’t long before we reached the borders of Pondicherry state and that meant we had to stop and get a temporary permit.
This is because all Zoomcars have a commercial taxi permit need to pay state taxes whenever they enter a new state. According to Greg Moran, CEO & Co-founder of Zoomcar, “Each state has a different tax and permitting laws which makes it more challenging and expensive to expand into new territories”. The good thing is that these cars are kept in a special self drive category where one does not need a commercial license to drive them.
Pondicherry is quite unlike most other Indian towns. Its colourful, its clean and there is hardly any traffic. It’s not very big in terms of area but the distances to major landmarks are not walkable.That means a car comes in really handy as finding a parking space is never a problem. And this where the XUV was put to good use; be it visiting the wonderfully maintained Promenade or the extremely popular Auroville Ashram this was certainly a better option than auto rickshaws.
The fact that i saw four more cars with the Zoomcar logo in the Auroville visitor parking lot just reinforced my decision to make this a self drive holiday. Auroville is meant to be a universal town where men and women of all countries live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds and politics. However when it comes to visiting the Promenade in the evening even a Zoomcar cannot help as the seafront is closed for traffic after 6 pm.
Owing to its rich French heritage there is a lot to explore in Pondicherry. It has many colonial buildings, churches, temples as well as statues. The architecture of the colonial buildings is worth noticing and the cameras just kept clicking. Pondicherry is also known for its unique mixture of Tamil and French cuisines and there is no dearth of good places to eat at. As our stay at the pretty La Maison Tamoule neared the end, we got ready to get back to Chennai to catch for our flight.
The journey was as seamless as it was when we arrived and so was the car returning process as once again the Zoomcar representative wa waiting for us at the airport. It certainly was a great holiday; where we went, where we stayed and how we went was all spot on.
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