Fancy a road trip from Sydney to Melbourne, through seaside villages and spectacular beaches in Australia, or a drive through the 2,600-km Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland, the longest defined coastal route in the world? Help is at hand.

Some top tour operators are now offering customised self-drive holidays as they adapt to evolving demands of modern travellers. Self-drive tours are about independent travelling, but now even tailored end-to-end package providers are giving clients the liberty to explore places on their own.

Cox & Kings, for example, ventured into this nascent market last month with Self Drive 365 service. Online travel planner BigBreaks. com and curated holiday platform Travkart are among other operators offering self-drive tours, while global car services provider Avis is tying up with Indian travel operators for its selfdrive overseas holidays. Several Indian travellers are excited about these new offerings.

Orissa resident Anish Chaudhary sought the assistance of BigBreaks.com for a Delhi to Rishikesh holiday this month. “I like driving on holidays as you can stop by and explore destinations at your own pace and there is privacy. Hiring a cab with a driver is restrictive,” he said. Chaudhary is planning another road trip to Leh Ladakh and will consider going for a similar package.

Jason Lobo, a Mumbai-based marketing professional, is planning a road trip in New Zealand in November with his fiancé through Self Drive 365. “I am adventurous while my fiancé would like to explore the cultural aspects,” said Lobo who has already done some road trips, including biking to Leh-Ladakh and driving from Orlando to Miami in the US.

“It helps to have assistance for accommodation and sightseeing. The nittygritties are taken care of,” he said about curated self-drive trip.

Debolin Sen, head at Self Drive 365, said the company has identified ten important road trip routes in the country, including Bengaluru-Mahabalipuram-Puducherry-Benga luru, and Ahmedabad-Bhuj-Dhordo-Dholavira-Ahmedabad, besides international road trips in countries including Ireland, New Zealand and Switzerland.

“The top 10 domestic tours show the upgrading infrastructure of India,” he said. “Contrary to the belief that self-drive holidays are possible only at international destinations, we are opening up the domestic market. The government’s emphasis on road connectivity and the development in road infrastructure has emerged as a positive trend for this sector,” Sen said.

BigBreaks.com launched self-driving holiday packages in February in association with self-driving car rental company Myles. “At an all-inclusive price, travellers can book a complete holiday that includes self-drive car rentals and hotel accommodation on pre-planned routes,” said Kapil Goswamy, chairman at BigBreaks. com.

The company has packages like a two nights three days Chennai-Pondicherry self-drive tour for Rs 9,000 and other trips covering Nainital, Jim Corbett, Haridwar and Rishikesh. It plans to go international soon. American car rental multinational Avis launched its self-drive services in India in December 2016 and has operations in ten cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad.

Sunil Gupta, MD at Avis India, said the company has tied up with more than 250 travel agents, tour operators and travel management companies under its travel partner programme. Travkart, a unit of Holidays by Sahibji Pvt Ltd, said it has seen a 40% rise in the domestic self-drive holiday segment this year compared to last year while this segment recorded 25% upsurge in the international circuit. Popular stretches on Travkart include the Leh-Manali route and Spanish locales covered in the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

Companies say construction of new highways and expressways has given people an avenue to drive around in their cars and experience the local landscape in the country. As per industry estimates, after China, India is emerging as the fastest growing self-drive rental market. According to a research report, India’s car rental market revenue will be Rs 800 billion by 2019.

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