Chennai-Mysore by Self Drive-Dating Skoda Octavia

“Indulge” is the one word to explain what I did for 72 hours starting June 5 2008 midnight till June 8th 2008 midnight. I took a Skoda Octavia on self drive from Hertz Chennai and drove all the way to Bangalore-Mysore and Back, totaling over 1300 kms in 3 days. This post is an experience account of this excursion.

Most of my friends and relatives know that I love driving. Beg/borrow/steal I try to get my hands behind wheels at every available opportunity. Many have handed over their keys to me hesitantly while few have said polite but firm NO when asked if I can drive their car a bit. Have driven several vehicles so far, such as WagonR, Mahindra Utility and Pickup, Accent, Esteem, Indica and Tavera, totaling to few thousand kms. [Details of me driving a tractor in this post, video of me driving Tavera here] But all these drives were for small stretches each time, not long drives extending hundreds of kms to quench me. I haven’t saved enough to buy a luxury car yet (maybe I can buy one on loan but I am not sure if I will enjoy owning a car as much I do driving it) but fortunately I am in a position to afford (once in a while) the luxury of renting a car for few days. Minimum age for self drive was 25 years sometime back but recently Hertz has brought it down to 23 years, obviously to target young executives. This made me eligible for self drive.

When a Mysore visit was being contemplated I decided to use this opportunity to indulge in what I always wanted to do-long drive in a sporty vehicle. I wanted to rent a TATA Safari but Hertz said they don’t have Safari on Self Drive. (For the uninitiated, Self Drive is a rental scheme where you can take a vehicle from car rental company without a driver. You drive and take care of the car for the duration you rent it) Dream brands like Mercedez were pretty expensive (may be next time) so I decided to settle for a Czech beauty named Skoda Octavia, which I felt sporty enough (A beast of 1.9 liter engine within with 170 kmph max speed). Got a booking confirmation from Hertz.

I wasn’t sure if any of my friends would join me in this drive (Reasons: 1. They do fear for their lives, 2. Departure was on Thursday night so anyone joining me were required to apply leave on Friday, 3. The mail I had sent was a bit formal-demanding high punctuality) but to my surprise many people showed interest. All 5 seats were full for Chennai Bangalore sector and I had to deny seats to two people who wanted to join. For Bangalore-Mysore sector there were 2 passengers (Chandrakanth & Nagaraj- If I had shouted Mysore-Mysore in Kalasipalya market I would have got some passengers and coffee money too: LOL). For Mysore local site seeing I had my family members and relatives for company and for return journey (It was a day journey-most of my passengers preferred to spend time with family during the day and start by night) I had only one passenger-Nagaraj.

Passengers for Chennai-Bangalore sector
Made adequate preparations for the journey- A first aid kit, a print out with name and contact details of hospitals in Vellore, Hosur, Bangalore, Madya and Mysore, pre boarding safety instructions to passengers etc. But the 3 days journey ended smoothly without even a minor incident. I was anticipating problems like road blocks etc-because of fuel price hike and fertilizer shortage related agitations. But was lucky not to face any.

Got my hands on the Skoda at around 2330 hours on 5th June. To my disappointment, the car was several years old model and had age old cassette player, except front left, remaining 3 tyres hardly had any threads on them. Natural with its age, it also had several minor dents and scratches. Took the delivery, reached home and when I wanted to take a reverse I was in for a surprise. All the cars I had driven so far had reverse gear on extreme right, below 5th gear, but in Skoda this was different-on the extreme left, adjacent to first gear. I could not move the vehicle backward-called the Hertz driver and he told that I need to push the lever down and then move to position. Not sure why Skoda has this crazy position for reverse gear-very tough to identify if the vehicle is in 1st gear or reverse, unless you experience the vehicle moving. Loaded my luggage and picked up my co passengers. Removed my shoes and shifted to chappal, as I feel more confident and comfortable when I can feel the pedals with my legs and it was nearly 0100 hours when we left Chennai city limits.

I had covered Chennai Bangalore on bike some 2 years ago and had taken some 7 hours to reach Bangalore. This time in a car, I had benchmarks to exceed. Night driving was new to me but was fun. Making way through slow moving trucks soon we hit the relatively empty highway. Had slept for few hours previous evening to prepare myself for an all night drive. Chennai Bangalore road is superb (Via Vellore and Hosur) and driving was real fun. Some stretches of the road had self reflecting navigation lights-which made driving easy. The headlamp was just adequate, though I wished they were slightly more powerful. Lack of full visibility forced me to stay within 150 kmph. Nearly 150 Rs was spent on 4 toll gates that exist between Chennai and Bangalore. With 2 minor breaks and one major break in Hosur, we reached Bangalore city (Basavanagudi) by 6 AM. 2 of my passengers (Sudhir and Krishna Shastry)) got down in Bangalore and soon we were on Bangalore-Mysore Express corridor. We stopped at Kamat Lokaruchi for a refreshment and were in Mysore (Saraswatipuram) by 9 AM.

