The Most Civilized Bus In India: A True Story

I know what you’re thinking. Not possible. Are you sure you were in India? After all, Indian buses are known for lots of things — but civilized behavior is not one of them. From people openly spitting on the floor, others playing their annoying music or video games loud enough for the entire bus to hear, the ceaseless honking of the driver as you fly down the road, and of course all those people hanging out the front door as the bus is pulling out from the rest area, still frantically trying to finish their cigarette. Or that one old man who just doesn’t give a fuck and lights up anyway en route.

But this bus ride was different. Very different.

  I needed to get from Delhi to Kathmandu and after hearing about a government-run bus that goes straight the whole way, with no bus change at the border, I decided this was something I wanted to investigate.

The Delhi Kathmandu Delhi express DTC Mercedes bus....if you're not flying, this is the only way to go! A new fleet of Mercedes buses fully stocked with power outlets and (regrettably) a horn that plays 90 different tones

Arriving at the DTC bus terminal in Delhi the morning of departure, there was a relatively new Mercedes bus parked there. My hopes went up. “I wonder if they will have electrical sockets that actually work?”> Turns out that not only did they, but that bus also had many other kick-ass features…but we’ll get to those in a second ๐Ÿ˜‰

Working power sockets on the DTC Delhi-Kathmandu express Mercedes bus to Nepal. Best way to travel from Delhi to Kathmandu is by bus. Working power sockets at every seat….score!

Delhi to Kathmandu by Bus

Hopping on the bus, I was happy to see a flat screen TV up front and electrical outlets at every seat. However before I could even pull out any gear to test one out, I heard a police siren and we began moving. Looking up, my jaw dropped at what I saw: a police escort was leading us out of the bus station.

The DTC Delhi-Kathmandu express Mercedes bus comes with a police escort. This is what it's like to travel from Delhi to Kathmandu by bus. Don’t want to hear the TV? There are speakers at every seat — just turn yours off!

On the road, all traffic was stopped to ensure our bus with police escort had the right of way!

Anytime traffic got bad, the police ahead of us whipped on their siren and cleared the lane. At the major highway on-ramp we took, traffic across all three lanes was stopped just for us, so that we came off the on-ramp we had an open road ahead of us.

The DTC Delhi-Kathmandu express Mercedes bus comes with a police escort. This is what it's like to travel from Delhi to Kathmandu by bus. Now I could get used to this…

As we progressed from Delhi to Noida and on into Uttar Pradesh, our police escorts kept rotating out depending on jurisdiction. Meanwhile I sat up front next to the driver, giddy as a schoolgirl and frantically switching between GoPro, DSLR, and cellphone, documenting this experience in all its glory.

It was during that time which I noticed someone plug in their cellphone. When nothing happened, he said something in Hindi to the driver and the driver pressed a button. Power on. ๐Ÿ˜€

Editing videos while on the DTC Delhi-Kathmandu express Mercedes bus to Nepal. This is what it's like to travel from Delhi to Kathmandu by bus. A good digital nomad can work anywhere

I returned to my seat, my pulled out my laptop, plugged her in, started up the myfi and got to work. Soon the first Bollywood movie began playing on the TV up front and once again I was surprised. Not because a Bollywood movie was playing, but rather because it was not playing at annoying, ear-cringing volume. Rather than have two speakers in the whole bus, there was a small speaker located at every seat. Don’t want to hear the movie? Just turn yours off and voila, peace and quiet! How freakin’ cool is that?

The DTC Delhi-Kathmandu express Mercedes bus has mutable speakers at every seat. This is what it's like to travel from Delhi to Kathmandu by bus. Lights, aircon vents, and of course the all-important speaker button

Eventually we stopped at the first of several restaurants and once again, we were greeted with an amazing surprise.

It’s no secret that bus drivers around the world pick the places they want to stop based on the commission they receive or where their friends live/work. As a result, most of the time you end up at crappy places with expensive prices. However it was immediately obvious that this place was different. It was air-conditioned! And their prices were basically normal, not over-inflated to prey on travelers.

