Horns blare as the Delhi traffic careens wildly along the road: buses packed with workers; motorbikes with one or two pillion passengers; brightly painted vans, with or without trailers; and auto-rickshaws weaving in and out of it all. But the blue Hop-On, Hop-Off bus arrives precisely on time, and we climb gratefully into its uncrowded, air‑conditioned interior.
We have already experienced the crush of the Metro, and negotiated the beggars, broken pavements, and would-be guides wanting to take us to the markets, as we walked around the streets on our own. Now it is time for some serious sightseeing, and we settle into our seats as the friendly on-board guide checks tickets and explains how the bus works. There are nineteen stops, she says, joining up the major sights of Old and New Delhi. You can stay on the bus and listen to the commentary, or get on and off as often as you like.
In Your Bucket Because…
- You can see the major historic and modern sights of the city in a relaxed and comfortable way
- Bus lanes allow you to beat the chaotic Delhi traffic
- Good for families, and anyone who is short of time for sightseeing
The Red Fort
We make our first stop at The Red Fort, the home of the Mughal Royal Family until the 19thcentury. The bus drives all the way around the Fort, so that we can see how extensive it is. “Over there is Old Delhi,” the guide tells us, pointing in the opposite direction, “famed for its narrow and crowded streets.” We decide to leave the narrow and crowded streets for another day, but walk around the Fort, admiring the sandstone and marble buildings, until the next bus arrives.
Back on the bus, the guide (a different one this time) points out the red wall that is the demarcation between Old and New Delhi, and tells us about Rajghat, the place where Mahatma Gandhi was cremated, and where there is now a memorial and a museum dedicated to the man regarded as the father of the nation.
Our plan is to stay on the bus as far as the Lotus Temple, but our guide has other ideas for us. “If you haven’t had lunch yet,” he says, tapping his watch, “get off by the zoo. You can get a good cheap meal there.” It sounds like a good idea and we follow his directions to a food court where we buy a cheap and cheerful meal of rice, curry and lentils. We talk briefly to a British couple who were also on the bus: like us, they have only a few days in Delhi, but their plan is to travel around India by train afterwards.
Surprisingly, most of the other passengers on the bus are Indians: women in bright saris, groups of friends, or families with children brimming with questions. The guides are attentive to the children, doing their best with the questions, and making sure the bus waits for them when they jump out at one stop to buy drinks and crisps.
The Lotus Temple and Jantar Mantar
We get out twice more: at the Lotus Temple and at Jantar Mantar. The Lotus Temple is a modern marble temple devoted to the Bahai faith, but open to all visitors. As its name suggests, it is built in the form of a giant lotus flower. Jantar Mantar, sometimes known as Delhi Observatory, is an 18thcentury complex of 13 structures built for astronomical purposes, including prediction of the movements of the sun, moon and planets.
We also pass Qutab Minar, the “first city” of Delhi, with its ancient minaret, and several museums, such as the National Museum, which includes collections of Indian art and history. Shopping enthusiasts are well catered for on the tour, too, with stops at malls and markets. We don’t have time to visit everything today, but this trip has been an excellent way of seeing the major landmarks of the city.
- The Hop-On, Hop-Off bus runs every day except for Monday.
- Tickets can be purchased online, on the bus, or at the Information Office on Baba Kharak Singh Marg, and are valid for two consecutive days.
- Buses depart from clearly marked stops at approximately 45 minute intervals.
- The bus tour offers an excellent orientation to an often-confusing city for first timers: You can always come back to your favorite sites for a more indepth look later.