A Guide to the Chinatown Bus
The word is out—the cheapest way to get from one major U.S. city to another is on the “Chinatown bus”. In recent years this has become transportation option of choice for budget travelers in New York, Washington DC, and Boston, and more recently on the West Coast. Students, backpackers, and an array of other savvy travelers have long loved the rock bottom prices that these bus companies offer. Despite the popularity of these bus lines it can still be difficult to find information on Chinatown bus service.
What exactly is a “Chinatown Bus”? Read on and you will have the inside track on this great budget travel option.
Chinatown Bus history
The Chinatown bus phenomenon began in the late 1990s when an entrepreneur in New York’s Chinatown started running daily bus service from Chinatown in New York to Chinatown in Boston. The service was aimed at Asian immigrants who wanted to shop or visit relatives in either city and needed cheap and convenient transportation. The service was bare bones—no advertising, customer service, or bus stations. Customers simply went to the bus stop, waited for the bus (or van), and paid the driver upon boarding. For those willing to do without frills, they offered virtually the same service as traditional bus companies at a substantially lower price. Before long, the word spread and all kinds of people started using the service. It became especially popular with students, budget travelers, or people for whom the service was simply more convenient.
Soon more bus companies duplicated this model and started offering service in other cities. Now you can find this type of bus service in Philadelphia, Virginia, Baltimore Washington DC, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco. At this point the term “Chinatown bus” is used more loosely to describe this sort of low-cost/low-frills service. Many, if not most, of the companies do not have Chinatown as their main location and may not cater to the immigrant population at all. These operators are also sometimes referred to as “curbside” operators.
How can tickets be so cheap?
$15 between New York to Boston? $25 from Las Vegas to Los Angeles? It seems hard to fathom. Chinatown bus companies are able to keep prices low because they operate in a fundamentally different way from traditional carriers. Foremost, the service is very basic. There is little in the way of customer service or amenities. Most of these operators do not have formal stations, picking up passengers at bus stops instead. They eschew traditional advertising in favor of word of mouth. Further, many of the operators play a very hands-on role in the operation—you will not see idle executives at a small independent bus company. Finally, these operators make sure they fill their buses. That is why Chinatown bus operators usually only operate on heavily trafficked routes. Indeed some companies only run buses at peak times.
Are they safe?
When these companies first started operating, concerns were raised about safety standards. There is still controversy within the bus industry about whether these newcomers are complying with the same regulations as the traditional companies. However, a task force set up by the Federal government to look at safety issues found that Chinatown bus companies did not perform better or worse than other types of bus companies (ie. charter, tour buses). All bus companies operating in the U.S. must undergo the same inspection standards and must comply with the same rules. Realistically there is probably a range of quality among Chinatown bus carriers. Some are fly-by-night operators trying to make a fast buck, while others are legitimate entrepreneurs who plan to grow and operate a long term business.
What you should expect
- No frills service—the driver may be the ticket collector; there will not be a lot of customer service.
- Comfortable buses. Despite the low fares buses are usually quite nice. Most buses are comparable to Greyhound and many are actually more deluxe.
- Communication challenges. Drivers are legally required to speak enough English to help passengers in the case of emergency. In reality this is often adhered to rather loosely. At the very least, expect your driver to have an accent.
- Possible delays. Many of these bus routes are on highly congested roads. When the roads are busy, expect delays.
- Rest stops. Buses will have a lavatory on board but there is usually a 10 or 15 minute bathroom break on trips over 4 hours. Don’t be late returning to the bus, the driver will not count heads before leaving at the appointed time.
- Full buses. Buses definitely sell out at peak times (weekends and evenings). Book ahead or get there early if you want secure a seat.
- Plastic Bags. An odd little quirk on Chinatown buses is that every aisle seat usually has a plastic grocery bag tied to the arm. I guess they find this is the best way to keep the buses clean.
How do I find the Chinatown Bus?
