Buses in Ecuador

Buses in Ecuador work very differently from those in Peru. First of all, they usually leave more-or-less on time. YES – sounds unbelievable doesn’t it? But this is because they don’t really bother with proper seat allocation – so they never have to wait for anybody and delay the bus. And also because Ecuador is so small (Peru is FIVE times larger then Ecuador), there is usually another bus within an hour or so – so if somebody is a bit late then they just catch the next one.

Like Peru, Ecuador has had problems with robberies on buses – so the government passed a law and all buses have to be fitted with a camera inside the bus and a GPS tracker. Surprisingly, we found one of these on EVERY single bus that we travelled on. Because they all looked exactly the same, and they all had a digital display with department of transport information scrolling across it, then I can only assume that the government actually provided these devices.

The buses themselves varied a lot in age and quality, and were not a lot different from the buses in the other countries that we had been through. Overall it was a better experience than the buses in Peru – but this might have been because the distances were a lot shorter! 🙂 Yes, still no toilets on the bus no matter how long the journey – but we were used to that now…

They were generally a lot more crowded than the ones in Peru, and they ALWAYS stopped to pick up any passenger at all – no matter how full they were. It was fairly common for the aisle to be full of standing passengers. This brings me to my one and only complaint about the buses in Ecuador…

When buying tickets at a bus station, you were allocated seats automatically as they were purchased – no choosing seats in Ecuador! You could also skip the ticket buying process altogether and just get on the bus while it was parked at the bus station. In Ecuador you can ALWAYS buy a ticket after you are on the bus – some people never buy tickets, they just get on the bus and wait for the conductor to come around.

If you board the bus with a ticket, then it has a seat number on it – this allows you to ask anybody sitting in your seat already to move. So if you don’t have a ticket, you sit wherever you want, and then move if somebody with a ticket asks you to vacate their spot. Also, they only seem to sell tickets for the full journey – so if you are getting off halfway, then you just pay on the bus. This kind of works most of the time, as the people without tickets tend to be last minute arrivals at the station and they get on the bus after all the people with tickets. Also, anybody who gets on the bus midway through the journey doesn’t have a ticket – so they just sit in any spare seat, or stand if there are no seats left. So, in theory, if you are doing the whole route then you can get a ticket and an allocated seat.

HOWEVER – this system TOTALLY breaks down on some of the longer journeys, because if a bus passes through a main town with a bus station, then the bus company sells tickets with the same seat numbers…. YES, That’s stupid I know…

So for example, a bus company that has the route Puerto Lopez – Portoviejo – Quevedo  will sell seats 1-10 in Puerto Lopez, and some of those people will be going all the way to Quevedo… meanwhile in Portoviejo, the company has sold seats 1 -10 as well… So… a person with seat number 4 can board in Portoviejo, and there is already a person in seat 4 going to Quevedo…

To make matters worse, the system on the Ecuadorian buses is that the conductor comes round to either collect the money for your journey, or take your ticket. YES, that’s right – they take your ticket away… this means that you can’t even PROVE that you have a right to be in seat 4!

The first time this happened to us, the newcomers to the bus just went and sat somewhere else. This is generally what happens – but the problem comes with full buses, as people board with a ticket for a seat, and then there is nowhere for them to sit. The person in their seat also had bought a ticket for that seat – and they are not just going to get up and stand to give the newcomer their seat. So it becomes a battle of wills… we saw several arguments – but the bus companies and conductors don’t seem to care much….

The second time it happened to us, where somebody boarded the bus with the same seat number that we had – they absolutely refused to sit in another seat – even though there were spare seats available. We called the conductor for assistance, but because we were the ones without a ticket (because a different conductor had already taken it earlier in the journey?!) then he made us move. WHAT A LOSER! We were BITTER for a while because our new seats had a crappier window and were slightly broken. Ah well…….

The tickets are all issued from an electronic system… so I have no idea why they can’t manage to not double allocate seats…..!?!

Anyway… apart from that incident, buses in Ecuador worked out pretty well! 🙂

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