Reminder to Self: Do Not Take the Hyderabad to Chennai Bus Ever Again

“We’re going by bus,” Masood announced at the railway station in Hyderabad.  We booked our train tickets twenty days ago and yet we were still on waiting list.  Since flights are expensive, our only other option is to travel to Chennai by bus.  It’s a 10-hour journey costing around 1100 rupees per person.

We arrived at the designated bus stop on time, and learned that we were the first ones to arrive.  The bus finally arrived an hour later, just when we had exhausted ourselves playing paper-scissor-rock and making fun of the travel agent’s company slogan, which read:  Feel the travel, it’s different.

The bus was a big air-conditioned Volvo, with a large sticker that says “semi-sleeper seats” pasted on top of its heavily tinted windows.  This basically meant that you can recline your seats back if the person behind you doesn’t object to your invading his/her leg space.

There was young boy – around ten or eleven years old – who insisted on helping the passengers place their luggage into the lower compartment of the bus, and then charging them an enormous sum for the service.  It was already past ten in the evening;  this little fellow should be in bed.  Unfortunately, child labor is still acceptable in both India and Pakistan.  This young boy looked quite experienced in what he did.  He not only knew how to convince a passenger to let him “help”, he was an expert when it came to demanding money. When one passenger refused to pay  him two hundred rupees as a compensation for putting away a couple of cartons, the young boy got terribly rude with him.  “Do you think I am begging?” he shouted at the passenger, “I’ll tell you what begging is!”  He then threw some coins in front of the passenger and said, “There… pick those up!”

A few men interrupted the boy and reminded him to behave properly.  This angered the boy even more and he started insulting all those who tried to stop him.  Unable to take it any longer, Masood approached the bus conductor and demanded to know why they were allowing such behavior in their buses.  Only then was the boy warned to behave himself and was ordered to get off the bus.

After all this commotion, we still had not started our journey.  It turned out that two passengers hadn’t arrived yet.  And the bus driver waited for them for one complete hour!  It was totally ridiculous.  And these guys – when they finally arrived in what seemed like a decade – climbed into the bus guilt-free as if they had not inconvenienced anyone.

A couple of hours into our journey, the driver stopped the bus to pick up a few more passengers.  I was surprised because there wasn’t any vacant seats left.  This was a 10-hour ride so these guys definitely needed seats.  Lights were put out by that time so I saw their silhouettes move around the bus and finally lying down in the aisles!  And that’s where they slept throughout the trip.  They tried to ignore everyone by pretending to sleep so soundly that sometime in the middle of the night when the driver swerved the bus to avoid hitting the car coming from the opposite lane (apparently a drunk driver), several bags fell off the overhead compartment and landed directly on the guys sleeping on the floor, yet none of them stirred!

I drifted in and out of sleep.  Even though the seats were comfortable, it wasn’t easy to remain in a sitting position for so long.  Then it started to rain.  I drifted back to sleep again and dreamt of mountains and rivers, and was  finally awaken by cool sprinkles of fresh morning dew from roses and tulips on my face.  Later when I was conscious and coherent enough, I realized that the water drops came from the overhead panel (condensation from the air conditioner I think)!

Masood and I got off the bus when it stopped for a short toilet break somewhere along the boundary of Tamil Nadu and Andra Pradesh.  After all those hours sitting in the bus, I felt my knees locked and my feet so swollen they wouldn’t fit my shoes anymore.  To make matters worse, the toilet seat was the squat type.  Oh the pain!

When we finally arrived in Chennai I felt so relieved to alight the bus that I thought I would cry, and that’s when I decided that wouldn’t ride another bus for the next 10 years.


  1. What an experience, especially those guys sleeping in the aisle! Last time when we were in Bangladesh though I traveled by bus from Chittagong to Dhaka and it was such a pleasuable experience, almost like Greyhound here. Although, in some of the smaller streets it is still one lane each way and the driver has to get on the oncoming traffic lane and seems to swerve just in time!

    That made me decide to take the train/plane every time!

    1. I am sure there are better bus trips in India too, but definitely not this one. Planes are comfortable but I like the adventure that comes with train rides. But the Indian Railway is too busy. One has to book at least a month before the trip specially these days (schools’ summer break).

    1. Air fare was around 18,000 rupees (it’s peak season) and it takes an hour to reach Chennai. Masood and I have a goal that we’re saving for, hence the need to spend wisely on trips.

      I agree, child labor is accepted in a lot of countries, we all know that, but I only speak based on my personal experience.

  2. Here in Pakistan, I have been traveling via buses for more than seven years now (6-8hours travel; after 3-4 weeks). Generally, I travel through a (semi) foreign bus service, which is fairly good. But when public holidays approach, it becomes hard to acquire a ticket. I have experienced a lot of exhilarating, adventurous and hilarious journeys; some of them even ‘worse’ than your experience.
    But when I have a feeling that things aren’t good, I smile and say to myself, “It’s an adventure like hiking; and I’ll be home; maximum in 8 or 10 hours. So, let enjoy!” and Alhamdolillah I did enjoy every time.

    1. Raheel, believe me, we tried our level best to smile and make the entire trip an adventure. But the feeling lasted for only 5 hours, LOL 😀

  3. lol what an adventure! There were people sleeping in the aisles.. oh my..
    I’d like to visit India one day but V says I’m not ready to handle it.

    My grandma always likes to tell me of when she and my grandfather had to take a bus in India somewhere and they waited for 10 hours at the bus station all alone – that’s how late the bus was :S

    1. ‘liya, different people have different reactions when they visit this part of the world for the first time: some find it incredibly overwhelming, while some fall in love with the culture and people. There are a lot of ancient structures here that I’m sure you will love, but just like what V says, you have to be ready to handle India 🙂

      Your grandma is right, buses are never on schedule. Nor are the planes. But the Indian Railway is amazing! And I am really impressed by the entire system.

    1. It was pretty late when we started off and by the time we got off the bus, I was too cranky and in pain to take any pictures of it :S In all fairness though, it was a nice big bus with comfortable seats. I wouldn’t mind taking it for short trips.

  4. Why you opted for the bus ride for such a long distance i.e. from Hyderabad to Chennai..
    Even if you were having waiting list on the train you should have approached the Station master and should have asked for his favours (probably they would have demanded some money but i guess you could have got the confirmed seats).
    Else you should have booked the ticket on NRI quota (by showing your passport) which would have definitely provided you a berth. Also there are certain seats available on VIP quota which gets filled up at the last moment hence the station master is having the authoriy to provide you some seats.. I guess Masood Sir must be knowing about it.

    Again there is a facility for ladies as they can avail seats on ladies quota..that would have atleast provided you one seat on that train.

    I will only suggest you to travel by train for long distances.

    [This is just a small information which i know.. and i wish you should never get such hardship again while travelling in India]

    1. Anonymous, thank you for your concern. We tried all of that. We approached the station master and exhausted all efforts to get even 1 seat but there just wasn’t one available. It was just the busiest time for traveling. But we didn’t have an option and had to be in Chennai the next morning.

  5. Those are usual happenings when you travel in buses , even class travel agencies also be the same way what you have experienced.sometimes passengers were asked to wait for couple of hours jus for a single guy.
    For your information bus travels are far better only in south india when compared to other parts of our country.Sad to hear that you didn’t got train ticket.

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