Again, “Chinatown bus” is a term used to describe a type of operator and not an individual bus company. Many unrelated bus companies fall into this category. Since most Chinatown buses do not spend money on advertising it can be difficult to find out details about schedules and bus stop locations. Many of the carriers are becoming savvier about the Internet and quite a few have websites with information. Usually an Internet search will yield links to bus service to your destination. There are also several directories, such as chinatown-bus.org that include links for most Chinatown bus companies and the author’s employer, GotoBus.com, is a centralized booking site that has schedules and sells tickets online for most Chinatown bus companies.
The Chinatown bus is not for everyone. If you want an orderly system with American style customer service, you should probably stick to traditional carriers. However, if you know what to expect and come prepared with a sense of adventure and humor, you should enjoy the trip just fine. You will also enjoy the money you save!
In the coming three holidays, this route of Rishikesh may remain jammed, you can also choose this route.
Route 1: New Delhi – Meerut – Muzaffarnagar – Roorkee – Haridwar – Rishikesh via NH 334
For those who choose Route 1, it takes about 6 hours to reach Rishikesh via NH 334. Rishikesh is 235 km away from New Delhi. On this route, the road will take you through some important places like Meerut and Muzaffarnagar. The roads are in very good condition, it is easy to walk a short distance from here. In the coming 3 days holiday this place between Rishikesh and Nainital will be better, which place would you like to visit?
(Image credit: TOI.com)
Route 2: New Delhi – Hapur – Chandpur – Najibabad – Haridwar – Rishikesh Via NH 9
If you choose route 2, it will take you around 7 hours to reach Rishikesh via the NH 9 and the total distance from New Delhi to Rishikesh is around 288 km. You can plan to visit here on the weekend, leave on Saturday morning and then rest in the evening and start your trip the next day. Then you can come to Delhi at night on Monday ie 15th August. These 6 countries will fulfill the dream of living abroad, lakhs of rupees will be given to the citizens upon their settlement
(Image credit: Economic Times)
Short stop in Meerut and Haridwar –
Coming from Route 1 you will see many Punjabi dhabas in Meerut. Here you can stop to have some breakfast water. This stopover is perfect from where you can eat delicious parathas. Once you reach Haridwar you can have your lunch by stopping here and also visit some ghats and famous temples here. This place is one of the holiest places in the country and large numbers of pilgrims come here to wash away their sins and seek blessings. Rishikesh is 25 km from here which you can reach in 45 to 60 minutes. Now that you have seen the place to visit, book a government guest house for less than Rs 1800
(Image credit: indiatimes.com)
How to reach – How to reach
Apart from the road, if you are thinking of traveling by train and plane, you can go this way.
By plane: Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest airport at a distance of 21 km. This airport is connected to many places across the country.
By train: Rishikesh railway station is well connected to the rail network and trains run from all over the country. I have seen many hill stations near Manali, Mussoorie, now see these magnificent hill stations near Dehradun
Places to visit in Rishikesh – Places in Rishikesh
There are many places to see in Rishikesh but there are some places you can visit in a 1 to 2 days trip such as Beasi, Kaudiyala, Mun ki Reti, Bharat Mandir, Rishikund, Terah Manzil Temple.
Why You Should Travel To Rajasthan In August
Jaipur: The long weekend is just around the corner and if you haven’t planned a trip yet, add a visit to Rajasthan to your plans. With the onset of the monsoon season, the scorching heat of June and July is behind us and the weather is pleasant to visit the “Desert State of India”. In fact, the month of August is one of the best times to experience Rajasthan in all its verdant splendor that surrounds the state’s historic forts.Also read – Rajasthan: Woman fills in well with 4 children, all die; she survives
Why you should travel to Rajasthan in August
In August, Rajasthan enjoys light rains and comfortable temperatures of around 33 degrees Celsius due to the advent of monsoon rains. During this period the weather is just perfect – not too hot or not too cold. Also read – Explained: What is Lumpy Skin Disease That Killed Over 3,000 Cattle in Rajasthan, Gujarat?
