Currently my mandarin is at such a low level I should hardly call it basic, so for any advice I give if you find something inaccurate please let me know.
For those of you who’ve yet to take the bus in china let me give you a few pointers based off a recent experience.
If your taking a long distance bus from outside the city chances are its privately operated meaning your going to find dad driving, mom collecting money and the little kid sitting beside her counting cash. If it’s a busy bus like mine many people will be yelling out their stop names and handing over their fair, the amount can fluctuate depending on your destination (something I wasn’t privy to before boarding) confused as to how much it would cost I handed over five yaun to a young man who graciously refused it, so I spoke my stops name quickly “Bīn Jiāng Dào” in hopes he might understand my horrible pronunciation. The driver reluctantly took 5 元 as I looked at my seating options and squeezed into the seat; on the way back I gave 5 元 with out a word. It wasn’t until I arrived home when Yakun told me I should have paid 7 元. I may have profited from my mistake but I’d much rather be understood! Here are some useful tips for riding the bus anywhere you are in
If you’re not sure what bus will take you to “Bin Jiang Dao” or whatever your destination you can stand at a bus stop and ask the first bus that pulls up:
Wǒ qù Bīn Jiāng Dào, dào ma? (dào 到 “to go to” or “arrive”)
I’m going to Bīn Jiāng Dào, do you go there?
The answer your looking for is “Dào” if you get a slew of words thrown at you and your mandarin is as basic as mine just take a step on the bus, this will get him squawking even louder if it doesn’t “Dào”. If the bus has a money box don’t put your fair in yet, first look for someone in the front seat collecting money, sometimes they collect the cash in hand, if you find this person simply state your destination again and they will tell you the price otherwise place the money in the box, After the bus driver wipes whatever that crusty substance is off his overgrown finger nail onto his discolored rag choking the stick shift you can scurry to a seat in the middle of the bus, this is going to cause you the least amount of inertia as he weaves in and out of on-coming traffic, it also provides you a position within earshot of the drivers calls.
In order to get off at the correct stop pay attention to the bus driver, he will yell out the name of each stop with a “xià bú xià” at the end.
Xià bú xià 下不下 (anyone getting off?)
Xià chē 下车 (to get off).
Some other things the driver might say are:
Xià ma 下吗 (anyone getting off?)
Yǒu xià dē ma 有下的吗 (is there anyone getting off?)
Once you hear “Bīn Jiāng Dào, xià bú xià” Yell out “Xià” or “Xià chē” to stop the bus and wake everyone up.