In a stark contrast to flying the skies over China, where competition is everywhere, the bus system in China does not seem to attract much competition. However for a cheap, cheap, way to travel with consistent service, the bus is a great way to get around China.
Hoping it does not need to be said, but sadly, most likely does, a typical bus ride will not involve a packed tin can and a chicken as your seat mate. Bus travel is clean, comfortable and a pleasure to ride. Mind you, travelling during the Spring Festival would be interesting.
The one drawback relates to bus stations. Pack a sweater, gloves and a hat during the winter months. The bus terminals tend not to be heated. Once on the bus, passengers will be greeted by heat and a stewardess, who will offer you water, check seat belts and announce stops. As a westerner, the idea of seat belts on the the bus is strange one, but here, the law. Technically, the bus cannot leave the station until everyone is buckled. To further drive the point, prior to departure, videos play on the on board monitors showing footage of bus crashes and the results of not wearing seat belts.
Buses run quite regularly, for example the bus to Yantai departs every 30 mins.
As for prices, a bus to Yantai (a 2 hour ride) will cost approximately 5-6$ US and a bus ride to Qingdao (a 3 hour ride) will run approximately 10$ US.
City buses run reasonably close to every 15mins. The population inhabiting these buses will vary depending on the time of day. So by planning accordingly to avoid the stereotypical packed bus.
Again, as in the Inter city buses you will be met by friendly staff. An instance once occurred whereby a bus driver surmised we were most likely not aware of the recent changes in schedule and routes, so at one stop, he made his way to the our seats and provided us with copies of the new bus routes….wow. Of course this may very well be a perk of living in small town China. The same service would be highly unlikely in quaint Beijing.
The total cost to ride the bus anywhere in Zhaoyuan, including transfer is 20 cents.
There is some fascinating etiquette when it comes to City Buses. While no real order exists as to how one boards the bus, things will get pushy during peak times, there is certainly respect for the Elderly and Young. Without prompting, you will see people giving up their seats for the Elderly and even the very young.
For some, travelling by mass transit takes some getting used to. Those in the West have been conditioned to own a vehicle, so travelling by transit seems almost beneath some. Keep in mind, when in a new land, the bus can be a great way to discover new things. Stuck behind the wheel trying to navigate traffic is no way to enjoy your adventure. And if money is the way to your heart, a Taxi is 10 -12 times more expensive than the bus.
glass of scotch
Be sure to check out the adventures of the Young Travelling MacNichols and how a family of 4 makes its way, discovering the world.