Not only was my travel time over 32 hours to get to Varanasi, India from Pokhara Nepal, despite the distance involved only being 480km. I was also severely ripped off, being sold an over expensive train ticket after crossing the border and to then watch my bag be driven off down the road on the bus I was meant to be on to the train station.Oh how fun it can be dealing with the Indian transport system!
Starting in Pokhara, Nepal to the Indian border in Sunauli was only about 8 hours via bus. I walked about 200m until I found somewhere to buy myself a bus ticket to Varanasi. Now there are 3 ways to travel long distances in India, the cheapest is the public bus, the second would be to take a tourist bus and thirdly the train which also carries about 6 different ticket classes.
1st Class (1AC), Air Conditioned – the most expensive class of train travel, two or four berth compartments with locking doors and meals provided
2nd Class/2-Tier (2AC), Air Conditioned –Two-tier berths arranged in groups of four and two in open carriage. Bunks convert into seats, included curtains for privacy.
3rd Class/3-Tier (3AC), Air Conditioned – Three-tier berths arranged in groups of six in open plan, no curtains.
AC Executive Chair – Comfortable, reclining chair and plenty of space.
Sleeper Class – Open carriages with three-tier bunk beds.
Unreserved 2ndClass – Wood or plastic seats, overcrowded but super cheap.
I purchased myself a tourist bus ticket which would take me approximately (and very loosely at that) 10 hours to Varanasi. Waiting an hour past my expected departure time, I was then told the bus was cancelled due to a lack of passengers (most of the time there would be only 4-5 passengers). I got frustrated, and angrily asked the guy who sold me the ticket “why would he even sell me a ticket when you knew that I could most probably not use it”. “No worries Mr sir you catch train”. Being a budget traveller I wanted the cheapest option and I decided against it. “Well you could have sold me the local bus ticket instead! Before it left 4 hours ago, now I have to pay you for a train ticket”. “Yes and you catch the bus just 2 hours to the train station”. “Okay book the ticket,” I mumbled in disappointment.
As the tourist agent whom I brought my ticket from had no ink in his printer (pretty standard), I had to wait for some guy (his “mate”) to arrive by motorbike with my confirmed ticket, printed from god knows where. I was told to load my bag onto the bus as my ticket would arrive “not many time longer Mr. you wait and bus wait”. With my body language suggesting otherwise as the bus kept sounding its horn anxiously for me to get on board. All of a sudden the bus pulled away from the dusty trash infested curb carrying my bag but leaving myself behind stunned and amazed. I jumped into action with a quick sprint for the bus door, so as to not let the bus go.
Sprinting with my backpack on I passed the guy on the motorbike holding my ticket in his hand, what a cliché I thought as I jumped onto the bus with the help of some of the passengers. Having not paid the full fare for my train ticket I wasn’t too worried about not getting it, when all of a sudden the motorbike rider leaped into the bus doorway holding my ticket high in the air as if it was a winning lottery ticket. Wow this is some James Bond shit I thought.
Once he climbed onto the bus he handed me my ticket. I observed it making sure it was all correct, with him in my ear demanding for 350 Rupee. “No man, I am to only pay 750 and have already paid 500 for this bus ticket, which I couldn’t use”, “ Okay, okay, okay you pay me 300 then”. “No I will only give you the 250, the correct price I agreed to pay” as our eyes locked in rage, he stared at me in anger and despair trying to victimize me as though I was in the wrong.
With that score settled he performed his famous Indian head wobble of approval and hopped from the rickety bus. Great now I have a 2 hour bus ride to the train station where my 9 hour train ride will take me to Varanasi arriving by 6.15am. That is until I realized that this is India and its transport system rarely runs on time. My train was delayed by 3 hours, so, it took me an extra few hours to arrive to Varanasi and another 45 mins driving aimlessly around the Holy City because the driver was un-aware of where my guest house was. Either that or he wanted to scam more money from me for taking longer than expected which I was not having a bar of.
So as I was told by fellow travellers and now want to pass this advice on to you. Just be prepared for bang ups and hang ups because they can be quite common in India. Delays are normal with everything and I mean everything, taking much longer than expected, so in this case patients really is a virtue.