Bus Travel in India – Practical Tips for India Bus Travel

Written By: The Planet D

As usual, people have made us think negatively about something in India and they have been completely wrong. We had heard that traveling India by bus was a real pain, but it ended up being a pleasant experience!

We didn’t plan on taking the bus in India, but we had some problems booking the train to Mumbai from Hampi, so we decided to go by bus.

Whenever we mentioned to someone that we were taking the bus, we would always get the same reply…”you are brave” or “wow, that is crazy” or “Oh, poor you”

We got ourselves so worked up before leaving that I actually had a few butterflies in my stomach in the rickshaw on the way to the station.

If you want to book a bus in India ahead of time, you can book online through Redbus or Makemytrip

Bus Travel in India

bus travel in india | our shiny yellow bus
Our Shiny Yellow Bus in India

We have ridden some of the worst buses in the world during our past travels. In Cambodia, the roads were so bad that we broke something every time we got on a bus. In Laos, we drove on a decrepit bus filled with lobsters and produce.

In Vietnam, we saw a lot of traffic fatalities. And in Peru, Dave the seat in front of him practically sitting on his lap for a five-hour journey.

I don’t think that buses could ever get much worse than some of the stuff we have been on. But for some reason, the hype about buses in India got to us.

Before getting on the bus I worried about everything. I thought to myself, are the drivers crazy? Is the bus filthy? are the roads in such bad condition that I am taking my life in my hands?

These are all legitimate questions. But there are better busses that others in India.

Classes of Buses in India

india bus travel dave on sleeper

When booking a bus in India, you will need to know what class you want to travel on.

Are you going to take a local bus or a sleeper bus? If you are traveling for just a couple of hours, go to the bus station and book a local bus. It’s super cheap.

But if you are traveling on a long journey, book a sleeper bus for comfort.

When booking a sleeper bus, there are also several different classes, deluxe, semi-deluxe, or super deluxe. If your budget isn’t too tight, we suggest the super deluxe.

Hot Tip: A great way to save on accommodation in India is to travel on a sleeper overnight bus. They are reasonable and you’ll save on a night’s accommodation.

It is a roll of the dice how luxurious you will get, but from our trip to Mumbai, we had a good looking Volvo semi-sleeper bus in deluxe class.

It was shiny and new. A sweet little guy took our bags and asked us what stop we wanted to get off at in Mumbai.

There are several bus terminals in Cities

We had no idea what stop to get off in at Mumbai. We thought that it only stopped at the main bus terminal.

Nope, it didn’t go there, but it stopped at many other places.

So, the first rule of bus travel in India is to know where you want to get off when going to a large city.

What part of town are you booking your accommodation and what is the closes bus stop to your hotel?

Busses in India

first class bus in India
Our first class bus in India

The drive on the bus was much safer than we expected. We had read that drivers are reckless. But we felt safe and comfortable on our ride. (that’s not to say you won’t have a different experience.)

We took other busses during our time in India and we felt that the drivers were safe on them as well.

When we took long overnight trips, most buses two drivers. One relaxed and slept that journey while the other drove.

I am assuming that the other driver will be driving back. They are dressed in crisp white uniforms, they are polite and they had an assistant to help out as well. Very professionally run I must say!

The Semi Sleeper Bus

inside bus
Watching a movie on the bus

We sat at the front of the bus. We recommend sitting near the front to avoid too bumpy of a ride.

The seats were very comfortable on our semi sleeper bus in India. Lots of legroom, a cozy blanket, and a clean seat that reclined.

We were very comfortable. Our only worry now was the loud movies playing all night long.

  • Note: Pack earplugs or noise-canceling headphones for your sleep on the bus.

The alternate driver kept the volume at a very respectable level and the movie even had English subtitles. We both enjoyed the movie very much.

I only wish that I knew the name to recommend it to people at home. I must say, Bollywood is alive and well and they have great production value and scripts.

What a great flick. I laughed and I cried and I am not joking!

Sleeper Bus

india bus travel dave on bus

Another bus we took had a sleeper the entire way. The Full Sleeper Bus.

We had an double-wide enclosure to ourselves on the second teir of the bus.

We could pull a curtain for privacy and we could lay down and stretch out the entire trip.

