For 23-year-old Siddharth Jolly, some of his happiest memories are that of his family road-tripping across the country in their caravan when he was 15. Little wonder, when it came to setting up his own business, he decided to set up Carawander, a travel company specialising in caravans. The company that was born in October 2020, finally conducted its first road trip a year later. “We had our caravan ready in May last year but the impact of the second wave was still strong and no one was travelling,” says Jolly. However, since then, things have picked up and his caravans are booked for three-four trips every month.
While travelling by caravan or motorhome is quite popular in the West, it’s picking up in India now with a series of companies leasing out caravans for self-drive or with drivers. “A caravan gives you the option of waking up to the sounds of nature, to panoramic views, sleeping next to a river or a stream, away from the madding crowds,” says Delhi-based graphic designer Vishal Gupta, who likes to hire caravans and explore Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. “Plus, it’s a great way for the family to travel together,” says the father of two boys.
With onboard beds, a well-stocked kitchenette with staples such as tea, coffee, rice and flour, fridge, microwave, utensils, washroom with hot water, RO for drinking water, camping tents and Wi-Fi, a caravan is truly your home on wheels.
Delhi-based Carvaa Travelers, which is the brainchild of four friends—Jigyasu Joshi, Himanshu Jangid, Yogesh Kumar and Pranav Sharma—was set up in 2019 simply because they wanted to hire a caravan and travel across the country but couldn’t find a suitable one. “We found a gap in the market and decided to take the plunge,” says Joshi, Co-founder of Carvaa Travelers, who was a journalist in his previous avatar. They finally started operations in October 2020 and have done over 100 trips since then. Today the company has four caravans, which sleep between two and eight people. While the smallest is not air-conditioned, the other three are.
The cost of hiring a caravan with a driver is between Rs 5,500 and Rs 9,500 per night depending on the size. The driver also doubles up as your helper and can help with cleaning and cooking. As of now, Carvaa Travelers does not give caravans for self-drive; however, it will soon be introducing self-drive vehicles. The company is adding a couple of more vehicles to its fleet. “Caravan travel has the potential of becoming one of the mainstream modes of travelling,” says Joshi. While most people hire a caravan for three-four days, others hire it for longer, sometimes even up to a month.
For Suresh Sharma, who retired from the army as Captain a few years ago, caravanning is a way of life. “I first travelled by caravan in 2000 when my daughter was just six months old. We travelled for half a year from north India to south India covering 12,000 km,” says Sharma. His company Green Dot Expeditions has been promoting caravan travel for the past eight years. “We promote nature conservation through tourism and photography. Caravanning is the perfect way to enjoy an outdoor experiential holiday,” says Sharma, who accompanies most of his guests on their travels. His recreational vehicle, Taurus, is leased for approximately `4,500 per person per night, although final costing is done once the itinerary is finalised. It can accommodate up to eight people and has roof-top tents as well as tents on the side. It’s equipped with all camping equipment such as chairs, tables, hammocks, etc. There are solar panels to help charge mobile phones and cameras. The onboard crew helps prepare all meals. While Green Dot has fixed itineraries for Ladakh and Himachal in the summer, you can always get your itinerary customised.
Jolly’s Carawander offers caravans in two sizes—one sleeps maximum eight people, while the other sleeps six people at most. The larger one is priced at Rs 22,000 a night and the smaller one for Rs 18,000 a night. This includes the fee for the driver and the helper. Both come fully equipped with queen-sized beds, a kitchenette and a washroom.
Since caravanning is still in its nascent stages in India, it faces problems like lack of camping sites. Jolly has tied up with several locations in Rajasthan and Uttarakhand where the caravan can be parked safely at night. In case you are visiting a place not on the list, Jolly’s team will find a safe parking spot in that area. “We have connections with hotels and petrol pumps where we park for the night,” he says.
While Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Uttarakhand are popular destinations in the north, Karnataka and Maharashtra are popular down south. Last year, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation collaborated with Mumbai-based Motohome to encourage caravan travel. Motohome offers a luxury van with proper beds, kitchen, toilet, etc., for Rs 21,000 a day and a self-driven camper van for Rs 4,500 a day. Bengaluru-based Luxe Campers is the country’s first caravan community. On its site you can rent and lease caravans. There are also suggested itineraries.
Although Carvaa Travelers is based in Delhi, it provides you doorstep service anywhere in the country. It charges 50 per cent of the per day cost to transfer the vehicle to your home along with fuel charges and state/toll taxes.
Carvaa Travelers can also customise and design a caravan for you for around Rs 8 lakh and it takes them over two months. Ideally a Force Traveller or a Tata Winger works well as a customised caravan, suggests Joshi.
For your next vacation, it might be a good idea to explore the country in your home-on-wheels.
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