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How to choose a bus

Hobo Travel Tips
By Andy the HoboTraveler.Com

ISSUE:  069
DATE:  May 16, 2002
TIP:  How to choose a bus
LOCATION:  Colca Canyon, Peru



What is a good bus?

In the more developed country there are
lot of cars and very few buses.
In the USA it is normally Greyhound,
and in Europe that mean Eurolines.
The bus is an excellent way to travel.
People will tell you about trains and I agree.
Trains are comfortable, and smooth.

But to get to that remote jungle village, or on
top of the highest mountain in the most remote
place you know..
It is best to take a bus.

Jeeps, 4 wheel drives, motorcycles, and even
a tank would be nice sometimes. But unless you
are a millionaire they all are inconvenient and the bus
is the best. Driving around in some places with a
4 wheel drive is like a sign saying.
“I am alone, a foreigner, and easy to rob”
You would need a bodyguard.

In the developed countries you have no choice.
When is the bus leaving? Where? How much?
But walk into a bus stop in Mexico City,
Quito Ecuador, Guatemala City, Buenos Aires
Argentina, or La Paz, Bolivia and you will find.
You have lots of choices.

So you will have to make choices.
In a different languages. Different prices.
Different classes. First, Second, Executive
And my favorite.
“Chicken Bus”

What is a good bus?

You will be tempted to think. I will get a faster
safer, cleaner, and better bus if I pay a little more.
Wrong. But you will pay more for sure.
And of course your bragging rights are better.
“I was on this bus, and paid this much...”

1. Get to you destination alive.
2. Not have your backpack stolen or lost.

The first goal is probably easy,
the second is a little more complicated,
There is a third goal
3. To have a comfortable and enjoyable ride.

To choose a bus is like an interview.
You walk around and talk to a lot of candidates before
you hire one. You need to ask good questions.
I like to talk to all the bus companies before I choose.
That can be two to ten according to your destination.
This become more difficult when there is not bus terminal,
Only a place where there are hundreds of bus parked waiting
for prospetive passengers.
But the same rules apply,

I suppose this is my big priority. Is the price correct?
Same or below the other buses.
The price should be very competitive
but the lowest price should not be the only
reason to choose a bus.

A good busline allows you to choose your seat.
I will chose a seat about 3-4 rows back.
Just behind the front wheels on the bus, and
if there is a television for movies. It will be about
3 rows in front of the TV on the aisle.
I choose the aisle for 2 reason.
A. More leg room.
B. I will sit down. Locals get on the bus.
See a foreigner and decide to try to find a seat in the back.
( I can then lay down and sleep in 2 seats.. hehehe )
If you choose a seat in the back of the bus.
It will be better to party if you wish to drink on the bus.
But you will be closer to the toilets and it will smell.
Plus lots of people will walk by you all the time.

I get motion sickness. So the best seats are from the
middle of the bus to just behind the front wheels.
In the very rear of the bus, it will bounce up and down more.
The up and down motion will make you sick the fastest.

Sometime you check your bag in with the attendant.
But normally you will carry your bag to the bus and
load it on the bus before the bus leaves.
There is a compartment on the bottom of the bus,
below your seats, Or they store you bag on top of the bus,
or in very rare cases you will carry the big backpack onto the bus.
Then you will have it on the seat next to you,
or in the very back.

Below the bus. At the front of the bus.
There are compartment on the sides. This is normal.
Sometimes in the rear of the bus. This compartment
gets a lot of dust, and engine fumes, and bounces.
The closer to the front of the bus the better.
If you are in an area where it floods, they will sometimes
drive a bus through a river. The baggage compartment will get
flooded. You do NOT want to ever store your COMPUTER
in the lower compartment. Carry it one.

Be careful when you give your bag to anyone.
They will throw it. Drop it. And in the Coca Cola bus
stop in San Jose, Costa Rica. They will take it and run
away. (Steal it) Put the bag on the bus yourself. Know which
side and where. If you stop and they open that compartment.
Look out the window and see if your bag is leaving also.
Do not let people carry your backpack.

In the bus on the seat next to you.
You may think this is the best. But if you fall asleep,
or go to the toilet, or get off at the border to get your
passport stamped. You may find the backpack gone,
or things stolen. They like to place it in the back of the
bus, then 10 people will decide to sit on your bag.
Steal, smash, and break anything inside.
For short trips this is pretty good.

