* Michelle Thoughts, * Peace Corps

How to Catch a Bus in 13 Not-So-Easy Steps

Entrance to the bus park (empty on Sunday afternoon)
Entrance to the bus park (mostly empty on Sunday afternoon)

Living on the West end of Jamaica, we avoid trips across the island to the capital (Kingston) as much as possible. At best, it’s a three and a half hour drive, not including the wait time in the bus park. If you were able to leave at a time of your choosing, or to sit in a seat all to yourself, it would be more manageable. As with any public transit trip in Jamaica, you just never know what you’re going to get.

But the other day, a mandatory appointment in Kingston led us to an unexpected turn of events. Although there is no such thing as a “typical” bus trip, you can almost always count on sitting in a bus inside the bus park until enough passengers arrive to fill every last inch of space. Not this time. Here’s what happened instead, step by step:

  1. In an attempt to get a head start and beat the rush, we woke up around 5am and stood out on the main road as the sky started to lighten. (This just goes to show that things never go as you’d expect.)
  2. We caught a route taxi into town and got dropped off outside the bus park around 5:50am.
  3. The people in the bus park recommended we actually wait for a Kingston bus down the road about 50 yards at “the T.” So we walked down there and joined a group of people waiting.
  4. Ten minutes later, the police started their rounds and we were ushered back to the bus park with the other waiting passengers, as that is the proper and legal place for buses and taxis to collect people.
  5. We started hearing rumors that certain bus drivers who usually do the route to Kingston were not out that morning. Meanwhile, the number of people waiting for a Kingston bus was getting real big.
  6. After maybe half an hour, a 14-passenger Kingston bus actually pulled up to “the T” down the road. About 30 people sprinted over there and fought their way into the bus. We missed our big chance.
  7. With a substantial crowd remaining, one driver- who typically drives a different route- saw the opportunity and suddenly decided that he would take a trip to Kingston. Desperate to be on our way, we got a little more aggressive and wedged our way into the bus to claim some uncomfortable, but highly prized seats.
  8. The bus pulled out of the park, but not more than 20 yards away, it stopped. The driver couldn’t go to Kingston after all. We found out later that his boss, who actually owns the bus, nixed that idea when he called to tell him the change in plans.
  9. Back in the bus park with a whole heap of people antsy to get to the capital, the lady who collects fees from all the drivers in the park too pity on us. She had inside information that a much larger, “Coaster” bus was on its way.
  10. As the Coaster approached, our new bus park friend instructed us to play it cool (as to not alert the other people waiting) and then make a run for the door when the driver drove up to pay his fee. With this tactic, we finally scored our seats!
  11. It was about 8am when the large bus, which filled up immediately, made its way out of town and towards our final destination.
  12. Since many of us stood around waiting for two hours before the four hour trip even started, it was inevitable that we had to make a pit stop. Not wanting to add to our delays, I cut back on liquids and held it the whole trip.
  13. Upon arrival in Kingston, we chartered a taxi to our final destination, arriving around noon, and our day had just begun!




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