Sunday, June 12, 2016

Catching the Bus in New Delhi

Getting around Delhi can be both fun and frustrating. If you are not familiar with the sprawling metropolis, it can be a bit difficult finding your way around, even with GPS. There are an array of transportation options, including the metro (subway), cabs, and auto rickshaws. However, I want to discuss taking the bus. There are many advantages to taking the bus. For one, it is super cheap. A distance of 20 minutes costs about 10 rupees (15 cents). Second, you don't have to haggle with the driver like you do with auto rickshaws and cabs. Auto rickshaw drivers can be frustrating as you will be rejected by one, two, or even three drivers before you find one who is willing to go to your destination. Additionally, most auto rickshaw drivers do not go by the meter and will haggle over the cost (unless you are willing to pay their usually high starting price). Third, you don't have to worry about the driver knowing where your destination is since it is on their route. Many auto rickshaw drivers will simply not know where your destination is, especially for a place that is not frequented by many, such as the National Archives of India. In my experience, some drivers did not even know how to get to the fairly well known Shastri Bhawan that is next to the archives. With busses, so long as you know your destination is on the route, you will not have to worry about your driver's knowledge of Delhi. Fourth, busses arrive pretty frequently and in my experience are fairly on time. Lastly, there is no fuss like at the metro with having to go through metal detectors and security.

However, busses do have their downside. At peak hours they can get pretty crowded. In these cases they'll usually send two buses on the same route back to back. But even then you will probably have to stand if you are riding during rush hour.

Taking the bus to a place you go frequently (in my case, the archives) is convenient and easy to work into a routine. However, taking the bus in Delhi is not the same as in the U.S. and there are a few things you should know.

Firstly, you need to find out which route(s) go to your destination. This can be a little tricky. The Delhi bus system (DTC) is incorporated into Google Maps software, however, I found some of both the route and schedule information to be incorrect. I was not able to find a route map on the DTC website, but they have a time table of routes, yet I could not open the file for whatever reason. There is also the website that allows you to search for routes between two locations. However, the wording of locations on there are set and you cannot enter addresses. Thus, you will likely use a combo of all these resources. It sounds complicated, but it is actually quite simple. I would begin with Google Maps and see what routes it shows for your destination. Then use the Delhi Travel Help website. If you see a route(s) listed by both then it will more than likely work. If there are multiple routes, even better, since this means you will not necessarily have to learn arrival times and can wait for whichever comes first. You will likely not have to wait more than fifteen minutes unless you are trying to catch a bus late at night. There is a Delhi DTC timings app, however, if you would like precise arrival times.

Once you figure out which bus you want, go to the bus stop nearest you. Google Maps is accurate for the locations of these. Some bus stops have a roof and bench. Each bus stop has the route numbers listed somewhere there, so you can confirm that your bus services that stop.

When you see your bus, make sure to step forward and wave it over. It will not stop otherwise, unless someone is getting off. If your bus stop is on the sidewalk, you will probably want to walk a little into the street to wave, as the bus rarely ever pulls in to the curb.

The busses often do not come to a full stop. This sounds scary, but even the elderly get on with little trouble. Just be quick on your toes.

You will enter through the second side door towards the rear. You can board through the first door by the driver as well, but since you pay in the back, it is better to board there.
Once aboard you will have to find the worker who collects the money. He usually sits in the seats immediately before or behind the second side door. He will usually have a bundle of tens in his hand and a small receipt machine. He does not get up. You will have to go to him. If it is a crowded bus, the person next to you will generally be willing to give the money to the money collector. Once you pay the money collecter, he will ask you what your destination is. State the name of the stop (if you click on the busstop icon on Google Maps, it tells you the official name of the stop). If you do not know the actual name, you can try the name of a major landmark nearby. Fares are calculated by distance. Here are the list of fares:

If you already know the cost of your fare, you can possibly just give the money collector exact change (e.g. 5 or 10 rupees) and he'll assume that is the cost of the distance you are going unless you state otherwise. Once you pay the money collecter, he will give you a paper receipt. Occassionally, an employee of the DTC will board the bus and check receipts to make sure people paid.

You can generally get a seat when you don't ride during rush hour. Off peak hours appear to be 10 am to 5 pm. If you see an available seat, try to be curteous as some seats are only for women and other seats are for the elderly. The designations for seats are usually written above them on the bus walls, but people don't always ahdere to these designations, especially off peak. In my experience, it seems the women's seats are strictly for women at all times whereas the seats for the elderly can be taken by anyone else if an elderly person does not need one.

When the bus is a minute or two from your stop, you will want to start moving towards the front. Once you get to the front and your stop is next, tell the driver to stop at the next stop. If it is a popular stop that many people will get off at, you don't have to go to the front. You can just stay in the back and exit through the second door.

For the first few times you take the bus it would be wise to follow the movement of the bus on your smartphone's GPS, so you can see when your destination is approaching. After a few rides, you will become familiar with your route and not need to do this.

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