Tuesday, September 27, 2011


One thing that has not changed very much in San Salvador since our last visit is traveling by bus. I was on at least two or three buses every day during this visit (which sadly has ended, though I’ll try to make a few more entries in this blog). As I mentioned earlier, the buses are inexpensive (.20 for the full-size buses, .25 for the minibuses on the same routes). The minibuses are faster, though also more crowded, and the older ones on some of the routes are truly a very tight squeeze.

There are lots of routes, and lots of buses on most of the routes. Not as many as in Bogotá, but still, for a Clevelander, it’s terrific to be in a city where you can get to pretty much wherever you want to go on buses. The vehicles are less modern, less clean, and in worse physical condition than the ones in Cleveland, but they are much cheaper and most important, they are available; the system is a functional public transport provider.

There’s a lot more attention paid to stopping at designated bus stops than in Bogotá. A couple of years ago, I was in Bogotá when the authorities tried to bring order to chaos of buses stopping where ever passengers wanted to get on or off on the Séptima, one of the main avenues, but that was a total flop. Here, the police will fine buses that pick you up or drop you off at corners or traffic lights instead of at bus stops, and there are even signs in some of the buses declaring that they will only use designated stops. But they don’t overdo it. More than once a driver or assistant said to me “Get on quickly” when I stopped them where I happened to be…

During rush hours, the buses become really crowded, though the people face them with a combination of fatalism and good humor. Like in Bogotá, they are friendly, even social places. In both cities, I’ve noticed that if you ask the driver to tell you when the bus will reach some point, in fact several other passengers will also help you figure out where you area. Here, people who are seated take the packages or bags of people who are standing.

But those rush-hour crowds in San Salvador are impressive—sometimes as the driver and/or assistant urge people to move further back, or further into the bus, you realize that it’s simply impossible—there’s a great plug of humanity that blocks any attempts to get by, until someone gets off…

Here are a few pictures of buses. But of course, pictures can’t capture the sounds—the horns and air horns, the squealing breaks, the roars from inadequate exhaust systems, and of course, the assistants or cobradores calling out destinations and telling the drivers to wait or to move on…

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