Yes, the statement does deserve an exclamation mark: in a little over one year I had yet to experience the delights of bus travel.
Although buses, as opposed to horse-drawn carriages, were familiar in England from 1889 it was not until 1946 that the Bermuda government agreed to purchase 6 buses. There had been two previous attempts to establish buses but the train obviated the need. The first buses were green and carried 21 passengers, but they were left-hand drive which meant people got on and off in the middle of the road. There was a mixed reception: news reports used words such as ‘resplendent’ or ‘shoddy’, opinion was divided.
Today the bus companies continue to feed disagreement on the island – on Monday an impromptu drivers strike left many stranded though it turns out the plumbing issue over which they were making a stand has been ongoing for several years and has become another political weapon between the two main parties. The first bus strike on the island was in 1955 over pay. Some things don’t change.
Anyhow, I needed to be at St George’s and my husband needed the car so it seemed an opportunity.
I am thus prompted to write my version of “A guide to Bermuda bus travel”
Locate a timetable. The Visitor Information Centres (VIC) will have them – they are in Dockyard and Hamilton near the ferry terminals and at St George in King’s Square. I have taken photos to help you out in case you are not in the vicinity of a VIC.
The most helpful image is the map – routes are colour coded and each black dot represents a bus stop.
You will either need to buy a ticket in advance or have the exact change for the fare.
Books of tickets can be bought at the bus station in Hamilton. You may need either a 3-zone ticket or a 14-zone ticket. That probably needs some explaining, when I bought my tickets a year ago the 3 or 14 question confused me utterly. On the map the zones are demarcated by red dash-dot lines, there are 14 in total, each about two miles. The basic fare permits you to travel up to three zones, and yes you correctly reasoned the higher fare permits up to 14 zones.
3-zone tickets cost $2.50 bought in advance, $3 if paying cash.
14-zone tickets cost $4.00 in advance, $4.50 on the bus.
Check the times. When my children were at school in UK they had at least one whole lesson devoted to reading bus timetables! This one gives the time the bus leaves either Hamilton, Dockyard or St George and then underneath lists a few average running times. For example, today I caught a bus from near Flatts going Eastwards. I had to work backwards, in one of those “think of a number” type of puzzle: ETA 9:45, take away total journey time Hamilton to St George, add in average journey time Hamilton to Flatts, add in two short stops worth of time …. Actually writing it down like that makes it seem a lot simpler than it felt when I tried to work it out it earlier.
Find the bus stop. In most cases these are just simple poles by the roadside. One or two have shelters nearby, some painted imaginatively. The poles are either pink or blue – pink means going towards Hamilton, blue going away from Hamilton. This does require you to know where you are approximately in relation to the city.
Back in 1946 there were no stops – passengers were dropped off on request, but in time stops were added according to passenger habits.
During the day buses come every 15-30 minutes, depending on the route. If you have to wait longer than this it means one of two things
- a) a random bus strike or
- b) you are in the wrong place (aka “should have gone to Specsavers” )
Bus etiquette. Unlike London buses these have just one door that is an exit and entrance. Now I knew that but it didn’t stop me from appearing rude and impatient as I absentmindedly started to climb the steps onto the bus before letting others get off. I received a ticking off from the bus driver, loud enough for everyone to hear and for me to turn a shade of pink deeper than the pink bus. My embarrassment was lessened slightly when the same happened at the next three bus stops, it wasn’t just me!
This is what is forbidden on buses: food or drink, pushchairs or buggies, luggage and bathing suits. While the bus does stop at the airport for locals who work there, passengers with luggage will not be allowed to board, they will be directed to the taxi rank. Small carry-on bags may be allowed but it is at the drivers discretion. Dress code is strict all over the island and beach-wear is frowned upon anywhere other than a beach so cover up and wear shoes if you want to use a bus.
Thus suitably prepared I set off from home in good time…. I fell at the first hurdle of finding a bus stop, a pink one at the end of my road but I couldn’t see a blue one. So I walked eastwards along the railway trail (see previous post) and almost missed the next stop! After my etiquette failure I tried to keep a low profile, but having sat on a sideways-facing seat with nothing to hold onto as we turned corners I was in danger of becoming the morning entertainment.
The stops are request stops, push the bell at least 150 yards before the stop to alert the driver, but do not stand up before the bus has stopped – to do so will bring a stern reprimand from the driver as one poor tourist discovered. Accustomed to the new London buses that have an electronic sign informing you of the next stop I had to concentrate hard on what the driver was calling out. Even so I got off one stop too early and found myself walking down the hill into the town for the last part. I would recommend that you tell the driver where you want to go and ask him to tell you when to get off.
But I find myself slightly anxious, I have still to go home!
The homeward journey, as some of my friends will have heard, was far from simple but entirely my own fault – I boarded the wrong bus. 😦 As I finished at The Globe a bus passed me so I ran up the slight incline to the stop only to reach it as the bus pulled away. A helpful person walking past reassured me that another would come along in 15 minutes so when one did just that I got now without checking the number. As the bus turned towards Crystal Caves I realised my mistake, but clearly not thinking straight instead of walking back to the turning and getting the correct bus I walked onwards and eventually found myself in previously unexplored territory (for me). It could have been a long walk home, had my husband not rescued me after a pathetic text!
If I have a conclusion, there is nothing actually wrong with the buses, but maybe I am not a good passenger.