On top... This can be better than in the bus.
But.. You have to see if they have a tarp to protect the
bag from rain. If they do not. Do NOT put it up there.
It should be tied down and covered.
I was trying to get on a bus in Potosi, Bolivia to go
to Uyuni, Bolivia. I ask the bus driver where the tarp
was? He kept saying they had one. I said when I see
one, I will give you the bag. I never saw one. I walked
on the bus through the bus driver, and put the bag on the
seat next to me. This bus had people standing in the
aisles. Very, very overload. Everyone was laughing
at me, and they soon were telling me how smart I was when
it started raining 30 minutes later. Be very careful if another
traveler gets off the bus. The will climb up on top and throw all
the foreigners backpacks off, and drive away.

Sometimes you check your bag in, like you would do
at an airport. This is dangerous. Look where they
store the bag, and no one can get to the bag. Plus make
sure it is dry. You will now have to watch the bag until it
is loaded on the bus. Follow the bus people the whole time.
Sometime they will give you a tag, and sometime they don’t.
The tag seems good, but they will often give you a tag, and
then just let you grab any bag when you get off the bus.
Do NOT trust them to handle the bag, and watch your bag
and see that it gets on the bus.

The closest I ever came to losing my bag was in my own
country. In Atlanta when Greyhound was transferring the bags
from one bus to the next. The attendant told me not to worry.
I said I would not get on the bus until I saw my bag.
He became very angry. I was bigger. He found my bag.
It was located on another bus. He said that both
buses were going to the same location. They did not.
I still have my bag because I refuse to trust them.
Trust yourself and watch your bag.

Do not be some TOURIST....Having you bags carried
and everyone helping you. You will have your bag stolen
or lost.

Even the cheapest grimiest bus will give you ticket
or a receipt. Lots of places.. especially in Mexico will
try to not give you a ticket, and cheat their company.
If an bus official gets on the bus, you may be asked to
leave. I have seen bus officials get on buses. Throw
people off the bus that I had seen pay. But had no
ticket or receipt. I one time saw the guy throw the driver
off. If someone gets on the bus with the same ticket number
as you... You know the bus sucks. When you stop at
a bus station. Watch your seat.

A very good bus will only pick up passengers at the
terminals. From Mexico to Argentina that is maybe
1 in 100 of the buses. They all will stop an pick up
anyone with money. It is extremely common to leave
the station and instantly one block away 20 more
people get on. If you have no money. This is the
way to pay less, but you make be standing in the
aisle for 10 hours. I will not get on a bus, unless I can
see a seat to sit in or I have no choice. I have only stood
in the aisle twice in 4 years. Once in Costa Rica and
the other in Mexico. I had no choice.

If you are on a First Class bus, and a big fat stinky
lady has her rear in your face for 12 hours.
Is it first class?

A good bus company is normally friendly and

If you can see the bus, and it says....
Air conditioning. That means very little. All the windows
should be closed. If the are all open...? Think.
I always carry a blanket with me. The bus is always too cold or
too hot. You can be in the hottest tropical environment and think
Shorts and tank top are good. Then the bus driver has the air
conditioning ups so high you freeze.

I often ask which movie?
Is it in English? Etc.
They will tell you there is a movie, and there is no movie.
I do think that buses that say there are movies and even
if there is no movie, are better than the others that do
not even pretend to have good service.

A week bladder and you may need to stay at home.
Short trips are ok. Go to the toilet before you leave,
and do not drink a lot. You do NOT want to use the toilet
unless you have to. Mexico is the worst.
Some countries have toilets and other do not.
Peru doeS not normally have toilets on buses.
Ask? ALWAYS carry toilet paper.

The bus needs to arrive before 3 in the afternoon.
So you can find a hotel in the light of day.
If you take an all night bus, it should arrive no earlier
than 4 in the morning. If you do arrive before that. Or
before the sun rises. Stay on the bus and sleep.
If you are going to arrive at night, midnight, or anytime
in the middle of the night.
Call your mother and ask for money in advance.
You are the prime candidate to get robbed.
A good bus has schedules that are convenient for
travelers, and to catch on onward bus.

A good bus will keep the radio or stereo at a
reasonable level and will turn it off at night for people
to sleep. If a fellow passenger has a boom box, large
stereo, or walkman and is too, they should be asked
to turn them down by the bus driver.
(Greyhound is the ONLY bus I have ever seen do this)
In most countries is best to go threaten them.
My normal technique. Earplugs are needed.