There wasn’t a seat, only a mattress so we were laying down the whole time. It was odd, but it was comfortable and perfect for overnight travel.

When looking up what we had on our overnight buses in India, I assume we paid for Super Deluxe Service each time.

We either had double reclining seats or bed, our busses had air conditioning, and entertainment.

On each of the buses in India, we actually had a pretty decent sleep.

Food Stops

Depending on how long the journey is, we stopped for snacks and toilet breaks.

Different routes had different facilities. Our first trip from Hampi to Mumbai had great toilets and food stalls. But others were less desirable.

Anyone could have gone to the loo, but most chose to go against a wall. Not sure why, the toilet was fine.

My best advice is to not drink too much on your journey. Some of the toilets we stopped at weren’t appealing at all.

Final Words

a view from our bus in India
Going through a lot of traffic on the bus

If you are willing to pay a little bit extra, you can have a good bus experience. When I say extra, it is still very reasonable.

Getting around India can be confusing at times. Sometimes trains will be ovrerbooked, flights can be expensive and you may find yourself needing to take the bus. Don’t fret about it, it’s not as bad as we expected.

Book the Class you are Comfortable in

Different classes of buses in India

Local Bus: These are the cheapest and are considered the local buses. If you are only traveling for short 2-4 hour rides these are the ones to take.

We took these many times. YOu aren’t assigned seats and you just need to show up at the terminal to buy tickets.

Tip: Women have their own queues at train and bus terminals, so if you are female, you can go directly to this line.

These are usually packed and you may end up standing or sharing seats. But they were so cheap we didn’t care and they got us to where we needed to be. A local bus costs about 100 Rs. which is about $1.50USD

We arrived in Mumbai in the morning and couldn’t understand why people put the buses down so much. Why does everyone speak so poorly of India when they travel?

To reserve your bus tickets in India, visit Redbus or Makemytrip

For us, bus travel wasn’t bad at all.

It was cleaner than we expected, friendly, safe, and a pleasant to travel.

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About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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23 thoughts on “Bus Travel in India – Practical Tips for India Bus Travel”

  1. Haha, Craig. I love it. So true, sometimes it is better to not look at the road to see what is going on. I will try the front seat, you have a good point

    Reply
  2. Nice article, thanks. Would be nice if you advised on how to find a good bus company – like in Peru, there are better and worse companies (sort of)
    Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Well, if you take the Volvo it is nice. A volvo will run you almost twice what an AC3 train or tata sleeper bus will cost you. The difference is a suspension system. The tata sleeper will bounce you all over and are questionable on their cleanliness. But, it is almost guaranteed that you can get one last minute and a 8 hour trip is only about 400 rupees.

    Reply
      • Most welcome DEB 🙂

        I do lot of travelling myself around the world .Travelling to india will be a good experience only if pre-plan every leg of your journey..I see lot of foreigners coming to india moaning about poor service they got in india(hotel,travel etc).
        Remember India is big country with huge population.Therefore to cater everyone’s need there are different travel services available for different income group.Train in india has as many as 6 class right from unreserved compartment,1st ac,2nd ac,3rd ac,sleeper non ac,first class non ac(phased out in some trains),ladies reserved coach with no seat reservation. Intercity Buses in india are AC, non AC private operator,AC and non AC govt bus service.

