This post is part of the Ask Alex, Travel Question Wednesdays weekly series. To see previous questions click here. To submit your own; tweet it to @AlexBerger, ask it in a comment on this post or send it in by e-mail.
A quick introductory note – When I began authoring VirtualWayfarer in July of 2007 I never expected that I’d still be blogging on travel, adventures, study abroad and everything that goes with it nearly five years later. Over the years I’ve had a lot of questions and luckily my friends, network, and more than a few random strangers have gone well out of their way to answer those questions. While I still find myself asking questions on a regular basis I’ve found that I can also pay it forward as a resource for friends, my readers, and strangers alike. In an effort to share what I’ve learned from my various adventures I’ve launched Travel Question Wednesdays. I’ll be answering one reader-submitted question every week. You are all encouraged to submit, and all past questions will be archived and available as a resource for readers of this blog. I’m going to take a very open approach to the topics I’ll cover, so feel free to ask me just about anything , just keep it somewhat travel related.
This week’s travel question is from Elisa A. she asks,
Q. “Where and how easy it is to buy bus tickets?”
A. – The answer to this question will vary widely depending on which region you’re in. While bus travel is perhaps the most common and prolific form of public transportation out there it varies significantly from country to country. In some countries travel by bus can be on par with-if not more comfortable than flying first class with reclining seats, personal video screens, food and beverage service etc. (eg: my experience in Argentina). In others, such as my Guatemalan collectivo experience, you can find yourself with 24 people packed into a small van with a grown man sitting on your lap.
Typically the ease of looking up bus time tables and purchasing tickets tends to tie directly to how well organized the country you’re visiting is in general. If a country tends to have a fairly limited web presence you’ll find that booking and research is best done in-person. Conversely, if you’re in a country with a well established web presence, or which is being serviced by a major bus provider then you’ll likely find all the information you need online. Ultimately booking bus travel is typically fairly similar to booking rail travel, just slightly more difficult because a country is often serviced by numerous providers.
Depending on the bus line, tickets can often be bought online in advance, in person at a ticket office, or on the bus itself. Similar to rail and airfare price tends to vary based on demand, trip distance, and proximity to your departure date.
As a general word of caution; because bus travel tends to be less rigorously regulated than airfare and rail travel it is important to research the bus company you intend to use. When preparing for my upcoming trip to Zambia, I quickly learned that it was important to be extremely careful which bus companies I booked with, as drunk driving is fairly prolific and many of the bus lines have sub-par bus safety records. While this is far from common, it always pays to do a basic web search about the country and bus line you’re planning to travel with before booking your trip.
At this point in time I have not found an exhaustive list of bus lines by country. If any of my readers are aware of one I’d love to learn about it – please share it in a comment!