A ‘Hop On, Hop Off’ (HOHO) sightseeing bus is about as touristy as you can get really and is found in pretty much every major tourist hub in the world. I was in two minds whether to book it or not but I was also aware just how big Delhi is – it’s absolutely massive. I knew there were a lot of things I wanted to see and many of them were spread out, so HOHO seemed like the best option. Obviously, the metro is also a viable option and is much cheaper (I don’t think getting tuk tuks from place to place would have saved much money at all) but, for the start of my Indian adventure, I quite liked the idea of just hopping on a bus and it taking me to where I wanted to go, as opposed to stressing about how to work the metro (which is actually pretty easy to navigate – hindsight is wonderful).
I actually booked my HOHO ticket in advance about a week before I set off, just because I felt it would be easier and I often unnecessarily like to book/sort things in advance when I travel (a habit I’m gradually getting out of). The website is a bit of a sprawling mess but it lists all the destinations and even plays some uplifting music for you as you browse, which becomes irritating after all of 5 seconds.
The basic set-up of HOHO is that there’s a red route and a green route (and yet all the buses are purple, go figure). The Red Route is more central, pivoting mainly around Connaught Place and Old Delhi, whilst the Green Route ventures further out. The two routes collide at various points, such as India Gate or Humayun’s Tomb to allow you to switch from one to another. You can book to travel only on the Red Route, only on the Green Route or get a 2 day ticket which allows you to travel on both routes. I chose to do the latter, which cost me 1000 rupees over two days. A 1 day ticket on either of the routes will cost you 600 rupees. If you’re in Delhi over a weekend, the ticket also includes a free visit to watch the changing of the guard at President House on a Saturday morning (7.30am). Unfortunately I left Delhi early on the Saturday so couldn’t make use of this.
So, overall, it works out at paying 500 rupees per day to travel round the city, which I didn’t think was too bad considering the buses were nice and you get a guide who explains each of the sites you’re stopping at. The buses are frequent, with Red Route buses departing from each stop every 45 minutes and Green Route buses departing every hour. They should give you a full timetable on the bus telling you the exact times the buses will stop/pick up at each place. If you want to fit in quite a few things in one day, you need to plan how long you want to spend at each place. You’ll probably want to spend a while at monuments such as Red Fort or Qutub Minar, whilst Raj Ghat and Lotus Temple can be done in a short space of time.
I think one of the mistakes I made was to tackle the Red Route on one day and then the Green Route on the next. I think it’s much more time-effective to have an even split between the two routes, since the Green Route only starts from India Gate. As a result, on the second day, I had to sit on the Red Route bus for about an hour going past monuments I’d already seen before I could reach India Gate to catch the Green Route bus. Both Red/Green buses stop at India Gate, NGMA, Humayun’s Tomb and Safdarjang’s Tomb, so it’s pretty easy to switch from one to the other. They’ve got a full map on the website and you should be given one on the bus too.
I was in Delhi during off-season so the buses weren’t very busy at all, mainly filled with Indian tourists who can ride the bus for half the price. I still don’t think booking in advance is strictly necessary though and you can easily pick up a ticket at the HOHO office near Connaught Place. This is where the Red Route bus begins and ends anyway, so you could either scout it out the day before or even just go in on the morning of your sightseeing.
The HOHO office/Red Route bus departure is on Baba Kharak Singh Marg, just off Connaught Circle. Naturally, it took me about five or six circuits of Connaught Place before I found the correct road, but it’s on the same road as the Shivaji Stadium metro station. You have to walk about 5-10 minutes down the road before you should see a small detached hut-type buiding in front of the other shops or, more likely, you’ll see the HOHO bus waiting outside it. Once I found the right road, even I didn’t have any problems finding the office so you’ve got no excuse.
So the big question is whether or not it’s worth plunging into the sea of tourism and making use of HOHO. For seasoned travellers who’ve got no problems navigating round a vast city and are happy to take the metro or local buses, then it’s probably not worth the extra money, but I know I was quite nervous about Delhi, especially since it was my first stop off during this visit to India, so HOHO gave me some peace of mind. It’s definitely a favourable option if you’re travelling with kids or you want to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time. The stops are also all well-positioned. I know some of the metro stops can sometimes be 1km away or more but all of the bus stops were directly outside the monuments we were seeing.
I had no major complaints about the service. Some people have complained about the buses being very late, but they were mostly pretty reliable. A few were about 5 minutes late but I guess this is because of how congested Delhi is as a city. We were certainly crawling at a few spots. The guides on the bus are a bit hit-and-miss too. Some are quite engaging and even sat down to chat with me sometimes, directing me to the best sights. Others were much more half-arsed, reeling off the pre-learned trivia about a certain place and doing very little else.
So it’s not perfect by any means, but it got me round a crowded and overwhelming city with minimal hassle and stops at almost all of the ‘big hitters’ in Delhi. For convenience and peace of mind, HOHO is a nice gradual introduction into the crazy world of Delhi.