Princes of Delhi : the art of negotiation with rickshaws

“Prudent men always know to make merit of acts necessity constrained them to do”, Machiavel wrote.

He could have been talking about rickshaws use in Delhi. Even though negotiations are exhausting, you have to do it with honours. This guide is an initiation to the art of bargaining. It is one of the hardest arts in the world which Obama would have difficulties to master. This guide gives you the power to do it! Let’s start!

greater kailash

First, let’s discuss some pecuniary issues : in Delhi, you are supposed to pay 25 rupees for the first two kilometers, then 9rs for each additional kilometer. You do not pay anything when the rickshaw is stopped : it refers to the Indian vision of the time, which is definitely not money. Time has not the same value for Indian people and Western people. Here nobody seems to be in a hurry. Being late is neither an insult nor a serious concern. Sadly the meter often happens to be “broken” according to the driver. However these prices should be kept in mind to bargain with rickshaws: 10 rupees per kilometer (9/8rs if you want more challenge; In that case, be ready to have a long discussion) with an additional night-charge after 10 PM and a fee if there are more than three passengers (in that case, one person will have to sit down on another one’s knees or share the driver’s seat). The driver will ask for more in case of traffic jam (it is a trap, this is not a valid argument for a good driver who is able to bypass traffic jam using cycle lanes, sidewalks, challenging red lights and one-way streets.). He may use the “no profit” argument, which is false, do not trust him!

bed and chai

Before a long and epic words battle, you have to check the distance to your destination. Thus you are able to ask for a meter fitted price. How lucky you are if the rickshaw accepts to put the meter! Relax and be careful that the driver does not take a huge detour (you can check your phone in order to make him believe that you are watching a map). If he really made a detour, stop him and do not pay him more than 10 rupees.

Now the negotiation: you have to admit you do not look like an Indian, even worse, you may look like a tourist! As a tourist, the first asked price might be much higher than the right price. However you are not alone, native are also victims of rickshaws.


Your mission is now to approach a rickshaw or to ask one to stop, even if he is driving on the other side of the road. The traffic jam will not stop him. In any case, he will be glad to find a customer. Once he is stopped, call him ‘Baya’ (‘brother’ in Hindi). It will show him you know how it works. Then, ask him ‘How much?’ with a local accent (‘Hav much’). His price will be two or three times more expensive. You just need to frankly smile to show him how his price is ridiculous and get away from his rickshaw. He will rush to call you back and to ask you: ‘Hav much?’. Offer him a 20 or 30% lower price than the price wanted. Thus, the negotiations begins.

Your tone could be indifferent but we advice you to be cordial and cheerful. Bargaining takes part of the charms of the rickshaw. Take positively the situation. Keep on smiling for each one of his offer. You gave your price. You will increase your price only if he decreases his. He must make the first step. You can say him: ‘Please Baya! Too expensive’ he will understand you too.

There are some tools to bargain:

You can pretend to leave to show him that it is too expensive. Actually, you’re really leaving and you’re waiting his return. You should have self-control and patience. If he doesn’t call you back that means he doesn’t deserve you.

Otherwise, you can ask him to switch on the meter saying ‘Meter-sé baya’. In most of the cases, he will answer you ‘meter broken hé’. Use this argument to decrease the price.


Know that if your rickshaw doesn’t have a meter, you can stop the vehicule near police officers ou threat him to call them. He will make you the course free. But use this despicable method only if the driver is particularly dangerous and unpleasant.

Finally, you must know that rickshaws are everywhere. Lose a rickshaw isn’t a problem. The next one already sees you and is coming to you. If you don’t like the driver, you can’t choose another rickshaw.

At the end of the course, if he asks you more money because of the traffic jam or because he was lost, never accept. You have bargained the price before the course. Bargaining is over. And if he says you he has no change, it is obviously a swindle. In this case, go in a shop to make some change. After that, as if by magic, he will find low bills.

Some lexical:

Baya = brother. Use it abuse of this word to win his trust.

Bas = stop. Shout it when you arrive.

Rouco = stop (politely).

Sida = straight.

Tchalo = keep on.