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.
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 😉
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.
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.
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. 😀
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?
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.
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.
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!