Taking the Bus in Cuenca, Ecuador

By on June 25, 2015

Taking the bus in Cuenca Ecuador for the first time is a little like how I imagine it would be to right the “Night Bus” in Harry Potter.

Don’t get me wrong… There are no shrunken heads or goggle-eyed drivers named Ernie, but it’s still an experience I won’t forget.

My First Mistake…

My first mistake was not realizing how quickly the bus driver expects you to get onto the bus, pay your fare, and get in your seat.

The first time we took the bus, my husband got on first with the money, then the kids were behind him, and I took up the rear.

I should point out that hubby took an inordinate amount of time getting a bunch of small change into the slot, rather than just using a dollar coin and a quarter (the fare for all five of us was $1.25).

Unfortunately, the driver wasn’t patient.

The bus took off while I was still hanging out the door with one foot on the step. In fact, pure adrenaline was the only thing that allowed me to grab a handle in time to keep from being splayed all over the road.

…And don’t even get me started on how hard it is to climb those tall stairs while the bus is going 40 miles per hour around traffic circles and corners and your lungs haven’t adjusted to the new altitude yet!

Cuenca, Ecuador bus

The Ride…

Once I finally made it to a seat and breathed a sigh of relief that I had survived bus entry, I watched in amazement as the driver sped around every corner like a race car driver, nearly unseating me a few times until I learned how to brace myself.

Whenever the driver had to slow down for a really tight corner, he forced cars to back up at intersections so that he could make the turn… honking and pushing up grill to grill until they backed up.

Vigorously bouncing along in my seat, I watched other Ecuadorians get on and off the bus, holding the side rails and poles like a lifeline, and quickly realized this bus ride was the norm.

Cuenca, Ecuador Bus from Inside

A Quick Departure…

After what really only amounted to a few minutes ride, it was time to depart, and I was a little nervous after watching how quickly others got off and the bus started moving.

The driver expected you to move fast.

Hubby pushed the button for the next stop, we got out of our seats and tried to move toward the back door (It’s hard to fight g-force). The bus slammed to a stop and we scrambled off as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, I was in the rear again and the kids didn’t realize they had to get off quickly.

All four of them (hubby and the kids) also stopped right in front of the door so there was no room for me to get off, creating a bottleneck.

I jumped off as the bus started to move and nearly knocked them all down… but we all made it off in one piece.

Jack turned to me with a big smile and said, “That was like riding the ‘Night Bus’ in Harry Potter, wasn’t it?”

I couldn’t agree more.

Tips For Taking The Bus In Cuenca, Ecuador…

1. When taking the bus with a group, put the person with the money in the rear.

If you put the paying person in the rear, everyone else can take a seat while the driver waits for someone to pay. Believe me, the bus won’t move if no one pays.

2. Take a seat, even if it’s someone you don’t know.

Many Ecuadorians seem to take offense if you don’t take an available seat and opt to stand. My husband got yelled at by an older lady to pointed to a seat, but he didn’t take it. They don’t like it.

3. Give your seat up for older riders and riders with kids.

Sometimes the buses get packed tighter than a can of sardines and seats aren’t always available. If you’re sitting, give your seat up for someone who needs it more. We don’t want people to believe that all gringos are rude, and it’s really nice to see the surprised and happy look on someone’s face when you give up your seat.

4. Sit near the back of the bus when you can.

The way the buses work, you get on at the front, but you can only leave through a back door. It makes it a lot easier to get off if you’re already in the back.

5. If you have to stand, be prepared for a wild ride.

Standing on the bus can be a lot of fun, between the fast turns, the quick stops and starts, and worrying about stepping on someone’s toes, it can be a little daunting. Just remember the magic words: “Lo siento” “I’m sorry.”

6. Listen to the P.A. and watch the marque for your stop.

Until you get familiar with the bus routes, be sure to watch the marque behind the driver’s seat and listen to the P.A. system (when it works) to figure out where you need to get off. It’s not hard to understand.

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