Cashless travel on B.E.S.T. buses in Mumbai

I recently found out that the local buses in Mumbai have started a RFID-based scheme for cashless travel. I’m writing this as I didn’t find much information about this online, and I hope my experiences are helpful to others.

How this whole thing works

  1. It’s a simple pre-paid card. Instead of offering cash for a bus ticket, you hand over the card.

  2. It is not a bus pass, each journey does require getting a ticket.

  3. The ticket will print out your remaining balance so you can keep an eye on it and top up[1] if required.

How do you get this thingy

This is the hard part.

  1. You have to go to your local bus depot first. I’m not sure if all depots have this facility; most major ones do.

  2. Find the counter that handles RFID cards (by asking around), then fill out a form with your name, phone number, email address & date of birth. (You will need to pay 25 bucks to get this form.)

  3. You’ll have to be photographed on the spot, but it’s done pretty quickly via a webcam.

  4. Wait for a week. Then go back and pick up your card.

  5. Once you have the card, you need to put some cash in. Do this at the same counter; you’ll need to keep a Rs. 50 minimum balance regardless of how much you put in.

My thoughts

Using the card is pretty seamless; I love not needing to worry about spare change when I’m traveling. But the process to get this card is cumbersome.

Since this is a pre-paid card, not a bus-pass, I don’t see the need to have photo identification. It should be equivalent to cash, and be available on the spot. As the process is annoyingly hard right now, most (sane) people would rather just keep paying cash.

Right now, there is no way to recharge the card online, though this may change later. You have to go back to a bus depot if you are running out of cash on the card.

Also, this last point is pretty creepy, or interesting; depending on how much you value your privacy: visit this page on B.E.S.T.’s site and enter your card details and you should be able to see a complete log of all trips you had undertaken using the card. This may be pretty informative, but I can’t help but wonder about the privacy implications. It would be so much better if B.E.S.T. had went with anonymous, disposable cards instead of tying everything with your identity…

  1. Ugh, I hate using that word but it’s what B.E.S.T. officially uses.  ↩