Tuesday Jan 01, 2008

Taking the Bus

So, in yet a further step towards my assimilation, I spent most of the last four days relying on public buses to get around Beijing. From trips to Lama Temple, to Beijing United to pickup a prescription, to Bodhi to get a massage, it was for the most part been done by bus. (I also took a really cool ride on Beijing's new #5 subway line... wow...)

The must have item for traveling around by bus is a public transportation card, which is good for both buses and subways.

The various buses I've encountered had a number of different ways to read the card:

  • A reader at the front door and one at the rear door (for routes that cost different amounts based on how long you take the bus).
  • A reader at only the front of the bus (single-fair, short-route lines).
  • A bus conductor who has a portable reader and charges you depending upon where you say you are destined.

The bus conductors are quite interesting. Kinda like cable car conductors, but not. Besides helping people unfortunate enough not to have a transit card, they do such things as give out transfers, announce certain stops, give travel advice, and, which can be a real necessity in Beijing, hang out of the window waving and yelling warnings about the bus coming to the multitudes of cars, people, bicycles, and carts that also occupy the roadway.

Bus travel is slower than both taxi or subway. But, it is a lot cheaper (I think the maximum price is 1 RMB... will add a link with more information later). Also, on these winter days, the extra travel time has been good, giving one the chance to look out the window and see the city from an entirely new aspect.

Oh, I learned an important lesson... when the bus you are riding on collides with another vehicle, and you need to transfer to another bus, there's no need to swipe your card when exiting the bus or getting onto the new one... just let the conductors make the arrangements... I wasted a few Mao being too quick at waiving my card at the reader...

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