Driving by green country side

My family and relatives were taken by kind of surprise when I told I came driving all the way. 550 kms in 8 hours. After refreshments plans for next 3 days were drafted. We had seen Mysore local tourist places-palace, KRS, Chamundi Hills etc, so this time focus was on tourist places on the outskirts of Mysore. We visited Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary, Srirangapatna, Shivanasamudra, Talakkad and Somanatheshwara Temple and the Infosys Campus. Information about these places already exists on internet, so not planning separate post on each of these. (To be honest, we did a lot of searching on internet about these places but the info was bare basic. For all practical information (what is the distance between two places, which road to take, is the road good etc) we had to stop and ask locals)

Taking a vehicle on self drive has its own pros and cons, which warrants a separate post. I enjoyed being undisputed owner of that car for 3 days. Could perfect my skills in every aspect of driving-city and highway, day and night, good and bad roads, parking, reversing and more. Two wheelers and autos were the most dreaded things during my drive, because of their tendency to make unpredictable movements. Had to ask Nagaraju to keep an eye on vehicles coming on left side for any possible abrupt movements. To all those maniac drivers of 2 and 3 wheelers- if you’re alive still it is not because you drive great-it is because we, the four and six wheeler drivers are being considerate enough to accommodate your rash and abrupt movements on the road.
3 days went off in a flash. Wish the journey lasted little longer…


About the car: Except that engine was powerful, didn’t find any appreciable difference in this car w.r.t interiors and suspension, compared to other cars I have driven, say WagonR and Indigo CS. (Note: The Skoda I drove is 4-5 years old model, cheapest variant in its class and was being used as a taxi. So one shouldn’t keep too many expectations.) But vehicle is quite sturdy and stable. Even at 160-170 kmph there were no hesitation from the engine or vibration in the body. For 1300 kms it consumed over 81 litres of diesel, resulting in a highway average of nearly 16 kmpl, which is quite decent.(AC was used for may be just 10% of the drive-rest of the time we rolled down the windows and enjoyed the cool breeze of nature). Ground clearance was a bit poor, wiper and indicator controls were unconventional, similar to Ford.


The rent was supposed to be Rs 4500 per day plus tax, but Hertz gave me a discount and charged me Rs 13014 (or Rs 4340 per day approx-not sure why I was given a discount-I think it is a corporate discount while JOJO feels it is because I returned the car in one piece!) Little more than 3067 Rs was spent on diesel, resulting in net expense of about Rs 12.4 per km, which is far cheaper than chauffeur driven rental option for 3 days/1300 kms for Skoda. All in all it proved to be a bit heavy on my pocket but as I said in the beginning, once in a while we need to indulge in what we enjoy doing, so I am not complaining.

I want to drive a Volvo bus next… Any rental company in this world giving me a B7R on self drive? Please let me know.

Related: A driver's instincts * A Complete Guide to self drive car rentals in India * Bangalore Wayanad escapade in a Scorpio

2011 Updates: Hertz has sold that Octavia. Skoda has also discontinued Octavia and Rapid is the replacement for it. I doubt if Rapid can be as good as Octavia. Aria 4x4 review * Aria photoshoot Set 1Set 2 * Aria in Mullayanagiri * ottinene * Ford Endeavor Review

29 comments:

  1. Interesting post - I didn't know the concept of 'self-drive' even existed in India. The only time I (my family, rather) has rented a car, it was with a driver.

    16 kmpl sounds like excellent mileage to me - I was just wondering though, about your point regarding keeping the windows down. While this does save on fuel and battery (by not utilising the air-conditioner), it becomes ineffective on the highways as it increases the air resistance of the car, especially at speeds as high as 150 kmph. For city driving, it makes more sense to keep the windows rolled down, but in Chennai, it's difficult to tolerate the heat.

    I'm not sure if this would work in India (I hadn't heard of it before I came to America) - my friend and I drove 600 miles across the eastern part of the US, and we never turned on the A/C. We had our windows up, but there was still air coming in from outside the car. I don't know if that option exists in India, but if it does, that's the ideal thing to do.

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  2. Hi Navaneethan,

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Yes, 16 kmpl was above expectation. I had read that it gives 8+ in city and 12+ on highway...

    Regarding windows-we kept it open just enough to allow some cool breeze flow in. Didn't experience any impact on the speed/stability of the vehicle.

    Yes, some cars will have air ducts which can suck air from outside (while the car is moving) and distribute it inside. ALl old models had this, now with AC being quite common this is disabled I guess.

