The Bogota minibus experience
You are packed in like sardines, weaving through traffic and then the bus stops to let in another passanger that it can’t possibly fit. Still the bus driver does it all the same. He can’t get in the front door so the passenger enters the back door. The passenger then get his fare out of his pocket, something that is hard to achieve given the cramped conditions, then the other passengers, start to pass his fare to the driver.
My first experience on a Bogota ‘colectivo‘ was just like this one. I couldn’t believe how many people they wanted to fit on one minibus. It was crowded and the bus driver would stop to allow more passengers to enter. Every extra stop I would laugh to myself, because it was funny how cramped it was. You couldn’t even scratch your nose. The smart driver wouldn’t stop because he had no room, given that at peak hours the same bus numbers run consecutively. When it was crowded you also found yourself getting pushed further down the bus, and to get ready for your stop, you had to start moving forward to the doors well in anticipation.
When the buses are full, passengers would sometimes sit beside the driver or they can’t close the front of back doors. It also makes it hard for new passengers to pass their money to the driver and then the driver send back their change.
Usually travelling in a colectivo was a funny adventure at least at first. The drivers don’t fail to surprise you how they weave through traffic somewhat dangerously like most Bogota or Colombian drivers, or they would queue across an intersection that wasn’t moving and when the light is green for the cross flow traffic they can’t move at all.
Another situation you might find on the bus is the amount of head space when you are a standing passenger. Many colectivos don’t have much height inside for the standing passenger. It’s not usually a problem for the normal cachaco or Bogotainian because on average they are smaller than the average European. I often tried to stay by the roofs air vent because it allowed a little more head space. If you can’t get this space you’ll find yourself travelling with your head bent for the duration of your trip.
My friend Miguel suggested that he would cut down all the traffic signs in Bogota and sell them for scrap metal because nobody paid attention to them.
Just when I thought I had seen it all, one night coming home late from work, 2 black buses on the same run had caught up with each other. It was during the Christmas holiday time, so there wasn’t much traffic in town, because many locals had gone to visit family in other cities. It had come to my attention that the drivers were paid by commission on the number of passengers they received, hence packing them in like sardines. The driver of the bus I was on decided to get ahead of the other, driving taking the 2 lanes available, weaving amongst the 2, driving fast and generally blocking the other bus from passing and receiving passengers for himself. When our bus was halted to stop by a new passenger our bus driver would stop, blocking both lanes and any other traffic that wanted to get past especially buses.
The collective experience was interesting and sometimes a dangerous experience, but nonetheless something I will never forget