The art of hailing an auto in Namma Bengaluru


Credit: Jai Iyer

As an engineer, I always try to find logic in everything. After years of persistent effort, I finally concede – there’s no logic when it comes to hailing an autorickshaw in Namma Bengaluru.

Autos refusing a ride isn’t uncommon in Bengaluru. But a few weeks ago I had my moment of epiphany when six empty autos – all going in the same direction – refused me a ride on the straight, freshly white-topped stretch from Silk Board Junction to Koramangala Forum mall. The distance – not more than 2 km.

That’s when it dawned on me – hiring an auto is not for the feeble-minded. It requires advanced and specialised skills. So here goes my attempt to unravel this dark art based on experiences so far.

Let’s go by category…

The stationary autos

The auto driver is busy checking his mobile: Does he turns towards you after you have conveyed your destination? If he doesn’t, it’s very likely that he would have let out that subtle twitch at the corner of his lips that only careful observers can spot. You should immediately move on from there and not waste any more of his time.

Auto driver reading a news paper: He isn’t responding? You may doubt if he’s heard you – trust me, he has heard you loud and clear, and he ain’t interested. Now you may be tempted to offer him one-and-half-meter. This is typically taken as provocation, and response may not be very pleasant. So avoid such experiments and just move on.

After coming across the first two types, you now have an auto driver who has your attention: If he goes into deep thought and takes more than 10 seconds to respond, you really need to get it – he is not interested in the ride, but is just making an effort not to be rude.

A group of auto drivers are chit-chatting: Probably marginally better than the earlier ones, but here the challenge is they don’t give you any direct indication. Typically, they just resume their discussion as though you don’t exist. Again, you need to ‘get it’ and ‘not exist’ at that spot soon.

The slightly more promising ones – moving autos!

Auto going in the opposite direction as your destination: If you wave at an auto going in the opposite direction, you are clearly starting your day on the wrong foot. Some of them can take it quite personally too. You may be tempted to think that the auto had stopped to check where you are going – no, he isn’t going to take a U-turn for you. He just wants to convey that you are on the wrong side of the road and going to the wrong place.

Auto going in the same direction: Here body language is not so important, as these folks are very decisive and quick. Typically, by the time you finish revealing your destination, the auto that was there, won’t be! They are better than the stationary auto guys as they make an effort to convey their decision explicitly.

Probability increases if you are very specific about the destination. For example, don’t give very broad destinations like ‘Koramangala Forum Mall’ or ‘Madiwala Market’. You will be promptly asked to clarify, “Madiwala Market elli?” So you will have to be specific – for example, next to the third vegetable vendor!

Now, the Silk Board to Forum Mall route calls for a special mention. One auto driver had got me completely excited that he responded before the T minus 10 second timer expired. But, “Right side or left side?” Ah! These small things we ignore can make a huge difference. You are now in a big dilemma. What if you picked the side that he doesn’t want to go to? No no, you can’t lie either – you can’t say “right side” just to get the ride and cross over. Cheating is not allowed. Be truthful.

The obvious assumption is that they don’t have a policy of not taking guys in blue shirt and black jeans on Fridays, but you never know.

So, for the patient reader who has read this far and is eagerly awaiting to see the secret sauce – here it is, finally!

The big secret is…to look the auto driver directly in the eyes, to not beat around the bush, and ask him confidently, “Sir, where do you want to go today?” There is a mathematically finite probability you will get a ride someday!

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About Ramkumar S 1 Article
Ramkumar S is a resident of Bellandur


  1. It’s Helerious..
    It’s so true “you are on the wrong side of the road and going to the wrong place”.

  2. It is atleast 10 times difficult and hazardous to hail an auto in Chennai. If you try to engage an Auto in Chennai, then you would know how better our namma Bengalore Auto Drivers are !!!!

  3. Lovely read! I somehow figured this and it worked most of the time: you mention very specific destination to a Rickshaw driver, staring into his eyes, and, meanwhile within 3 seconds pretend to search for another ride. This unexpected competition worked very often…

  4. They are not interested in 1km, 2 km ride. They are interested only in long distance customers 10 km, 15 km etc that too in their desired direction. There also they need double the meter charge!!!

  5. Yesterday I waited for more than 20 minutes with no outcome and several drivers refused to come to my destination. I asked the next auto driver when he war about to move away ’till which point can you come?’. He stopped and said some middle point. I got in, changed the auto midway and reached my destination.

  6. I have also learnt the art by trial n error. I have found that they r keen to take easy routes, roads that dont have traffic jams, busy junctions, police check points, and destination must be close to some auto stand and not any god forsaken place and various other factors if we generally wouldn’t imagine. We can’t blame them can we? I have learnt to read their mind. different tricks for different characters, depending on their age and looks and even depends at what time of the day it happens to be. I would love to share them here, but then in a couple of days I will have to start all over again what took me years to master. Good luck to you all n be your own teacher.

    • Many Autos do not have necessary permit in place or may be expired and they don’t respond if you tell them to come to railway station as they might b caught. They r happy riding within the boundaries defined to b safe.

  7. I concur with what is written. The most inconsistent thing in India is auto fare. There is a lot of intrapersonal interpersonal variation in fare. If auto-rickshaw drivers are universally honest and fair then it will be the most desired means of transport in Bangalore.

  8. Very good and informative observation Ram. You just made me smile and at the same time I just lived my experience with “auto” in this very good article.

  9. As per one auto driver, it’s his auto and his time. Hence he will choose where to go. Told him to put a board in front of the auto, like bus, to indicate where he would like to go. Attitude of these people has to be changed. Otherwise, passengers will have to suffer…

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