Travelling is one experience which leaves you enthralled and more curious than ever. It opens up perspectives, about people, about cultures, about bittersweet divides – it leaves you enchanted.
So it was my family’s curiosity left unquenched when we had travelled to India almost annually, via air. This involved a trip from Karachi to Mumbai by plane, and SriLankan Airlines had been offering this route for quite some years. Then came in PIA as the only option as the SriLankan Boeings stopped going to our bittersweet neighbour. Came our national carrier’s delays and the long detours became quite annoying.
We held our patience, yet a series of cancelled domestic connections and missing the ones we had been aiming for made it all the more frustrating.
What next? How do you travel to a country next door, when the journey makes it so cumbersome – let alone the immigration process (even that has improved with technology coming to our rescue). So we pondered, thought of other options, and advice that we had not paid heed to, clicked. What about travelling by road? The bus a few people had told us about? The ‘dosti bus’ as people recognise it or the ‘Wagah-Attari route’. Yes, we tried that next.
What we had thought would be a journey in a vehicle quite uncomfortable, with perhaps no food, with getting stuck in traffic, turned out to be completely the opposite. For as little as $30 per person, with services including fully armed protocol, stops for breakfast, lunch, tea and snacks, it was quite a treat. Think of all this, and you whizzing by lush green fields, in quite comfy chairs, with perhaps a movie to watch (but as per the driver’s choice). You also get the advantage of having lunch at a floating restaurant, see the Wagah border, and I repeat, no traffic hassles as cars are stopped for a few seconds to allow the bus to pass. Perhaps the only downfall is that the total journey time is twelve hours, which increases in the case of rain – nevertheless, it is a lovely drive.
The fact that the bus leaves on time, and travels daily, makes it a better option than air, for which you get a flight only once a week, and it usually gets delayed. The bus tickets are also 15 times light on your pocket! We also take the chance to talk to friendly passengers on the bus or capture a few memorable pictures or picturesque landscapes. You meet students from Kashmir travelling to Pakistan for university, or perhaps a lady going to meet her parents on the other side, or a tourist enchanted with the cultural milieu on both sides.
What next, we are asking ourselves. Another option is on our minds – the via foot option – cross the Wagah border on foot (in shaa Allah). Much shorter and even more of a tourist’s delight!
Before taking this ‘brave’ step of travelling by road, I would Google about it endlessly, and would receive short, confusing reviews. Here is a compilation of websites that may help someone planning to do the same!
Tickets are booked in Karachi, Pakistan from the PTDC office in Hotel Metropole.
Return tickets are booked from Lahore, the bus station in Gulberg, Liberty Market.
You can also book your return from the Delhi bus station, but not in the evening. If you are travelling to Pakistan from India, you can book your return tickets from the Lahore bus station once you reach there.
You will have to reach the Lahore bus station on your own and arrange for transport from the Delhi bus station, or vice versa.