How to Take the Bus Everywhere: 6 Simple Steps

Jesus travels... and so can you!

Jesus travels... and so can you!

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; there is always another way to get there. 

In my experience, it truly is possible to take the bus anywhere and everywhere—if you want to. Here's how I do it:

Step 1: Learn the word for “bus” and/or the proper pronunciation of the place you wish to go. 

When I visited my parents in Shanghai, it took showing my taxi card to several people to learn to say the name of their road: Nanjing Shu-Lu. In Kenya, buses are “matatus.” Knowing that makes them a lot easier to ask for. 

Step 2: Find the bus stop.

In many places, there will be a physical structure, replete with maps, schedules and names. In many others, there will be nothing but a small sign bearing the image of a bus—or nothing but a crowd of people standing at the side of the road.

Ask people for the *bus* to [fill-in-the-blank] until you find your stop. Other bus drivers and shopkeepers are often the best people to ask, and most likely to know the buses in the area, while taxi drivers are the worst, since they may have ulterior motives. 

If your bus looks like this, maybe wait for the next one.

If your bus looks like this, maybe wait for the next one.

Step 3: Catch your bus.

It might stop automatically, or it might barrel past if you don’t flag it down. A sign bearing a name or number may tell you it’s the right bus, or it might be a skinny man hanging from the window, calling out the destination.

I usually like to confirm at least a couple times that it is indeed the right bus, as I have ended up on the wrong bus far too often.

Step 4: Revel, and ignore the funny looks.

Depending on where you are, you might well be the only obvious foreigner on the bus. People may stare. Just do your thing and try not to do anything egregious—appropriate dress and conduct is always a good call.

Revel in being on your way to where you’re trying to go. There is no better feeling than the surprise of success after a stressful search.

Step 5: Pay.

Fares may be collected at some point along your journey—or upfront, or upon arrival. Try to pay attention to how much other passengers are paying to avoid a high “tourist tax.” But if you do end up paying a few cents—or dollars—more, well, the tourist tax is real. Sorry.

Step 6: Arrive.

Chaos and disorientation may accompany your arrival. Sweat, frustration and elation, too. One thing I can almost guarantee: you will arrive having spent less money.

A second thing: it gets easier with practice.

Or you can do this.

Or you can do this.

I love taking the bus. Despite the dust. Despite the chaos. Despite everything. Because the bus is always an adventure. Always. And that’s kind of the point.

Need to make a connection? Repeat steps 1 through 5. Chances are, someone on your first bus will be able to point you to your next one—or even lead you there.

 Happy travels!

Originally published at