A good bus will try to keep the people that wish to
talk loud quiet.
Earplugs again, or threats.
Most countires have no respect for other people.
The feel no remorse or embarrasment if they wake
the other passengers. This was hard for me to
understand or believe when I first started travel.
It is the job of the managment, but normally
the managment behaves the same.

The best way to cross a border quickly and safely
is to be on a bus that goes across. The driver will have a relationship
with the customs official and can make life easy for you.
If you go across in a rental card, or your own car.
You may want to live there, or learn what the a bribe is and
how to pay one.

Watch your bags very carefully at the border. Take your carry on with
you when you leave the bus. If for some reason they say you must be
leave your bags on the bus. Be the last to get off, and try to be the
first to get back on the bus. If there are people walking around in the
at the border. Go knock on the door, and try to get in to check your

A good bus driver will not let you walk around at the border. They
will have everyone corralled and controlled. Making sure to count
that everyone is on the bus, and leaving with the bus.

A good bus is not going to allow people to enter to sell soda,
and food. Althought most are bad buses. They will stop and pick
up andy vendor. The bus driver gets a free meal
and you get to have food hanging in your face. It is better
when they sell the stuff through the windows
and not in the bus.
Anytime a non-passenger enters the bus the danger of
theft and trouble increase. This includes the police and
custom officials. Grab hold of all your stuff, and
hide them if possible.

16. FOOD
Meals on the bus... Now that is a luxury.
Very very unusual. Not worth the extra money.
Buy some crackers or cookies. If you wish to be
healthy. Buy a can of tuna.

A good bus has curtains, and windows that work.
If there are no curtains, or they are torn or
hanging loose at the bottom. Pay special notice.

Junk, paper, toilet paper, fish, chickens,
people that stink, liquor bottles, cans, water bottles.
A great bus has plastic bags for trash. Very unusual in
the underdeveloped countries. There are highways that
are so up and down, and weave so much that people will
get sick. A good bus has plastic bags for people that get
sick. I was on a bus in Chile. A lady gots sick.
The bus attendants did nothing for 20 hours.

You have 3 major types of seats.
A. Normal recline type. 90 percent.
B. Bus seats like school bus and no leg room.
C. Bed type.. These recline very far back and
have support under your legs like a recliners.
If you have the time and the knowledge it is go to
ask what type of seats.

It is nice when a bus stop for a break. Stretch the legs
and get some air. In Brazil they have showers at the
bus stops and can be unbelievably great, with food
you can buy by the kilo.

Always take your carry on bag with you, and remember
where the bus is parked. They my move the bus to service it or
get air in the tires. Do not think they will come looking for
your, find a partner to help monitor the bus.

A really bad bus will stop about 10 minutes befpre the end
of the trip. You will be very tired, and hungry. The driver will
get a free meal. You will wait around for 1/2 hours while the
food is overpriced they take a break before going to the
terminal. Hard to believe the level of self centered and
greedy people sometimes. Willing to make 50 people wait
for them to get a free meal. Buy some chips, crackers,
cookies, and water before you ever get on a bus.

When you get on a bus, a train, a plane, a boat.
Beware.. You are in harms way.
The bus is the best way to travel
if you want to SEE the world.

Maybe it will help you to...
Be a Hobo, and leave your mark.

X was HERE!

Life is good.

As always, these are suggestions. Please realize I am
giving guidance, and there are always other opinions.
“One mans paradise, is another mans hell”
This way we do not all go to the same place.

Article written by Andy the
On year 4 of Hobo trip around the world.
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I made a comment about the Ormeno bus line
and friend wrote me a nice letter, but disagreeing.
I have a mental list in my head of what I look for
in a bus, and this is the new written list.
Only about 1/2 of these things was Ormeno even
adequate. The were especially lax with the safety of
the passengers and baggage. Me getting dropped
off at 3 in the morning 1 hours away from the city
with no rides was a first. We walked aimlessly at the
border while vendors got on the bus. My bag sat in
the middle of the office unprotected. They assigned a seat where
my fiend Claudia was sitting and she almost lost her
seat, and they picked up people for extra fares.
It was clean. But the people were rude.
I did not get to my destination,
and I my bag was not safe.



Hello, Here is a Travel Tip written by Andy of How to choose a bus