Onward went the journey and every second of it far exceeded my expectations. We actually got so far ahead of schedule that we had to stop at the Nepal border and wait for it to open at 6am. After just a few minutes dealing with immigration, we were on the road again.

The India-Nepal border....and the Delhi to Kathmandu Express bus waiting to cross over. The border was a muddy, chaotic mess, even at 6am

In the end we reached Kathmandu in less than 29 hours, a full hour and a half faster than was advertised — and more than six hours faster than if we had booked the non-government bus for 500 Rupees more. And even more importantly, after everyone emptied off the bus, it didn’t look like it had just been the nesting grounds of a group of homeless people for a week — as most buses in India tend to do upon arrival at their destination.

Plenty of legroom on the DTC Delhi-Kathmandu express Mercedes bus, even for a tall guy like me. This is what it's like to travel from Delhi to Kathmandu by bus. Plenty of legroom, even for a tall cat such as myself

It was only after Priyanka mentioned “Wow, this is the most civilized bus I have ever been on” that I had the inspiration for this post. (See, it wasn’t just me who was impressed!)

So, for anyone and everyone needing to get from Delhi to Kathmandu or Kathmandu to Delhi, take the DTC Kathmandu Express. 2300 Rupees ($35 USD) and it departs daily at 10am. And the perks include:

  • Power outlets that actually work, AC vents that blow cold, and lights that shine bright
  • Individual speakers at each seat that can be turned off, allowing for a peaceful journey
  • Delicious, inexpensive restaurant stops en route — not the usual bullshit dhabas most buses in India stop at
  • Respectful guests who behave politely
  • And a freakin’ police escort!
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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." ย  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

17 thoughts on “The Most Civilized Bus In India: A True Story”

    • Indeed! I keep flip-flopping between giddy as a kid in a candy store at the police escort and speechless in awe at the politeness of everyone on the bus. Like no other ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Really? How so? Just surprisingly modern and fancy, or in some other way Andrew? Pakistan is high up on my list but if their immigration is anything like India’s, they will take one look at my five Indian visas and say, “Sorry, no entry for you.” Thankfully I’m almost out of passport pages so as soon as I get that new one… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  1. Thank you for very informative post and may be one day I will take this bus. Kathmandu Nepal is one my bucket list but New Delhi is already crossed off and no offence but I have no desire to go back to India for now.

  2. I’m getting the bus in the opposite direction next week. I’m praying pleasepleaseplease that my Nepali boyfriend has booked us this bus!!!

  3. Wow! The last time that I went to India was 11 years ago and India seems to be calling yet again. However, with “luxury” like this I might even manage the journey to Nepal. I like the sound of a decent ride rather than the train from hell lol!

    Nice write up Derek!

    • Yes, Victoria, this was definitely a nice change of pace from every other bus and train I’ve taken in India. In fact it was the nicest bus I’ve ever been on anywhere in the world with the exception of some of those super swanky Thai coaches ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thai bus porn

  4. Hi Derek
    Looking at getting this bus soon. Can I ask what the luggage situation was like, how much were people getting on board. Also did you go to the office to book this. Won’t be in Delhi till just before needing to get the bus.
    Thanks for any help

    • Hey Ed, sorry for the late response — busy shooting a video project in China. Yes, I went directly to the DTC office / station in Delhi the morning of the bus and bought tickets there. Buses leave 1 per day at 10am. Your luggage is run through an x-ray machine before loading onto the bus. As this bus is the fanciest and most expensive you will find in all of India, you do not have to worry about anyone stealing your bags. They will be safely locked down below, and any personal belongings left in your seat during the rest stops will also be safe.

      At the border going into Nepal, you have to get out and get stamped, but your luggage is not checked. Ever. On the return route from Kathmandu to Delhi, all incoming luggage is removed at the border and x-rayed while you get stamped into the country.

      Both routes you can expect the bus to be fairly full, but not completely. And no worries, there certainly won’t be any people standing in the aisles or trying to sit on your lap.

    • Hi Derek
      Thanks for reply sounds great and an awesome way to see some scenery while getting to Nepal. Had one last question, is there a toilet onboard. Couldn’t work it out on the dtc site. Oh and for others thinking about it you can book it at http://www.dtcbooking.in



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