Today I am going to discuss the various intricacies of Colombian Bus Etiquette. For new people here in this country it can be complicated and confusing sometimes! Most people are really nice on the buses. But, some people are rude just like anywhere. When you want to enter a colectivo all you do is wave your hand and they will (usually) stop for you. Sometimes they just drive right past me and it is frustrating when I need to get to work! Sometimes they have a special seat next to the driver up front, but the only people who get to sit there is pretty girls. (seriously, the drivers don't allow anyone else!) They are usually over crowded but they get me where I need to go even if I have to put up with the over crowded-ness and people constantly trying to sell me things on the colectivos. These buses are like mini buses. They are not as big as the Tranmelnio Buses (Metro) buses. They hold about 25 people sitting and 15 people standing (comfortably that is) of course this number is almost never achieved because the drivers make about 75 cents USD per passenger. Hence, it is their goal to pack on as many people as humanly possible to increase their profit margin. I have been on buses with more than 60 people crammed shoulder to shoulder! Barely any room to breathe and/or move!
Generally speaking people are nice and they will even pass your pass fare from the back to front of the bus to pay the bus driver and then pass back your change. Some people will even hold your bags for you (if they are lucky enough to have a seat and you don't) These Colectivos have one "stop" button generally located at the very back of the bus (you enter from the front and exit from the back generally) so it is in your best interest to try and get a seat as soon as possible at the back of the bus closest to the button. If you are unlucky enough to have to stand you just hold onto the handrail and wait until someone leaves the bus so you can sit down. Sometimes I never get to sit down. Colombians have the odd habits of NEVER moving over when you want to sit
in a seat so you have to crawl over them and also they have a phobia
about sitting down in a newly unoccupied seat they will just hover over
it for five minutes! I have no such phobia haha. I will admit though, the longer I live here the more I am becoming like them. Sometimes I don't even move over and force the poor person to crawl over me.
On the colectivos all over South America they have this odd system of people boarding the bus (for free) and trying to sell you things. In exchange for letting the person on for free, the driver gets whatever they might be selling for free. The person boards the bus and begins his/her spiel about what they are selling. With the woman sellers it is quick,polite and to the point. Generally with the men it is long elaborate, sometimes pushy and boring. I have never once purchased anything from any of these sellers. They will hand out their product so you can look at it then you return it if you don't want it. I always refuse to even initially accept it so I don't have any obligation to buy it. Sometimes you can be on a bus and be hit by two or three of these "salesman" in a row. It is really annoying when you just want some peace and quiet after work. These buses depending on the amount of passengers and the insanity level of the driver can be really fast or really slow. But worse than the salespeople is the people who board the bus for free to beg for money while offering nothing or people who want to showcase their musical talents. The rappers are the most annoying because I am not a huge fan of rap music and in Spanish it is worse. I have only given money twice, both times to different guys playing the guitar who were actually really good and had good voices. I still have not figured out why the bus drivers allow these people on the bus for free while getting nothing in return.
As overcrowded and crazy as some of these buses can be, speeding all over the city (there is no designated "stops" they will stop anytime,anywhere someone pushes the "stop" button (Even in the middle of traffic!) these buses do have to be properly registered with the government and there is a phone number you can call if you need to complain. Every bus I have ever been on has proper emergency exits and while these are certainly not the safest mode of transport in the world they are super cheap and get me where I need to go. There is no map or proper system for the colectivos. They just have their destinations printed on the outside and you just have to learn which ones go where and where you need to go. There is thousands of Colectivos and different routes so it can be confusing but, once you learn the city it does get easier. Bogota is only smaller than Mexico city and New York (in North America) so this is an epically large city!
Now onto the Transmelnio (Metro buses) these are very large red buses that go thru-out the city (but not everywhere unfortunately) these buses stop and designated stops at designated times. They hold (I think) 112 people standing and 48 sitting. Of course there is always double or triple that amount of people on the buses. Peak hours are the beginning of work in the morning and the end of work in the afternoon. People are generally nice on these buses and will give up their seats for old people,pregnant women etc but you have to be like a hawk if you want a seat! You have to literally stand in the aisle directly in front of a seat and when that person leaves you sit down immediately. If you are not standing directly in front of the seat someone will cut in front of you and sit down in the seat you want. It is a ruthless world. But these buses are roughly 1 USD per ride (actually a little less) and they are on time,efficient and nice. It just sucks that they don't go everywhere and they are planning (but have no yet done it) to unify the whole Metro bus system so depending on what part of the city you are in, you need a different ridership card that sucks. Also their onloading/offloading procedures are horrible! You enter the bus station thru your typical turnstile type thing but the people exiting the station to leave, they use the same turnstiles! So it is a huge mess of people. Same story for enter/exiting the bus everyone just rushes at it and it is a huge mess! But, overall the Transmelinio is a good system. They have their own traffic lanes and are fast and on time. Really progressive and good for Colombia.
That's it folks now you now all the ins and outs of the bus systems in Colombia. I am a pro by now haha.