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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Buses - additional info

By Ole Larssen

I just read through Bruce's post about buses and felt that I wanted to add some more info. What he fails to mention (since he's not actually living in the city but has crawled off to a comfortable suburb, the wimp) is the overall geography of the area. That is, you have San Jose, which is a sprawling city housing around 350 000 people over an area which size is totally out of relation to the number of people living here. There's numerous suburbs within the city area itself, but there's a ton of suburbs outside the actual city area which all fall under a general definition of "San Jose" but are really vastly different places and not accessible by foot unless you have a day to spend. Heredia, where Bruce and his better half lives, is an example of that. My point is that there's actually three different bus systems within San Jose - the intra-city, the Greater San Jose (serving all the outlying suburbs) and the inter-city. The intra-city bus system is somewhat chaotic (especially when you start using it), but is frequent and reliable in the sense that if you have a slight idea of what's going on, you will usually end up where you're headed (and there will always be 30 buses around to take you away if you missed). The Greater San Jose bus system, on the other hand, is less frequent (meaning between 1-6 buses an hour) and, because of the extremely complex road system making up Greater San Jose, much easier to mess up on - simply because of the distance and the complexity of even the simplest bus route. You really need spot-on directions to get where you are going, much more so than the intra-bus system, in my experience, because the city San Jose is built up with a grid system and usually has a rather obvious landmark system to help you orient yourself. This is not always the case with the outlying suburbs.

All that being said, I've had very little problems navigating the city using the buses. What Bruce also neglected to mention (for some obscure reason only known to people living in the suburbs, I bet) is that the easiest way to ensure you get to where you are going is not asking the bus driver, but the people waiting at the bus stop. My Spanish ought to be punishable by death, but using "Por favor, autobus de (insert area name)?" gets me everywhere. What you do is simply ask the people hanging around waiting for buses and they will, in my experience, be glad to help you out, especially if you make an effort of speaking Spanish (however horrendous it might be). Most people direct you elsewhere if you're in the wrong place, and on the bus itself they will usually do follow-ups on you, making sure you get to where you are going. For instance, a lady who helped me get to San Joaqin (Greater San Jose) told me/indicated to me when she was getting of that while this was her stop, I was going off three stops further ahead (which in my Spanish = "dres mas"). I really like the people living in this city partly because of that.

So that's my two cents. I'm really starting to like this city - I've been here for about three weeks now, and been sick for two of them. But now that I'm kind of putting my head outside my hostel, and the work situation slowly is coming to a correct course, I really like what I'm seeing. I currently reside in the western part of San Jose, which is, much like the rest of the city, rather random, noisy and grungy, but (again, like the rest of the city) has a million redeeming characteristics to it. Except the Coca-Cola area, which really has no redeeming qualities except the amount of buses there.