It’s easy to fall prey to homesickness during the holiday season. Unless, that is, you’re the kind of person who chooses to travel with your home in tandem. Herein lies the basic appeal of motorhomes: the fact that they are designed to make you feel at home in the most alien of settings.
Actually, motorhomes — or camper vans or RVs or caravans or call them what you will — are tailor-made for those settings in particular where the solitary traveller can feel a little out of place. They are ideal for all your back-of-beyond escapades. Given that there is no dearth of such sites in India, it’s a wonder why motorhomes have taken this long to make a mark on the Indian travelling scene.
Although the concept of buying or renting a full-scale RV — which is as good as a makeshift house on the road — is by no means new to India, it was always restricted to a cultural niche sustained only by the super-rich. Bollywood stars, for instance, and their fully-furnished luxury vans have always been inseparable from
But over the last few years, we have witnessed a transformation of sorts in this regard, made evident by a sudden spike in the popular appeal of motorhomes in Indian cities. Today, a motorhome holiday is more in demand than previously and therefore more affordable than it ever was.
According to Sanjay Saini of a firm called Motorhome Adventures, an RV manufacturer in Delhi, the demand for RVs among holiday-makers in metropolitan cities has increased manifold over the years. “We have been in the business of manufacturing motorhomes for over two decades now,” he says. “But the interest in these vehicles has risen rapidly over the past few years only. Initially, it used to be foreigners travelling across the country who would hire motorhomes. But of late, the number of Indians renting these vehicles has really gone up. Four out of our seven RVs are booked completely for the next three months.”
“Every few months I take a break, take my friends and family and with my motorhome we all hit the road. I’ve travelled with my RV in almost all the directions. Be it the Himalayas up north or the beaches of Goa down south.”
On an average, renting a motorhome can cost you somewhere around Rs 15,000 a day. But then, it also depends on how much affluence your vehicle comes equipped with. If you want a satellite powered flat-screen TV, or a hot-water Jacuzzi — demands that Indian RV rental firms have been known to entertain — then you might have to shell out a lot more.
But on the upside, you end up saving a lot of money by investing in a rented motorhome. No bothering with hotel bills, for example. “For us budget-conscious Indians,” says Saini, “renting an RV is still cheaper than all the expenses incurred in conventional travel and expensive hotels. This is why the idea of camping holidays is catching up in India. You just go backpacking in the middle of nowhere and a motorhome gives you the freedom and security to do that.”
Saini’s Motorhome Adventures also manufactures motorhomes. He says that a basic model can set you back by around Rs 35 lakh or more. “Till date we have made around 80 to 90 motorhomes for people from all walks of life. And I can confidently say that it’s not just the super-rich who are among our buyers,” he adds.
The cannier variety of buyers, interested in motorhomes, often buy cheaper vehicles which they then get modified to fit the standards required of a personal RV. Sachin Dhingra, a Delhi-based businessman, did just that in 2009. He bought himself a basic Tempo Traveller van and got it converted into a slick motorhome that accommodates six beds, a kitchen, a shower and a diesel generator to power a flat-screen TV.
“Every few months I take a break, take my friends and family and with my motorhome we all hit the road. I’ve travelled with my RV in almost all the directions. Be it the Himalayas up north or the beaches of Goa down south,” Dhingra says. “Back in college I used to backpack a lot, so a vacation for me is something very personal, and a motorhome is the perfect answer, for it gives me the freedom and ability to stop anywhere and go wherever I want. I can’t bear with being driven around and checking into hotels and all that.”
But with great freedom come great responsibilities. It’s not just the financial cost of maintaining a motorhome that must one has to meet. There are also a few other demands this vehicle makes on your time and attention. Dhingra says, “Maintaining a motorhome is not all luxury. All the waste that is generated by the use of the kitchen and the onboard toilet needs to be discarded, for example. It’s all a do-it-yourself job. You need to dig a hole on the roadside, then empty out the waste in it and when it’s all done you need to fill up the hole again.”
And the biggest problem of all is not finding a place to park. Security, for one thing, is always a concern everywhere. “I generally find a hotel to park at especially when I travel with women,” Dhingra says. “But this is a problem only while you are in the proximity of a city. In rural areas, it’s much easier to manage all this.”
“Back in college I used to backpack a lot, so a vacation for me is something very personal, and a motorhome is the perfect answer, for it gives me the freedom and ability to stop anywhere and go wherever I want. I can’t bear with being driven around and checking into hotels and all that.”
Sites popular among holiday-makers who have their own motorhomes or are willing to hire one include many places up north that are off the beaten path of conventional travel. Ladakh, for one, is among the most popular destinations for motorhome holidays. Then there are some areas in Himachal Pradesh, like the Spiti Valley, where RVs can be sighted especially during the summer.
Another interesting development for potential motorhome buyers in India concerns the rise of local RV manufacturers. In 2014, a Punjab-based automotive company, JCBL India Pvt Ltd, launched two variants of an ultra-luxury motorhome for around Rs 75 lakh each. Still, there are more affordable options now available in the local market.
Launched by Paracoat Products Ltd, a Rajasthan-based manufacturer, the PCP Terra Home is one such option. It costs around Rs 31 lakh, and comes equipped with an air-conditioner, a water heater, a microwave and a tiny washroom with a shower. The vehicle also has a kitchen, a state-of-the-art multimedia system and can accommodate up to six people comfortably.
Rajesh Poddar, director for business development at PCP Motors Pvt, says: “Since the day we launched, we have managed to sell a very limited number of Terras, with most of our clients being businessmen who have their factories away from their hometowns and intend to stay away from home a few days with ease and comfort. We plan to have a fleet of 100 to 150 motorhomes within the next three to four years that can be leased out to interested parties.”
So all things considered, the market for motorhomes is just beginning to open up in India. But the fact remains: it is still a very limited market. Faisal Nensey, owner of the Mumbai-based auto customisation firm called Executive Modcar Trendz, says, “We have been making customised motorhomes for people for the last three years but still have a long way to go, for the market is very limited. We only have six motorhomes in our portfolio till date. So, you can understand... Plus one also needs to remember that these are recreational vehicles, so their utility is really limited. Hence paying anywhere between Rs 30 to 80 lakh is something that only a limited number of people can do in India. I believe the awareness of this relatively new mode of vacationing is great in our country, but owning a motor home is something most people still do not think about. Renting RVs, though, is definitely gaining popularity.”