Surviving Indian bus journeys is likely to be an important aspect of your time in India as a traveller.
The good thing is that those stereotypical images of sharing a seat with a chicken or a goat are usually true!
Here are our slightly sarcastic, but equally valid Tips for Surviving Indian Bus Journeys we gathered during our adventures into north Indian Himalayan region!
Try and ascertain whether the driver has been drinking before stepping onto the bus
Unfortunately several times I’ve smelt booze breathe, or hangover breath on Indian bus drivers. I try to think that somehow this sharpens the mind and allows for sensible and educated risk taking on those rocky mountain passes.
On mountain journeys, try not to look out of the window
With Health and safety non-existent, and crash barriers an afterthought, you need some serious balls to be able to enjoy looking out the window on some of the more rugged mountain journeys.
Do you like Indian music?
During overnight mountain journeys, drivers may play insanely loud Hindi music on loop and chain smoke beedies. They do this to stay awake and keep focused. I understand this, but surely there’s a more discreet way of doing it (through headphones maybe)? While this is not necessarily a tip, it’s some friendly warning advice!
Sit in the middle!
Or at the front. Everyone seems to know that statistically you have a better chance of surviving if your sat in the middle. Forget the back! Unless you’d like a compacted spine and bruised butt cheeks. The rear axle on the smaller Indian buses tends to be much further forward, closer to the centre of the bus, creating a sort of sadists springboard for the unfortunate suckers at the back of the bus.
Do you value your own space?
If it says ‘Maximum 20 people’, it’s a lie! Prepare for hilariously over capacity journeys. Bus drivers and conductors will usually wait until the bus is totally and dangerously packed before departure. Sometimes the roof is the best option.
Bring earplugs/your own music/a valium
There will no doubt be times when you’ll want to block out the noises and painful realities a standard Indian bus journeys offers. Horrendous music from the tiniest speakers, constantly blaring klaxon air horns, swerving near misses with cows, pedestrians and other vehicles, and the often huge length of the journey all add to the terribleness of it all.
Do you have a large book and a patient personality?
Heard of ‘India time’? A 2 hour bus journey can take 6, a 17 hour journey can take 48. Unfortunately breakdowns, landslides, fallen trees, bridge collapses and general unforeseen circumstances are a regular thing on Indian bus journeys. Plus drivers may pull over for several hours and sleep off their hangovers… Allow for extra time!
So there are some of our Tips For Surviving Indian Bus Journeys! On the plus side, you’ll see a lot more of the country than if you chose the 2 hours flight that takes 5 days by bus from Delhi to Leh… AND you’ll get to see the inside of a hotel for a few days while you recover from travellers diarrhoea from that 4 day old road-side samosa you had for lunch!