You might think that the topic of “taking the bus” is a weird one to choose for this blog. And you might be right but taking the bus in Latin America is always a fascinating experience.
In the UK, bus journeys are just boring and, more often than not, a necessity. Public transport is often convenient when you live or work in the city centre, as you can avoid traffic jams by whizzing down the bus lanes, and do not have to pay to park the car. At the end of the day, though, taking the bus is just a necessary and tedious part of life: you board the bus, pay the driver and sit down (or find a place to stand). Very boring.
In Latin America, however, bus trips can be very lively.
For a start, intercity buses put on films so that you have entertainment for at least some of the journey. Naturally local transport does not show films but drivers usually switch on the radio and that can be a great way to hear new songs and new styles of music. (Disappointingly there is not much salsa music back home).
Even better than films or music are the sights and sounds on the buses.
Local buses always go to parts of town that you would not otherwise visit. There you see shops that you never knew existed. (My favourite: a shop the size of a small supermarket that sold only eggs). Visitors travelling on buses can see new aspects of a culture from the window seat of the bus.
Passengers’ “luggage” is also interesting. It is not uncommon for a cheerful dog’s head to be poking out of somebody’s bag and for someone else to carry a chicken under their arm.
Once on a bus in Peru, a farmer tied what looked like a dead sheep to the roof. I was quite shocked and even more so when the farmer got off the bus and, on taking the sheep off the roof, it trotted off very happily. On top of the same bus, another passenger had put his chainsaw. The sheep and power tool combination had me very nervous.
There are really many things for visitors to do in Latin America. Taking the bus doesn’t sound like fun but it is much more exciting and unpredictable than any UK bus journey.
Do you have good quality public transport where you live? What are the disadvantages of public transport?