• india bus hell

The Indian Bus Ride from Hell

After a few relaxing days and becoming MTV India movie stars (just kidding), we were ready to say peace out to Manali. It was pretty empty and we were hoping to meet some more people to make our days a little more interesting. Chloe really wanted to find a Thai yoga massage class and there were none on offer in Manali.

We both wanted to go to McLeod Ganj, so it worked out perfectly to continue traveling together. From Manali to Dharamsala was a 10 hour overnight bus. We were traveling on a really tight budget. Chloe was trying to save even more so she could continue on to Nepal. Because of the budget, we decided to go local. Local buses in India can be easy and comfortable, but this one was NOT.

I’ve shared a little about travel by bus in India, and this was the one I mentioned where through the winding icey roads, they bus would stop on turns to make half the passenger get off so that the bus wouldn’t tip over and roll off a cliff!

Local buses are the size of a school bus. It was probably 0 degrees and the windows didn’t all close. The doors were open with men hanging out. Two drunk guys got in a first fight and one got kicked off in the middle of nowhere.

Whenever a fight happens, you better believe that every Indian guy on the bus wanted to get involved with that. They give their opinion (the right one) on what happened. My Indian friend tells me that guys like that are called “rubberneckers”– the same one who pull over to see what’s up when they pass an accident on the highway.

travel india bus

To make matters worse I was super sick to my stomach and my patience with Indian men was waning. There was no storage on top of the bus, so Chloe and I had to put our huge backpacks at our feet and curl up with our carry-on bags on our laps. We had literally no room to move for 10 hours. We linked arms and curled up to sleep on each other.

india bus from hell

Then it happened… some guy sat on me.

I had my leg crossed over with my foot on my other thigh. It was a pretzel like position. Some of the Indian guys were holding on to the handles above, heads dangling, for hours… some even slept that way. Well, one got too tired, because he plopped right down.

Now, here’s the kicker. He seemed absolutely appalled that I wanted him off! BAFFLING.

Another annoying thing: Teenage Indian boys.

In general teenage boys suck, but particularly when they play music on their phones loudly while the bus tries to sleep. No one tells them to stop. There are old people, babies, and women trying to sleep, but these boys don’t have any respect- coming from the midwest it’s pretty shocking.

So this was the longest, coldest, most cramped 10 hours of my life. But it makes for an interesting story and only cost 10 USD. You’d think I’d learn my lesson and stop taking local overnight buses, but I did not. I never was one for learning from my mistakes…. whoops.

Stay tuned to find out what happened after we arrive in Dharamsala/ McLeod Ganj!


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About the Author:

Rachel Jones left a career in nursing and lived on the beaches of Goa, India for the five years. Now she lives in Mexico where she gives advice on the 40+ countries she’s visited in the last 10 years. She’s the author of two India travel e-books: Guide to India and Insider’s Guide to Goa. Her blog, Hippie in Heels, like its name, is a contradiction combining off-beat adventurous places with glamorous and bespoke travel. Hippie in Heels has been featured in ELLE, Marie Claire, Grazia, and Cosmopolitan magazines. She’s a writer for Bravo TV.


  1. John June 4, 2014 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    Keep the great stories coming, is like we are there

  2. Emma @ Everyday Postcard June 4, 2014 at 9:54 am - Reply

    I’ve been on some cramped buses in the past but nobody has ever sat on me lol! That’s a step too far I think!

  3. Alex, Speaking Denglish June 4, 2014 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    Once again, you are such a trooper. I think I would have jumped off one of those cliffs before arriving at the final destination.

    • Rachel Jones June 5, 2014 at 10:24 am - Reply

      Lol, I didn’t jump but I did almost fall trying to get as far from the bus as I could to go to the bathroom! haha

  4. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown June 4, 2014 at 2:09 pm - Reply

    Ummmm, all kinds of NOPE! That is too much for me, you are brave! I think the ‘playing shit music really loudly on a crappy little phone where everyone else around is forced to listen’ is an everywhere-outside-of-US/Canada/Europe thing. I’ve found it all over Central America/Caribbean, South America, some parts of Asia. Like there is just literally no concept of “oh hey, maybe EVERY OTHER PERSON around me might not want to listen to this”. Can’t stand it!!

    • Rachel Jones June 5, 2014 at 10:24 am - Reply

      Yeah, what is UP WITH THAT? I don’t understand why people think it’s okay! It drives me nuts! and it’s always really inappropriate songs!

  5. Kelly June 4, 2014 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    Oh wow, talk about an invasion of personal space! I’m lucky I’ve never had that happen to me, you poor thing! Although I have definitely experienced the teenage boys playing loud music from their phones. I don’t even understand why they would want to listen to the crackling speaker sound anyways – put some headphones in! Haha x

    • Rachel Jones June 5, 2014 at 10:26 am - Reply

      ughhh I Know the lack of headphones is THE most annoying thing EVER!! ahh

  6. Jen June 5, 2014 at 3:17 am - Reply

    hahaha. I have soo many stories of Indian bus rides from hell. Each one you are happy to have just survived, sleep is definitely not an option.

    • Rachel Jones June 5, 2014 at 10:28 am - Reply

      LOL anyone who has been to Indian can probs totally relate! But people who haven’t been it’s so hard to explain how terrible they can be!

  7. Justine June 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Those pictures of the cliffs are crazy (and beautiful)! Wow, I’ve taken some seriously uncomfortable local buses in my time, but your story takes the cake. I can’t believe the passengers have to get out of the bus to keep it from tipping over. So sketchy!! Well, it does make for a good story! I had a man sit on me during a bus ride in Guatemala. Super awkward :(

  8. Rebekah June 5, 2014 at 9:24 pm - Reply

    In china the idea of using headphones if fairly uncommon. If you feel like listening to music on the bus then why not just blast it for everyone? Drives me crazy. You’re busride seems pretty intense and I’m impressed you kept doing it. The mountains look amazing.

