PHOTOS: Karachi Does Public Transportation With Style

Hundreds of minibuses get commuters around Pakistan’s bustling port city Karachi.

Ladies ride in the front section of Karachi's minibuses. (Photo by Mansoor Khan)

Since there is no other viable means of public transportation, the buses get packed fast and can be risky to ride since they don’t stop for passengers to get on and off and riders often have to pile up on top of the buses if there's no space in the bus cabin. These turn many Karachi locals off. But the vibrant good looks of the buses coupled with the fact that they are made by local artisans make Karachi buses the coolest form of public transportation I’ve seen to date.

This bus, made in 2008, has seen a few trips. (Photo by Abbie Fentress Swanson)

Karachi's minibuses  take months to decorate before they hit the road. First they are painted a base color. Then artisans cut eye-catching red, orange, blue, green and yellow plastic reflector sheets (chamak patti) into shapes -- like hearts, diamonds and flowers -- into small pieces with scissors. The shapes are then made into patterns, pictures or natural scenes -- waterfalls, mountains and peacocks are popular -- and affixed onto tin sheets that cover the bus exteriors.

Popular motifs include peacocks and stars. (Photo by Umair Mohsin/Flickr CC)

The names of bus operators or artists who decorated the buses -- Brothers, Princ Khan, VIP -- are often found on the vehicles, as are eyes that look out at passengers coming from behind. Other decor, such as chains with amulets, dangle from the front and back bus bumpers. Icing on the cake is flags, tassels and strings of beads.

This 2001 bus is operated by Brothers. (Photo by Abbie Fentress Swanson)

After you've seen the buses by day, take a drive through Karachi at night: that's when tiny lights on the buses are all lit up.

The Karachi W11 by night. (Photo by Mansoor Khan)