Wherever there is inexpensive local public transportation, we usually use it to get around on land.
Our favorite so far is taking the bus on Caribbean islands, Grenada especially. Besides having no time schedule (which makes us Swiss and Germans particularly nervous), the established concept seems to be working just fine. First of all there are various defined routes and the according line number is usually visible somewhere on the windshield of the bus, mostly next to the catchy name the bus driver gave himself or the vehicle, which often reminds us of bad rapper names. Buses here are normal transporters or vans into which they squeezed about 12-15 small seats. But no worries, you will immediately recognize a bus by the honking, loud reggae music and yelling at pedestrians. Not kidding, in Grenada a dedicated “conductor” apart from the driver leans out of the window to loudly ask basically anybody on the street if they want to get on. The more people they collect along the way, the more money they make.
Even though there is official bus stops you will be picked up anywhere along the route, if you just wave or respond to the conductor who then happily swings open the door before the driver can bring the bus to a full stop. And when you peak inside and think the bus is completely full, the always energetic conductor will push you in and reveal a small seat in the corner that can be folded down from the wall. The good thing is that tightly wedged between the worker on his way home and the woman with shopping bags on her lap, you will have no need to hold on when the driver starts his race through mountainous, pothole-covered roads that he is sharing with free-roaming goats, dogs, others fast driving cars and pedestrians that don’t always have a sidewalk to escape to. Without surprise there is lots of honking, yelling and gesturing involved, which miraculously always seem friendly, happy and respectful.
With the music playing on full volume and some of your fellow passengers singing along, you just signal the conductor by either yelling “bus stop”, shoulder tapping, or slapping on the ceiling that you want to get off; again there is no need to stick to the official bus stops. With your butt in someone else’s face and your bag slamming against another person’s knees you pay on your way out, catch a short breath from the thrilling ride and cheerfully resume walking towards your destination.
And why is this the best bus system ever? Because it’s simple, flexible, but at the same time very reliable due to the many circulating buses, cheap, takes you to places you wouldn’t otherwise see, brings you in contact with locals, adds cultural experience to your trip, can save you from expensive taxi rides and from long walks in tropical heat or soaking rain.
We absolutely enjoy it every time!