    Thanks for the comment.

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  3. A really good post Nidhi.. Keep up the good work....

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  4. I love these long drives, for the last long drive to LA we had taken a 3.5 litres Volvo, and CA usually doesnt have snowy roads, so sweared we wouldnt slow down until we saw a parolling aircraft hovering over us :)

    ....But I dont think I can drive in India.

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  5. Really Awesome post dude...I Imagined my self being in that car..I wish I would accompany u ..I too drove from B'lore to Mysore on bike, but all alone.. driving in car with friends is a memorable experience...Keep posting such good posts..

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  6. @Madhavan..

    Thanks

    @Maverik
    Yeah...one day I'll cruise on those autobahns too...

    Driving in India is not really fun...it is a skill at par with rock climbing or other dangerous sports...

    @SK,
    Thanks. Will keep you informed for next trip...

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  7. What with fuel prices going over the top these "dates" are going to become more and more expensive I'm afraid.

    Have you driven Fiat Palio? We bought the Palio Stile Multijet Diesel recently after our old Indica gave up the ghost.

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  8. Yes and if there's a next time, please let me know and I'll see if I can join you. :-)

    I too like driving on highways provided the road is not too bad and it becomes a chore.

    I'd like to do the Chennai Bangalore trip myself. Have never done it by car yet.

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  9. Hari,

    Congrats on the new car. No-I haven't driven Palio.

    Have mailed you regarding your interest

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  10. Wow .. Skoda is a dream car for many of us here.

    I have personally never had the courage to drive in the night. I am also planning to do a long roadtrip sometime soon. Lets see when that happens. Next time you are in Bangalore, lets catch up

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  11. Hi Prateek,

    Sure,we'll meet soon...Keep me informed of your trip...

    Regards,
    Nidhi

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  12. I love traveling too... but not alone... yes ofcourse with friends..! ;) Thats the most enjoyable part in life and this ride seems to be the most enjoyed for you and that to with a Skoda Octavia...OMG! Wish I may experience this...

    And BTW those pics are cool.. :)

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  13. I've been dreaming about renting a car from Hertz and going on a long getaway for a few days - exactly what you did! And the Skoda Octavia happens to be one of my favorite cars! Bravo!

    Nice to see your writeup. The 16kmpl is a little low I think - the diesel Octy usually gives around 19. And I didn't know that Hertz had reduced the eligible age for self-driven cars to 23 - I thought I would have to wait for till my 25th birthday later this year. :)

    Keep up the good work!

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  14. @joel,

    Thanks for the comment...

    @Anand...You too can enjoy self drive now..

    Not really sure about mileage...Info available on net ranges from 8 kmpl to 22 kmpl... That might depend on several parameters-petrol/diesel, city, highway, 1.9 or 1.8 litre ones, CRDI or otherwise etc

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  15. Comments received for this post at MS: Chintu25 said:
    Jun 13, 2008 09:20 AM

    Hi :)

    See I was right :) and I hope u enjoyed the whole experience :)

    Thats it from me...can’t mutter anything intelligent about a car :)

    But I wish that you own your own luxury car very soon :)

    Smita

    PS Try removing the extra spaces

    bhupeshrai said:
    Jun 13, 2008 09:23 AM

    soo
    this was ur czeck beauty
    hehehehehehe
    loved the way of writing........
    Ipshonlu said:
    Jun 13, 2008 09:50 AM

    Hi Shrini,
    Great write up and nice vid! Looks like you and your Czech beauty had some good times! So, what if she was a bit over the hill (older model)? right? :-))
    I used to go on long drives a lot in the past, these days no time....And yeah, hope you do get a Volvo bus or Mercedez E-Class as your next dream date :))

    Best
    Ips
    paulose said:
    Jun 13, 2008 09:55 AM

    how abt namma BMTC volvo buses ? ;-) that was a good read !! .. and congrats on 75!

    cheers
    santhosh
    spikeguard said:
    Jun 13, 2008 09:55 AM

    More of a revu on Hertz. The price u paid for a 4-5 year old vehicle was very high. Their rates in US are 50% less with 2008 and 2009 models vehicles. Did you have complete insurance from them too? Then the price was probably right. Else u were ripped. Also, if tread on tyres was worn out - its a safety hazard. If u paid so much, u shd hv got better tyres. Worn out tyres at such high speeds can cause tyre bursting and risk of an accident is increased.

    Maybe u shd write abt Hertz.

    !! Spike !!
    sam_123 said:
    Jun 13, 2008 09:59 AM

    u have uploaded a good vedio n ur writing style is also good
    Ipshonlu said:
    Jun 13, 2008 10:07 AM

    Hi Shrini again,

    I forgot to congratulate you on your 75th!! Hearty Congratulations!

