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Buses in Bogotá: True Mobile Shopping Centers and Variety Shows

March 11, 2016


Taking a bus in Bogotá can quickly turn into an unexpected shopping experience or a real variety show. Literally. Sure, many people will complain about the display of poverty and begging that may at times be seen in some Bogotá’s buses. That’s not the most common, though, and it mostly happens in Transmilenio (Bogotá’s gigantic bus system, which is the city’s response to a lack of a metro). So let’s take a look at the most common, surprising and entertaining experiences you can find on a Bogotá Bus ride.

First of all, it is not entirely impossible to have a new bus driver, who is making his first shift on the route you’re in, asking the passengers which way he should go. Really. It happened to me once, and I couldn’t stop laughing in disbelief. Also, if you’re in one of the (very) old Bogotá buses which are called ‘busetas’, it’s not impossible for one to break down in the middle of one of Bogotá’s many highly chaotic roads… with you and the other passengers being invited to help push the bus (literally) back to working again. It also happened to me once, and I wasn’t sure if I should feel frustrated or just enjoy that very surreal but certainly funny moment.

Well, but the latter are exceptions, so let’s take a look at more common events. Such as someone suddenly coming aboard the bus and start selling peanuts, chips, chocolates or cookies. Okay, that’s convenient if you’re hungry, you might think. Not a big deal. Sure, but what about books, stickers, pens or pencils? A street seller may suddenly turn into a book seller making an engaging presentation about the books she is offering, asking you questions about the authors. It’s something like a pop quiz on a bus, but you don’t get to win anything – actually, you’re supposed to buy one of the books.

So going on a Bogotá bus can definitely turn into a shopping experience, in which you can even buy clothes, socks or umbrellas for a few dollars. And, if you think that no one will buy anything, you’re wrong. People actually buy things while in the bus. Really. So this strategy works, no doubt about that.

But shopping isn’t everything. There are other types of unplanned bus events for you to enjoy. For example, someone may suddenly get on the bus and start rapping, improvising on the spot, singing revealing things about you that you were never aware of. Flattering? Romantic? Maybe so, but don’t feel too moved – it’s all for a few pesos.

Ultimately, this says a lot about Colombians. They say of themselves that they always find a way to make money out of something. And, if you think about how the less fortunate Colombians struggle to pay their bills, then all this creativity is very easy to understand. So enjoy your Bogotá Bus rides – they may turn out to be the funniest, most surprising and most disconcerting bus rides of your life. And that’s an experience worth living.

Written by: Miggy, check out his site for more from him.

by AI_Bogota. Find out more about AI_Bogota here.