Plus, the rain showers turn the state’s barren and arid land green, making up for the spectacular views. During this time, the view from the top of the forts and historical sites is one of lush greenery – a sight not to be missed. In addition, the rain and pleasant weather make the hard work to climb the summit worthwhile. Also read – Tina Dabi shares images showing Jaisalmer’s monsoon beauty after Rajasthan receives its heaviest rainfall in 66 years
Sightseeing in Rajasthan in August
Udaipur – the city of lakes – is a sight to behold in August. The city has seven lakes including Fateh Sagar Lake, Lake Pichola, Swaroop Sagar Lake, Rangsagar and Doodh Talai Lake which are recharged by the monsoon rains. Travelers can book a stay at the Taj Lake Palace right in the middle of Lake Pichola for breathtaking views of the city. Aside from these beautiful lakes, the city is home to some of the country’s grandest palaces, which are major tourist attractions.
Tucked away in Aravallis, Jalore is another great place to visit during the monsoons. During this period, the Aravalli forest is particularly spectacular after fresh rain showers. Jalore is also called the city of granite and majesty. Sundha Mountain, just outside the city limits, is a great place to visit and the views from the top are stunning. Make time for Jalore Fort and Swarn Giri Fort as well, they are some of the city’s top attractions.
A grand spectacle, Bundi is all about magnificent forts and ancient baoris (stepped reservoirs). During the monsoon these step reservoirs are filled with fresh water and make for a breathtaking view. Also, the hills around Bundi are revived with green vegetation and the rivers have swelled again after the rains.
The beautiful hill station in Rajasthan always enjoys pleasant weather and it’s even better during the monsoons. Mount Abu offers countless activities for tourists like trekking, hiking, zip lining to name a few. But if you want it to be a peaceful vacation, you can visit places like Guru Sikhar, Nakki Lake, Mount Abu Sanctuary, Toad Rock Viewpoint, Dilwara Jain Temple, among others.
The Pink City shines in all its glory in August. After the monsoon showers have washed away all the dust and dryness of summer, Jaipur’s fantastic architecture looks like it has had a fresh coat of paint. The colors of the red sandstone monuments emerge after rain and Jantar Mantar, Hawa Mahal, Mandir Palace, Laxmi Narayan Temple, City Palace, Amer Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Rambagh Palace and other places look like they have get a new life.
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Top Things To Do In Jodhpur
Located on the edge of the Thar Desert in western Rajasthan, Jodhpur continues to be a global tourist magnet. Jodhpur has been given several epithets such as Blue City and Sun City. The Rajasthanis affectionately call it Jodhana. The former capital of the Marwar kingdom is home to Rajasthan’s largest fort and several grand palaces, temples, gardens and markets full of old world charm and offers an amazing travel experience. Here we present you the best things to do in Jodhpur. By Karan Kaushik
Things to do in Jodhpur
Walk through the pages of history at Mehrangarh Fort
Mehrangarh, often touted as the citadel of the sun, stands tall and proud as Rajasthan’s greatest fortress. It was built by Rao Jodha in 1459. Perched on a sheer bluff 400 feet above the city, this burnished red sandstone structure is backed by many stories. Its beauty has attracted many admirers such as Rudyard Kipling; he called it “the work of giants.” Today it is widely regarded as one of the best preserved forts in India. The main attraction of the fort is its Museum. Miniature paintings, palanquins, weapons and valuable mementos of the royal family are on display here. The main attractions of the fort are Sangar Chowki, Zenana Mahal and Phool Mahal.
Go ziplining over the Blue City
The Flying Fox Zipline Tour in Jodhpur is an exciting experience that will stay in your memory forever. Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson described this zip line as Jodhpur’s best part. “The zip lines send you around the moats and pinnacles like Batman,” he had said. The zipline takes you over two desert lakes and the Rao Jodha Ecopark, offering stunning views of Mehrangarh and the Blue City.
Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park
Located near the famous Mehrangarh Fort, this 72-hectare ecologically restored desert came back to life in 2006 after careful reconstruction. Rao Jodha Desert Rock Park, once an arid, decaying, barren land of vegetation, now boasts a local nursery, convenience store and cafe. Visitors can even hike trails amidst the 250 native plant species here and embark on a mission to spot several species of reptiles and over 200 birds along the way.
Revel in the Umaid Bhawan Palace
The magnificent Umaid Bhawan Palace has hosted prolific figures from around the world over the past few decades. The palace is a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architectural style and was named after and built by Maharaja Umaid Singh. It is also known as the Chittar Palace due to the use of Chittar sandstone in its construction. Interestingly, no mortar was used in the entire construction. Instead, hand-carved blocks of sandstone were interlocked. Today is part of the palace doubles as a hotel, while the others house model airplanes, guns, antique clocks, and priceless crockery for the public.
Admire the architecture of Rajasthan at Mandore Garden
Like Jodhpur itself, Mandore Garden has many names. Maddodara, Mandowar, and Mandavyapura-Durga are some of the oldest names all believed to have descended from Rishi Mandavya. Locals believe that the gardens were originally tended by Nagas, followed by Pratiharas, Chahamanas, Sultans of Delhi and finally Rathores. Today the garden is the site of many magnificent antiques temple, monuments and high rock terraces. The monoliths here date from the early fifth century. Indeed are two intricately carved monoliths depicting scenes from Krishna Leela were excavated in 1909-10. On the other side, the hilltop Mandore Palace and Fort date back to the sixth century. The highlight at Mandore Gardens, however, is the government-run museum, which houses artifacts and relics of historical importance.
Explore the twin lakes of Ranisar-Padamsar
These interconnected pristine waters are considered the twin lakes of Jodhpur and are located near Mehrangarh Fort. Both lakes date back to 1459 and were built with the intention of natural water conservation. Although it’s in a largely deserted area Condition, these lakes have a very unique quality – they rarely run out of water. Head here at the height of dawn to enjoy the water in all its glory and watch the towering fortress dance in the waves.
Take gram worthy photos in Jaswant Thada
Dating from 1899, Jaswant Thada is a famous cenotaph. While it now serves as the cremation ground for the Marwar Rajput royal family, it was originally built by Maharaja Sardar Singh of Jodhpur in memory of his father, Maharaja Jaswant Singh II. That cenotaph is built entirely of thin and intricately carved marble slabs. They have been polished to shine under the summer sun. The main cenotaph – that of Maharaja Jaswant Singh – is surrounded by portraits of rulers. In addition, the Jaswant Thada site features pavilions, a tiered garden, three other cenotaphs and a small lake.
Shop at the Clock Tower Market
No trip to Jodhpur is complete without going on a Shopping Spree. Enjoy hot Pjas Kachoris and Mirchi commander before you start splurging on everything Rajasthani. The Sardar Market in Girdikot is centered around the famous Ghantaghar or Clock Tower. The market sells everything from Jodhpuri mojaris to Lehariya Sarees, Dupattas, Safas, ethnic jewelry and more.
Plan a detour to Osian
Ossian or Osiyan is an oasis town in the Thar desert of Jodhpur district. Often referred to as the Khajuraho of Rajasthan, this historic city is famous for its Hindu and Jain temples. While here, visit the Jain Mahavira Temple which houses an idol of Mahavira made of cow’s milk, mud and a gold cloak. Then there is the Sachayee Mata Mandir, the most important Hindu temple in Osian. You may also fancy a camel safari or an ATV ride in the sandy terrain of Osian.
Feature Image Credit: Shutterstock; Hero photo credit: Makm Photography/Unsplash
- In the coming three holidays, this route of Rishikesh may remain jammed, you can also choose this route.
- Why You Should Travel To Rajasthan In August
- Top Things To Do In Jodhpur
- Here’s Why Hotels In Manali And Shimla Might Be Charging You More Right Now!
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