    Ips
    jpmlore said:
    Jun 13, 2008 10:10 AM

    hi nidhi,
    congrats on your 75th review. i had read your blog before and hand an idea that this was coming. nice writeup. hope u get to ride a volvo next time. maybe like paulose says try BMTC ;)

    Bigmouth66 said:
    Jun 13, 2008 10:41 AM

    Nice review.
    Next on mind a Volvo Bus? That’s a very big leap.
    Best Wishes for your future endeavours
    nidhi1 said:
    Jun 13, 2008 11:15 AM

    Hi Shrinidhi,

    congrats for hitting 75...

    Good review!

    Keep writing!

    Cheers!
    Nidhi
    hakoonamatata said:
    Jun 13, 2008 12:55 PM

    Will comment after reading you full version. I know where it is.
    alk_ranjan said:
    Jun 13, 2008 07:09 PM

    i see a scared you...is it the case because of borrowed vehicle driven with 100% caution? or u were wiery driving on a highway...also i see u do lot more zigzag specially when u overtake from left- it might turn into suicidal. next time keep these things in mind

    enjoyed reading this

    spikeguard said:
    Jun 13, 2008 10:57 PM

    Hi Nidhi,

    You cannot get the rates, but to pay twice the amount for a car thats so many years old and one thats shoddy on top of that is being cheated thrice over!

    You are right when you say that in India, the market for self-drive rentals is less. If they provide such pathetic, overcharged services, why would any Indian use it! Especially when they can rent a tata-sumo @ such cheap rates - one that comes with a driver and without the worry of liability or insurance!

    !! Spike !!
    angel25 said:
    Jun 14, 2008 01:03 AM

    hmm

    Here in the US the norm is to rent a car and drive it urself, hirring someone to drive it for you is way to expensive.

    The best part in the review...was perhaps the last sentence :) funny

    Btw this trip to India....we also drove form Chennai to B’lore....except we were driven there :)

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  16. Srinidhi - I love driving too, so i can understand the sentiment behind your doing so, even if u had to rent one.

    Have you heard the joke about driving in India "Driving in India is not an just an art, its a Martial Art" :0-). Drive Safe, Take Care

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  17. Hi Dev,

    Thanks for visiting by and commenting.

    So true on that martial art aspect... couldn't agree more.

    Thanks again

    ReplyDelete
  18. Kerala is one of the sought after International tourist destinations in Asia.


    Kerala has a unique geographical features that has and is attracting tourist from across the globe.
    Kerala is the south west tip of India, enclosed by the Arabian Sea on the west and Western Ghats on the east.

    This coastline state of India stretches to about 600 Kilo Meters of clean beaches, serene backwaters, green paddy fields, swaying coconut lagoons, dense green jungles and hill stations.

    Kerala's rich and unique art forms and a highly literate society has always been a part of its Unique selling point.

    Kerala! the charming, seductive, serene, exotic and blessed land is no wonder called "God's Own Country".

    As Jose says (joseyown@providence.usa.com) "When life gets your heart tiring, think of KERALA, and here the nature will heal you".

    In the following linked pages, I attempt to give you some facts and useful information about Kerala.

    http://www.fly2kerala.com/

    ReplyDelete
  19. A Very nice write up. The narration is excellent with a nice blend of facts & humour. Keep it up. Like to read about your future adventures.

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  20. Thanks Sundar, I feel I could have written it better...

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  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  22. Lots of people are not aware of the fact that Self driven cars are available in Chennai/India.

    I really enjoyed the article and wish you all the best for your future adventures.

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  23. Yes. Many are unaware.

    Thanks. But do you really have FOrd Endeavor and Honda CRV on rent? what is the rental?

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  24. I read your driving experience in SKODA to mysore and the places u visited

    U could add BR Hills (Billiranga Hills) to your itenary next time

    I have visited

    Damn good place for one or two night stay

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  25. Yes, BR hills is one of the pending destinations.. I've a very big list and very little time (and money...)

    Thanks

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  26. I am driving down from Bangalore to Chennai on 16-Jun evening. Anyone wanna join....... Mail me aarvinn@rediffmail.com

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  27. Nice write up. Wanted to rent a self driven car in Bangalore and everybody I checked with said they would rent chauffeur driven. Please let me know if somebody here rents.

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  28. Gowtham: if you have a credit card, DL and several other requirements needed by rental agencies, check with Hertz, Avis and Budgetcars

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  29. There's nothing quite like the occasional road trip. It is practically a little adventure in itself.

    ReplyDelete

Appreciate your efforts and interests to comment. Comments may be moderated due to increased spam. Will ideally respond to comments within few days- Shrinidhi

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