I honestly don’t know how I survived 12 months through Asia and hundreds of bus journeys to be able to post this on the blog today. By the end of the year I was so used to the craziness of it that I wouldn’t blink an eye if we hit another vehicle, and neither do the drivers! Here is a brief of what to expect when boarding a bus in Asia, after all, you did only pay a few cents to get on board!
There are several people working.
Not only a driver but a ticket dispenser who comes to you for the money once you’re on the move and a further helper (usually with muscles) to help lift on the mystery packages along the way. Which brings me on to…
You will stop multiple times to pick up/deliver.
Often it’s really unclear what they are loading onto the buses in large white sacks but by the look of the teamwork that usually goes into it and the way the bus rocks when each package is thrown in, I’d say they are very heavy. Sometimes it’s vegetables, rice or other strangely heavy edibles.
There are no stations.
Of course there are bus terminals and designated pick up points but for the most part if you see a bus you can stick your hand out and get on anywhere – traffic regardless. The same rules apply about getting off, just holla and the driver will obey – quite abruptly so hold on.
You risk your life taking one.
As with most transport in Asia, the safety is questionable. Of course you always somehow get to your destination in one piece just with added adrenaline and fear coursing through your veins. Don’t expect to get much sleep as you will be rolling out of your bed/recliner chair/something that looks like a chair but isn’t.
They are an incredible experience.
Despite the potential drugs in cabins below you, life threatening driving that flies you out of your seat repeatedly and constant honking whilst whizzing round mountain top roads the buses in Asia are a MUST if you want an incredibly cheap ride with unbeatable views and unforgettable chats with the locals.
P.S. I wrote this whilst on a bus in the Philippines to take my mind off the fact I could die at any moment…