        Now here are few tips for travelling within INDIA.
        1) For Intercity bus travel ALWAYS select AC bus.AC buses are usually volvo or mercedes benz multiaxle buses which are always in good shape.cost will be around RS 800 i.e $14 for 500 mile journey which is quite cheap.(used by middle class and upper middle class indians).Rich class fly:)
        2)Avoid non AC intercity bus travel even if it is sleeper coach. Also unreserved state transport buses are available for cheap. NEVER TRAVEL BY THERE BUSES AS THEY WILL BE FILTHY BUT EXCEPTIONALLY CHEAP($6 for 500 mile journey)
        3) Avoid bus travel in north india SPECIALLY NON AC BUS.Try to book train ticket.AC buses in western and southern india are in very good shape.even some of the non AC buses are good provided you travel in reputed bus company coaches.To be honest it is better than european bus service. I remember travelling from london to glasgow by MEGA bus. It was double Decker bus and seat on the upper deck was too cramped.seats hardly reclined with no calf support for your legs.Indian VOLVO and MERC AC buses has good reclining seats and calf support.
        4)Also its important to know the bus routes because some roads in india could be bumpy. google will be your best friend here.All state capital are connected by expressway which means smoother ride in bus. IF you travelling to smaller city ride could be bumpy.Eg mumbai -bangalore is connected by expressway(volvo bus ride could be better than flight).
        If you still want better service by bus try OLIVIA BUS. This bus service offer flight business class service onboard bus.logon to olivia.in.However service are limited at the moment.
        4)For Intercity TRAIN journey travel ONLY in airconditioned coaches(again quite cheap RS 800 i.e $14 for 500 mile journey in 3rd AC). NEVER TRAVEL IN UNRESERVED COMPARTMENT.you will not be able to get inside the coach as it will be too crowded.This coach is meant for poorest of india( cost will be $3 for 500 miles journey also cheapest in the world).You can also travel First AC where you get private cabin for yourself also nice and cozy interior(price will be around $50 for 600 mile journey).Now donot expect orient express service in First AC.Remember you are paying only $50 for 1st AC compared to 1000 pounds in orient express from london to zurich which is same distance.
        you can buy full train in india for 1000 pounds :).but if you still want something like orient express its there is india. maharaja express,palace on wheels,deccan oddesey,golden chariot are some of the train with five star service on board.maharaja express is awarded as second best luxury train in the world(cost $4000 per person for 7 day tour in india).
        I remember last year travelling from newyork to chicago(800 miles) in AMTRAK.it cost be $600 for romette.train was delayed by 3 hours and it took more than 20 hours to reach chicago.not so good experience.now here is the list of india premiere trains–> rajdhani,shatabdi and duronto.These train are always bang on time.mumbai delhi rajdhani express takes 16 hours(800 miles distance) less time then amtrak for same distance and it just cost me $25 in 3rd AC.westerners can travel first AC which will cost $60 with private room and butler for your service.Services of these premiere train are limited to cities.
        5)Try to make all your booking online.makemytrip.com,redbus.in are some good website for online booking.Make my trip offers complete refund of money if you are not happy with their services.you can book hotels and bus ticket through this website.
        6) Another good option to travel around india is holiday packages from reputed company online.eg KESARI TOURS,MAKEMYTRIP,TRAVEL YAARI.They will arrange everything for you and you can just enjoy your holiday.Just make sure you have their contact number which is available online.
        AVOID local agents for traveling around city.They will always try to rip off which is the case for most foreign travelers and then seems to be unhappy.
        Tips for help.
        In case if you need help from locals approach middle class people specially people with their family if you are on the street.If you are travelling in AC Bus OR train you can approach almost anyone.everyone will be more than happy to help you.Also note people in south india are well educated and trustworthy. need to be bit careful though as you travel north.80% of the people in india are good and co-operative.but beware of 20% anti-social elements.again india’s population is 1 billion.so 20% of that will be lot of people.Just use your comman sense.
        You can also google for all the above the information for indepth knowledge.

        Follow the above and you should have pleasant trip in INDIA!!

  4. Hi, my boyfriend is traveling in India this month and was looking for a bus from Hampi to Mumbai because all the trains are full. Do you remember how you booked this bus or the name of the company? Would love for him to have the same awesome experience as well. Thank you for any information.

    Warm regards

    Reply
    • Hi Stacy, Unfortunately I don’t know what bus we took. But if you are in Mumbai, it’s easy to book a bus and just make sure to get a 1st class sleeper bus. They are all in really good shape and reasonably priced.

      Reply
    • HI Stacey,buses that ply on hampi mumbai route is VRL(one that dave mentioned drivers with crisp white uniform).you can book your tickets online..makemytrip.com. also you can book through VRL website vrllogistics.in. you get 5% discount if you book through VRL website :). VRL has one of the biggest fleet of volvo buses.I think they have name in guiness book of world records for having maximum vehicles. as private owner.

      Ticket issued also has drivers mobile number so that you can contact them in case if you have any problem.

      Hope this helps for foriegn tourist travelling to india.

      Reply
  5. Travelyaari is an online bus tickets service provider. It is the only fully online bus ticket reservation system in India. It has the largest bus ticket inventory for more than 1000 routes in India. View bus seating arrangement before you book.