    • Rachel Jones June 6, 2014 at 11:08 am - Reply

      It really is annoying! ugh. And yes, the mountains are so gorg!

  9. Karisa June 5, 2014 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Oh, I can relate to this!! I’m done with buses. On New Year’s Eve in Thailand 2 years ago I was forced to take a local bus from Surat Thani to Phuket even though I had paid for an air con tourist bus. (They had overbooked because of the holiday) Our local bus had to stop literally every 2 seconds to pick up randos on the side of the street. Our driver honked his horn at every single person we passed hoping to pick them up. The aisles were packed. There were people smushing into my seat. To top it off, the same 6 Thai pop music videos played on repeat the entire way. Instead of the 3 hours the ride should have taken, on the local bus it took over 6 hours. I had planned on having a relaxing NYE afternoon before the celebrations started but the ride just dragged on and on. It was SO frustrating! I’ve also had some wretched bus experiences in Myanmar (guy spitting betal into my HAIR) and Vietnam (guy throwing my shoes off the bus and laughing in my face). Yeah, I’m so over buses!!

    • Rachel Jones June 6, 2014 at 11:09 am - Reply

      OMG i would be so annoyed too! and that guy spitting in your hair.. what!! throwing your shoes?! You have had some crazy things happen!

  10. Lynda June 6, 2014 at 10:55 am - Reply

    OMG, those cliffs! I think I’d have a heart attack on the bus.

  11. Renuka June 6, 2014 at 2:16 pm - Reply

    I can never ever travel by a bus (at least not for a long journey like this)! I hate buses! I can imagine your experience. It must have been terrible!!!

    • Rachel Jones June 8, 2014 at 10:35 pm - Reply

      Buses are the hardest. I actually prefer train travel over flights! and Buses are the least favorite!

  12. Sarah June 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Reading this reminds me exactly why I hate public transport in India. LOL. I met travellers there who didn’t get on the bus without taking valium… to make the ride more pleasant.. Yikes!

    • Rachel Jones June 11, 2014 at 6:37 pm - Reply

      Since lots of Indian chemists just hand out valium, I can see why! I took something lighter like benedryl so that I could still be alert enough of a robbery, but like you I met tons of travelers who always take something!

  13. Victoria June 13, 2014 at 1:30 am - Reply

    Hey Rachel, I think that I’m an adventurous girl ( so my friends tell me), but even I would flick that guy off my lap. Pronto! You’re a fabulous girl. Crazy yes, but fabulous!
    I’ve heard about the cliffs and the horrific bus journey with vomitting, tipping over, sliding into oblivion, and the like, in this area, and I want to go but I think taking other transport means would be better. ‘Loving your posts as ever. :)

    • Rachel Jones June 13, 2014 at 6:20 am - Reply

      haha you are fabulous too! You’re right taking the train beats the bus any day!! ughhh those shitty buses!

  14. Haha, this is a hilarious post. It must have been an exhausting bus ride for you and your friend, Rachel, but for your readers it’s an entertaining story. This really reminds me of an overnight train ride I experienced in Northern India. Five other western females and I were sharing a “compartment”, when suddenly two indian males lay down in between us. We tried our best to get them out. They disappeared for a while, but then returned. When we tried to get them out once more, one of them screamed that they are from the indian army. We weren’t impressed, really, and after screaming back, we eventually managed to get them out. Definitely an experience to remember.

    • Rachel Jones June 18, 2014 at 6:08 am - Reply

      omgsh your bus ride sounds crazy! that’s just nuts. I wonder if he was really in the army or not. not that it matters in that situation!

      • I don’t think they were in the army, but just said that to impress us. We weren’t at all! Instead they were facing six angry and resolute western females, probably not what they expected.

  15. Pavan Meshram August 20, 2014 at 2:21 am - Reply

    How I love this line, “In general teenage boys suck, but particularly when they play music on their phones loudly while the bus tries to sleep.” (-:LoL:-)
    Well, I am off to Manali, Shimla, Spiti and some more parts of Himachal Pradesh next month. Looking at your post, I believe it is going be one crazy ride!

  16. Anne August 21, 2014 at 11:46 pm - Reply

    I found buses in India quite uncomfortable. I usually took the train – if it was possible. In Nepal we traveled a lot by local buses and once a baby peed on me.. On my leg, to be more specific. It was very awkward and the mother, who was sitting next to me, was just holding the baby in the air. Like it’s normal to pee on stranger’s legs. I guess they hadn’t heard of diapers.. :D And after that I had to sit around 10 hours in a bus. Very nice!

    • Rachel Jones August 22, 2014 at 1:51 pm - Reply

      Train is aways better than the bus! I can’t believe you got peed on, how terrible!

      • Deepanshu June 1, 2015 at 2:49 am - Reply

        I so love and hate Indian trains. But usually people on trains end up being more friendly and nicer.

  17. Deepanshu June 1, 2015 at 2:46 am - Reply

    What? I’m Indian and live fairly close to manali and all the hill stations. In fact I’ve been to manali on a bus. Although it was a school bus.
    But I’ve never heard of people being made to get off the bus in order to prevent it from tipping off. Lol are you sure that’s fairly common?

    • Rachel Jones June 1, 2015 at 2:57 pm - Reply

      i don’t know that it’s common, just that it happened- it was only the people crammed in and in the walkways & only on the very big turns.

  18. Ramandeep Rana April 14, 2016 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    I am an indian and even I find our local buses too much to take. You can read my story on my blog “www.rans4all.blogspot.com”. Its titled “Public transport to hell”…

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