Exploring Imphal (Manipur) and around using public transportation

I spent couple of days last week in Imphal, Manipur, exploring few places around it. This post is written to guide backpackers/tourists looking to plan their visit to Imphal and explore nearby areas using public transport and not spend a lot on taxi/tourist package.

Above: Reaching Moirang in a Tata Magic

Things to know about public transport options in Imphal
Reaching city for cheap from Imphal Airport
While you can take a taxi in airport, if you can walk till main road (just 100 meters from arrivals) you can hop on a share auto that is heading towards city. You can reach Imphal town centre for Rs 10 per person.

If your hotel is in the opposite direction- like Eco Heritage Villa- then take the share auto going towards Nambol and get down at closest point on highway to your destination.

What are the viable public transport options in Imphal, Manipur?
  1. Most common ones are shared autos and Tata Magic like vehicles that regularly ply to various destinations closer to Imphal.
  2. Tata Winger/Maruti Omni like minivans cater to slightly far away destinations (like Moreh, Kohima etc)
  3. Nagaland state department bus operates between Imphal and Kohima but advance booking might be needed as seats are limited.
  4. No local trains/train station in Imphal (Dimapur is the nearest rail head)
  5. No Uber/Ola in Imphal yet
  6. Private taxis are hard to find on the street, but your hotel owner would surely know one or ask any share auto driver or travel agent.
Cost of Public transport/share autos in Imphal, Manipur (as of June 2019)
#
Destination
Kms from Imphal
One way fare
1
Andro
20
INR 30
2
Loktak Lake/Moirang
45
INR 60
3
Nambol
17
INR 20
4
Airport
7- 8
INR 10
5
Other short distances

Usually 10 Rs, ask
6
Moreh
100
INR 300 to 500
7
Kohima
150
INR 400 (bus), 600 (winger)
8




Where to find public transport/share autos to various destinations in Imphal?
You've to ask for "destination-parking" like Andro-Parking to go to Andro, Moreh-Parking to go to Moreh, Bishnupur/Nambol/Moirang parking (this one is at the centre of town) etc. The starting points, known as 'parking' are spread around the city, usually 2-3 kms apart- you can walk or take a local share auto to reach the specific start point (usually Rs 10). Check on map or ask anyone.

Are the public transportation in Imphal safe and convenient?
Locals depend on these for all their movements as buses are very few. The operators make max money if they can stuff as many people as they can- a Tata Magic is designed to hold 8 people, but operators stuff 2 passengers on front, 4+4 in centre, 2+2 in the rear and possibly few more on roof top- that is easily 14 passengers + driver, twice the designed capacity. So it will be cramped, sweaty.

Above: Imphal parking at Moirang

No seatbelt, no airbag- no real safety as such- just trust the driver and have faith in god- this is how rural transportation works in India.  So I can't really assure you everything will be safe and convenient. If you can afford you can hire a private taxi for 10-20 times the price, else have to manage with what's available or just avoid visiting Manipur.

How much would private taxis cost?
A lot. For a 100 kms one way, 200 kms round trip from Imphal to Moreh (Burma Border), a private taxi could cost anywhere between INR 5000 to 10000, depending on vehicle type, how much you could bargain and how much the operator feels like charging that day. In a shared transport you can reach same distance for around INR 600-800 per person, even less in a bus.

Is every tourist spot in Manipur accessible by public transport?
No. Share autos only cover the main towns. For destinations in the interior (like a waterfall) you will have to request some auto driver to drop you for an agreed fare or walk. If there's a village or town closer to the destination you might find some other shared transport, but not always guaranteed.

Above: Imphal-Kohima-Shillong-Guwahati Bus

Are there bike/car rental available in Manipur?
No. None of the major self drive rental players like Zoomcar, Myles, Royal Brothers etc have presence in Manipur. Some private individuals/hotel owners may give their personal vehicle for rent to make extra money. Rental vehicles are available in Guwahati (500 kms away) if you can plan a long round trip journey.

Is it possible to manage with English/Hindi in Manipur?
Most people speak local language and not Hindi. But almost everyone can understand some basic Hindi words and in a group you are very likely to find at least one person who can understand better English/Hindi and can translate for you. So it is possible to manage.

How are the roads in Manipur?
Good for most parts, but bad roads, possible landslide spots, under construction roads do exist. So expect some inconvenience.

How is the public infrastructure in Manipur for tourists?
Poor. Needs immediate attention if Manipur tourism intend to attract more tourists.
  • No public rest rooms anywhere or non functional or very hard to find
  • No proper bus stand/waiting area
  • No proper signage to guide you towards various attractions
  • No ban on plastic- lots of garbage and dirty streets
  • Decent restaurants are also almost impossible to find.
Do the operators cheat and fleece tourists?
Usually no- there're very few tourists in Manipur and most customers are locals for these shared vehicles. The fares are usually fixed. But yes, you can't rule out some smart bloke trying to demand extra money under some pretext. So it helps to check with your hotel staff the standard fare to a destination you're planning to visit and check and agree on a fare while boarding, particularly for long distance trips like Moirang or Moreh etc.

Other tips for exploring Manipur using public/shared transport
  • Sometime return fare may not be same as onward fare- always remember to agree on a fare before.
  • Have lots of patience. Waiting time could be very very long- driver may wait till every seat is full- this could mean 20-30 minutes or more.
  • Most vehicles are poorly maintained, break downs are common. If you have a time crucial schedule- like a flight to catch- keep lots of buffer.
  • Plan to enter via Manipur and exit via Nagaland or Assam if you're planning long trip, to avoid unnecessary back and forth travel
Above: A Tata Magic developed engine problem and I had to take another share auto. Driver still took full amount.

Similar: Managing Srilanka trip with public transport

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