Thanks for all of this above post, I am planning a trip for Mumbai Kolkata Mumbai trip. I saw all the routes mentioned in this thread, I am little worrying about Safety. Please brief me. I will be driving alone, with my wife.
Mr. Nilav can i get your number?
Hello @ SayatanL. Just did a road trip to Kol from Mumbai in Oct. Before I get into the story (later), let me try and address your concerns point wise.
I have gone through both routes ,Route 1> Mum-Nagpur-Raipur-Sambalpur-Kolkata (2014) and Route 2> Mum-Hyd-Vizag-Bhubaneswar (+ detour to Puri)-Kol (2014 & Oct 2016). While both routes are safe (avoid driving after dark), I felt route 2 is much better with regards to safety. This is because, most of the stretch has numerous towns, villages with key cities all along and also good passenger car traffic, great roads, thus you won't feel alone. However, my suggestion - start early & halt early. I had an experience of my own which I will share later in the tips section.
Distance & time:
Route 2 is longer than Route 1 by about 150 kms apx. However, time/fuel consumed is almost (not exact) same. This is because of fabulous road conditions.
Road condition (tarmac & lanes):
Route 1: good till Dhule (Maharashtra), Nagpur to Raipur very small patches of Orissa & post Kharagpur. Rest (majority) was a nightmare - Single laned, numerous diversions, lunar craters, dust, no tarmac (at all). This was ofcourse in 2014 in a WagonR. Things might have improved (unlikely) now. Bigger vehicles might find my above suggestions rubbish :)
Route 2 : Excellent roads till Solapur. Solapur till Hyderabad roads are bad in patches. 4 laning in progress. Hyderabad to Kol is a breeze!
Those who prefer adventure & love the jungles, definitely route 1! Lots of beautiful ghats, jungles, reserve forests. I had halted for a night somewhere near Bangriposi, before Lodhasuli (Avoid Lodhasuli after dark. As advised by locals to me). The night halt experience was amazing. Never had I seen such a starlit sky in my life sitting in the balcony of a hotel, surrounded by forests. My opinion, great if you are alone or gang of guys.
Those who prefer beautiful wide country sides, meadows & leisure with no hassles, Route 2 is definitely for them. Great if you have family including women.
Tips (as per my experience):
> Start early around 5/6am. Earlier makes you droopy which could be dangerous. Halt by 6-7pm, depending on time zone/season you are in.
> Carry enough water. I carry a 20lt bisleri. Saves money & hassles. Enough fruits, dry fruits, candies & juices. Good if you carry brown breads/jams. You will be hungry when you are driving & you wouldnt wana stop frequently either & nor can you trust most highway side vendors for quality.
> Breaks: Give rest to your body & nerves (including the co passengers') whenever needed. Its a ride to enjoy. I had 1 break for breakfast(45 min), 1 for lunch (1 hr), 1 for tea (45 min). Rest were all as per need & mood not lasting more than 10-15 min each. Do not halt in desolate areas. Ideally a good pump or a town market or even a good dhaba.
> Bad experience: I had a bad experience when I halted in a small dhaba (1st mistake) near Kolkata border for tea. Time was about 8pm (2nd mistake) where both me & my wife got down (3rd mistake). Post some snacks I crossed the toll & immediately halted or a pee break , 8:45pm (4th mistake). A cop came and told me to move quickly as this was not a great place to be in. I moved and shortly stopped near a tyre puncture guy to check pressure and also ask directions, 9:15pm (5th mistake). We drove off and within 3-4 mins we were chased by 2 youths in a bike screaming at us to halt at the next crossing. Thankfully we had curtains in the car & inside was not visible. My wife got ready with pepper spray (CARRY them). I did a sharp U-turn and sped back where I halted near a small village apx 10km.Grabbed our breath. Again a U-turn and I tail gated 2 fast moving passenger vehicles. Thugs no where to be seen. Moment we saw 2 cops in the next toll, I narrated our ordeal. They were kind to escort us to the bridge which connects to Howrah. SO yeah..No night driving, pepper sprays & no halting in lonely stretches. Carry an empty bottle if you wana pee in the night :D.
But well, thats part of the game and should not deter us from traveling! Planning a trip to Kutch shortly to get back to our feet ;)