Gain Cultural and Self-Enlightenment through Inexpensive Public Transport
While traveling the world, budgeting should be your best friend. Taking planes and tourist bus transport from city to city while backpacking will make your money disappear within the blink of an eye. From traveling through India on general class trains to navigating my way through Nepal on public buses, I’ve learned the secret to living like a local and getting around foreign countries. Today I’m headed to Pokhara, a Nepalese city 200km west of Kathmandu popular among trekkers headed towards Everest and various Himalayan mountaintops.
I frequently choose public/government transport because the experiences are richer in authenticity, cultural immersion, and self-growth. So… I’ve put together a short how-to guide that will instill confidence in you when choosing to take public transport. You will get the most out of your experience, save your bank, and have stories to tell for a lifetime.
“I like to compare the transport scenario to that of dining experiences. We all crave a tasty and authentic experience when going out to eat while traveling, but more often than not we succumb to restaurants on major streets in touristic towns with settings, prices, and service catered to that of a tourist’s standard. It’s only when you talk with the locals or get outside the overcrowded touristy areas that you find true, rich in culture, dining experiences. The food and service are always exceptional, the prices meet local affordability, and most times the workers don’t even speak your language. The difference in experiences aligns with that of booking a tourist bus with an agency, and choosing the less popular local government bus; exceptional company, affordable prices, and authentic cultural experiences.”
1.) Have Your Gear Charged and Easily Accessible
- We all know the joy of listening to a new album or favorite playlist on a long road trip
- Having a battery pack is important if you plan to use your phone for music or games during the ride because you will want to have charge when you arrive at you destination
- It’s not as convenient as a desktop but working on your computer during the ride is a possibility and a perfect time to craft a blog post, edit photos, create a video, etc
- You’re traveling and who doesn’t want to document? Make sure your camera and batteries are locked and loaded to capture what you can’t see by air travel
2.) Download the Appropriate maps
- You’ll want to know you’re way around when you get to your destination and wifi can be scarce so make downloading the map a major priority
- Maps.me and Google Maps are good for this
3.) Talk to the Locals
- Ask your hotel staff where the nearest government bus stand is, and if they don’t know, people on the street and in shops are great at giving directions and sometimes even walking you there
- 9/10 times people are better at helping in this arena than the internet
4.) Random people near the bus area will come up to you asking where you’re going – Simply tell them
- These men work for the bus companies and will help direct you where to go
- State that you are traveling by “Government bus”
- If they don’t point you to a specific bus or counter, ask where the ticket counter is
5.) Officials behind the ticketing counter will most likely only direct you to the right bus – Not sell you a ticket
- Payment will be collected on the bus so adequate bring cash
- I recommend at least 500 rupees because the ride costs around 200-300 and you stop along the way to buy food and water, and anything else desired
6.) Stock up on water and snacks before loading the bus
- Stay hydrated and well fed. Sickness is spread on all types of public transport so be prepared
- Be aware of departure time and don’t wander too far. They normally stick to the given time given but sometimes information can be skewed so pay attention
- SHARE YOUR SNACKS – Everybody likes the person who has brought treats, gum, or snacks to go around. Being this person will immediately make you a superstar tourist
7.) It’s rare to see a tourist on a government bus or general class train – Adjust yourself to be comfortable
- I found peace in putting a scarf over my head and resting while people were entering the bus. It attracts fewer eyes and attention
- Don’t become too comfortable in this invisible cloak like a scarf, you’re not actually invisible, just an out-of-place introvert. Take it off and enjoy the company and experience
8.) Enjoy the Ride!
- Observe the people
- Absorb the sounds
- Let your eyes lose on the horizon. You experience much more depth in the scenery on bus ride than any plane ride could ever bring!