    Reply
  6. Glad that you liked bus trip to Mumbai. Volvo buses are the best to travel in India. But be careful… as you approach north India (Delhi onwards), the buses are not so comfortable. They don’t even have a Volvo most of the time. You’ll have a different experience. 🙂

    Volvo buses are popular in south and western India.

    Reply
  7. Wow…these were SO not the buses we got in India. I don’t know why…. we always saw big Volvo buses pulling in, but like all of the stories Mike and I told you guys…they were never ours! Ours was always the last crappy one. We never had anyone in anything anything close to crisp, or white…..and never had movies. We just got the sleeper berth up top, laid our sleepsack over the crusty, disgusting mattress and opened the window for some “fresh” air.

    We just loved it because we could close the curtain and lay down instead of sitting, but it seems we were still missing out on the good stuff!!!

    I don’t know what we did wrong… I think you guys should have gone first to let us know how to get the good stuff!

    I can’t wait to hear more. Email me when you have time Deb, and fill me in on your thoughts of Jaisalmer, and everything else!

    I can’t wait to hear from you.

    Love to you both,

    Angie

    Reply
  8. I have to say that bus does look nice! As you read on our Mumbai to Udaipur post, we weren’t as fortunate when we took our first overnight bus in India.

    We were just recommending to some friends the other day who want to go to India, but are intimidated by it, to spend time in the south before heading to the more populated and poorer north. We found that spending time first in Kerala and Tamil Nadu was a good way to ease into India – it’s more laid back, less population density, more educated/people speaking English, spicy food. The north is more intense, but also fascinating. Enjoy Rajasthan!
    .-= Audrey´s last blog ..The Trip That Was a Bitch: Scratching the Curiosity Itch in Paraguay =-.

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  9. So great to hear! India is on our open ended family world travel list, but 1 does always here horrid things about travel there, so nice to be reassured! That bus reminds me of the overnight buses we took in Turkey…but no subtitles on the movies. 😉
    .-= soultravelers3´s last blog ..Travel Photo 2009 Review! =-.

    Reply
    • Hey @soultravelers India is definitely an adventure and not as bad as we were expecting either. We had heard a lot of horror stories ourselves, although I will admit that as we make our way north it is getting more dirty. South is much nicer, the north is filled with garbage and filth. But it is still good.

      Reply
    • @Rahul you are right. The Volvos are nice. Since that ride, we have taken another bus and it wasn’t nearly as good. The post about that ride will be coming out in a couple of days. Sometimes the buses are good, sometimes bad in India. We are sticking with the Volvos from now on.

      Reply
  10. the bus looks nice…

    i’ve never tried riding a bus in India, I just rode trains…

    have a safe trip!
    .-= flip´s last blog ..Ten Travel Facts about Flip =-.

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  11. I think bus travel is really the only way to go. Those who don’t travel much are often surprised at the level of bus service offered even in less developed countries. The only downside is that you never know if you’re going to be on one of the unlucky buses that plunges off a cliff or burns up in a head-on collision. It’s a small risk but real. When riding buses in some countries I like to sit in the front…so that if we crash I die instantly and don’t have to suffer a slow painful death;)

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    • Haha, Craig. I love it. So true, sometimes it is better to not look at the road to see what is going on. I will try the front seat, you have a good point:)

      Reply
  12. wildness the whole way from hampi to mumbai that is crazy how many hours was that like16? took us 16 to get to goa your clearly didnt go through goa. not to be negative but you think that india is cleaner than you expected? jesus what did you expect :),
    thats great that your loving it though, i tried to click a link to udaipur post but nothing came up maybe you havent written it yet, hope you enjoy it there it was our favourite place we stayed in a hotel called the lalghat in lonely planet but its called lake view now has the highest roof top in udaipur perfect for the view of the palaces you should see for yourself even if you dont stay there and the manager is mad sound

    Reply
    • Haha Kevin. Right after I wrote that post, I have eaten my words. North India has been pretty filthy. We were spoiled in Goa, Hampi, Karnataka and Mumbai. (we stayed in the nice part of Mumbai) Rajasthan has been pretty grimey. Filled with garbage and cow dung. This is closer to what I expected.

      Reply