Bus Ride on VRL from Hospet (near Hampi) to Mumbai

by Joji

We arrived in the early morning in Mumbai on a bus from Hospet.  We booked an overnight bus from one of the many tour agents in Hampi.  We were told that the bus would drop us off at the bus station next to Victoria Terminal (aka CST), but of course that was not the case.  In fact, I don’t think any of the tour agents really know anything about where the buses will drop you off in Mumbai.  This was our second bus ride into Mumbai and both with similar results.  If you are a local and can understand Hindi, you can ask the driver where you are as they holler out the stops in the early morning.  Of course we can’t understand them and they don’t really speak any English so most westerners are out of luck!

The name of our bus company was VRL and while the bus was very nice and new with good air conditioning the staff was incompetent.   While I am not certain, it appeared that the baggage attendant only wanted to put ID tags on luggage if you were Indian.  I stood there with my luggage and watched him put tags on bags but when it came to my turn he refused and then threw my bag into the compartment.  I tried to reason with him as to why and all he could say was, “No tag”.  Then the next Indian person would get tags, but the next foreigner would not.  Why??  I don’ know and finally gave up.  When we arrived in Mumbai we pulled our own bag from the bus but the baggage guy started to demand 20 rupees from me.  I asked him why and he shouted, “tip, tip!”  Huh?  you want a tip when you didn’t want to put a tag on my bag then you don’t even pull it from the bus and you want a tip?  Just because I am a foreigner?  “No Way!”  I yelled at him and walked away.

So here we are in Mumbai, in the middle of the city but nowhere near Victoria Terminal (CST) as promised and we are surrounded by cab drivers.  They know the routine that this is where they can pick up stranded tourists and charge them a small fortune for wherever they want to go.  This wasn’t going to happen to us, as I happened to see a sign just before we got of the bus that said the Colaba area (near Victoria Terminal) was 16 kilometers away.  It really pays off to know the distance to your destination!

Cab drivers were hounding us and telling us that they can take us to Victoria Terminal for a small fee of 400 rupees.  They all make a similar excuse claiming that it is much father than it usually is.  Of course, even if they use the meter they can still take you for a ride in circles without you knowing it.  “No way, not in your life time,” I thought to myself as we just walked away from them.  In fact, this is always the best thing to do because the ones who come chasing you are usually the ones who will try to rip you off.  The best thing to do is try to find a cab or rickshaw away from the crowd who is not desperately trying to get your business.  If you can’t find another cab you can always demand meter only.  We did just that and got into a cab, but we noticed that even though the driver switched on the meter it did not show any initial amount.  We asked why and he said it was on.  We didn’t believe him and demanded that it be on.  He wouldn’t do it, so we got out and found another cab driving by that had a working meter.   Twenty minutes later we were at Victoria Terminal and it only cost us 160 rupees, which means we found an honest cab driver :).

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