Riding the Bus in Russia

Many Russians have asked me with a smirk, “so, have you been on our buses? What do you think?,” expecting me to go on a tirade about how cramped and stuffy and dirty they are and how American transportation is king, yada-yada-yada. But actually, I don’t feel that way at all. