If it sounds dramatic, that’s because it is. Dramatic, thrilling, exciting and quite confusing and intimidating. Still, pretty harmless and definitely worth seeing. I’m talking about Bogotá’s bus bidding wars, in the region of the city’s Portal Norte, the large bus station in the north part of this gigantic city.
The bidding wars do not occur on the inside part of the terminal, though. They take place outside, in the Autopista Norte, on the way to exiting the city when you’re heading north. And that’s exactly the point. This is where you can get a bus to Villa de Leyva, Tunja, and to so many other towns and cities near and far from Bogotá.
And here, when you try to get a bus to go to anywhere, you’re met with a scenario that could perfectly be part of a reality show. In between a huge group of street vendors selling anything from juice, candies, t-shirts and umbrellas, endless promotors of every bus that is there (not one per bus company, but one per bus vehicle) is on the sidewalk, next to the highway, shouting out, advertising the route of his bus, and approaching as many people as possible in as little time as possible, asking them if they want to take the bus.
Since several buses are going more or less to the same place, the bidding wars are won based on decibels, not prices. It seems like the more the promotors scream, the more passengers they can get (or so they think). Throughout this long sidewalk, a world of people with their luggage look lost but in a hurry, more than just confused, as try to make sense of every offer and understand exactly what bus will take them to where they want to go – and exactly from which precise point will the bus depart.
And the bidding wars don’t end there. Once each bus departs, the promotors depart with them, but they keep promoting the ride – hanging to the bus door, in a very impressive and somewhat acrobatic way, screaming their lungs out, giving anyone walking throughout the highway sidewalk the chance of entering the bus and joining the ride.
Out of the many things that are so particular in Bogotá, this is definitely something that is worth seeing. It’s like a trading floor in the New York Stock Exchange on a very busy market day – with the difference that this one is under the sun, and where bus tickets and destinations are the stuff that the bid/ask is made of. This is another side of the real and very authentic Bogotá that no expat should miss. So go and enjoy the ride!
Written by: Miggy, check out his site for more from him.