2010 was a red letter year for Delhi transport. The airport’s T3 was inaugurated in time to welcome athletes arriving for the Commonwealth Games; the Delhi Metro opened two more lines. Cycle lanes sprang up along recently constructed BRT routes.
A fleet of big, blue high-capacity buses also joined their shiny new red and green cousins. Long after the cycle lanes gave way to motorbikes, and cars reclaimed the bus lanes, these “hop-on-hop-off” buses continue to ferry tourists to and from about 20 city landmarks every day. Inspired by similar efforts abroad, Delhi Tourism’s HOHOs provide an alternative to full-day taxis and charter buses, and feel like a more organic way of exploring the city even to long-time residents.
Sharing-averse Delhi, know that you can also rent the entire bus for a six-hour tour for yourself and 32 of your closest friends. This is largely targeted to and used for children’s birthday treats, but since our dignity knows no age bar, we tried it out by throwing a party for a group of adults.
The Feels Of The Bus
After a couple of painless emails with the helpful HOHO team, we worked out an itinerary that incorporated the Shankar International Dolls Museum, the Rail Museum, and the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, as well as “drive-by” sightseeing through central Delhi and Chanakyapuri.
Our HOHO rolled up earlier than the appointed time, lovingly festooned with balloons, streamers and a Disney-princess-adorned Happy Birthday sign on its bumper, causing a small commotion. Aunties leaned out of windows to inquire about rates, and cars slowed down to stare.
The feeling of being part of a circus caravan only increased as we squeezed through Bhogal—like a great blue whale in a narrow strait—and Robin, our guest relations representative, cued up the season’s party hits. Bus conductor?
Floating above the sparse Sunday traffic in central Delhi to the tune of “Kar Gayi Chull”, our self-consciousness settled into a kind of giddy hilarity, aided by Robin’s party-starting efforts. (We imagine the game involving bursting balloons with our bums would really spice up a corporate retreat.) His DJ skills weren’t shabby either: we pulled up to the Doll’s Museum dancing (in)appropriately to “Baby Doll”.
Robin adeptly threw out only occasionally dubious tidbits of Delhi trivia as we rode. He quizzed us as we swooped up Raisina Hill (“Who built the Parliament?” Answer, “Local construction workers”); then through the broad avenues of Chanakyapuri (“Did you know visa stands for ‘visitor intending to stay abroad?”).
Robin’s puckish energy was infectious: as the HOHO wallowed in southbound evening traffic on Aurobindo Marg, indulgent smiles spread across the faces of the surrounding commuters. For a moment, the street became a bizarre Bollywood set, bathed in the pretty polluted glow of a Delhi sunset, rather than a gauntlet to be run.
Bus Ki Baat
Our verdict: whether you want to throw a card party on wheels, or keep that contingent of foreign wedding guests out of your hair for a few hours, we recommend going HOHO(ho). Time is your only real challenge: if you’re boarding this bus, tell your guests to arrive half an hour before departure, as extra time en route incurs extra costs. Alcohol could be another sticking point, since this bus is strictly on the wagon. It’s shocking how they’ll put anything in Coke bottles these days, though.
Getting there: Visit www.hohodelhi.com or call 99589-66566. Prices vary by time and distance, but a typical six-hour tour costs Rs 12,500, including personalised decorations and taxes. Guests provide their own food and drink and any entry fees.
Accessibility: The low-floor bus is disabled friendly.
Originally published in Brown Paper Bag Delhi, November 2, 2016.