If you are a proud Delhite who’s never managed to visit many of its world-famous sites, here is an opportunity to get rid of your guilt in a single day. Or if you are an outdoor enthusiast but rue the impossibility of taking your family to explore the historic Red Fort, shop for crafts at Dilli Haat, meditate in silence at the Lotus Temple and stretch your neck upwards in awe of the Qutb Minar, all on the same day, here is an opportunity that allows such appointment-keeping on a daily basis. Or if you are a globe-trotter who envies tourism facilities in the western metros, your chest can swell with pride now. Delhi’s HoHo city tour service is the perfect antidote to your pessimism.
Delhi Tourism’s Hop on Hop off (HoHo) service remains an unexplored gem in Delhi’s expanding public facilities, which aims to make life easier for residents and tourists alike. Delhi’s streets which now sport multi-colored public transport, a green bus, a red bus and an orange bus, the HoHo bus in purple is the latest addition. This Purple HoHo bus is a public-private partnership between Delhi Tourism, UMTC and Purple Prasanna.
Delhi is the cultural melting pot of India fast turning into a business destination too. Once known only for political hobnobbing and trading in fake products, it has now transformed itself into a classy, uber-chic, fast paced, modern megapolis, while still retaining its status as one of the greenest capitals of the world.
One fine morning, I decided to hop onto the HoHo bus and tour the city like a new tourist in the capital. Their website provides enough information to get started and also allows online ticketing. While one can board from any of its 19 stops and purchase a ticket from the bus itself (how cool, hai na!), I find joy in starting from the starting point. Their buses depart from Connaught Place, opposite Hanuman Mandir, at 45-minute intervals and the ticket is priced at Rs. 300 per person, valid for two days.
My first reaction to the bus was that of excitement. The purple color and HoHo logos are cool and attractive, making it easy to recognize the bus from a distance. Stepping inside, I found it spacious and comfortable. LCD screens inside the buses play videos on India’s heritage and culture. A guest relations executive (GRE) welcomes you on board as he/she explains the concept of hop-on hop-off. Along the designated stops of the bus service, you can de-board and spend as much time as you wish, without conforming to any schedule. After you are done with a place, return to the HoHo stop and hop onto the next bus.
Each stop along the route has a distinct sign-board identifying it has a HoHo point. And if you wish to skip a destination, just don’t get off there, so simple. The buses halt at each stop for a few minutes, allowing passengers to board & de-board and then strolls along to the next one. The bus moves at a gentle pace allowing you to absorb the surroundings, while the GRE fills you in with details. They are equipped with a microphone so you don’t have to strain your ears if you are seated in the last row. I learnt some trivia about the city from them. For example, the ‘0 km’ stone in Delhi is at Raj Ghat (and not at GPO as I had thought); and that alcohol is regularly offered to the gods at the prachin Shiv temple in Kalkaji :); and that the brown brick wall to your left as you drive north on Ring road at Raj Ghat is the boundary that demarcate new Delhi from the old.
It’s so wonderful to have the flexibility of getting down at any stop and spending as much time as you want. The route of the bus is planned to include a variety of places of interest. As a well-heeled traveller, you are into more than just sight-seeing. You want to exploit opportunities to shop at world-class malls and also savor delicacies the local way. The obvious destinations covered are Delhi’s three world heritage sites – Red Fort, Humayun’s tomb and Qutb Minar. What’s more, you can even purchase tickets for these sites from the GRE on your bus, thus avoiding precious time in long queues at the site. If you are an unapologetic bargainer, get down at Lajpat Nagar and fill your shopping bags. Looking for something more cool and chic? Visit the Saket malls. Or you want to try dishes from various states of India, Dilli Haat is on the route too. There is a halt at Aurobindo market
should you want to stroll into Hauz Khas village. If India’s political history interests you, Indira Gandhi memorial and Nehru Bhavan are your halts. A drive past Rashtrapati Bhavan and the North-South blocks bring you in close proximity to the corridors of power along with colonial architecture. Then there is the mystical Jantar Mantar. Whether you are looking for a quick rendezvous with Safadarjung’s tomb or an elaborate study of the intricate stonework at Qutb Minar, the HoHo tour accommodates both, and much more. Amongst all this, if you lose the bus time-table and want to know when the next one is due, call up their help line and they will track down the buses via GPS and update you on it. I was totally impressed.
There were tourists from all over the world with me in the bus, including many Indians. Natalie from France, was in the city with her husband who was busy attending business meetings. She said her hotel recommended the HoHo tour. This was her second day on the bus and she was thoroughly enjoying it. Her impressions of Delhi? ‘Big, colorful, very noisy, but I am loving it’. There was a family from Delhi too who were taking their relatives to see the city.
The hop on hop off concept is very popular globally, however I guess it is yet to catch on here. They need to increase visibility. The GREs also need to be more engaging, they were trying hard but didn’t come across as smooth and articulate. I also wish they provided water bottles onboard.
By evening I had completed a full round trip and was pretty impressed overall. Never has it been possible to cover the whole city at your own pace like this without burning a hole in your pocket. I felt I had seized the day. The concept is great, the buses are comfortable and the price is extremely reasonable. I strongly recommend the HoHo service to any visitors to Delhi, and even for Delhites looking for a casual outing.
You can view more pics by me on my website at Delhi based Candid wedding and Travel photographer Bhaven Jani
- Top 20 Things To Do In Delhi (zidditamana.wordpress.com)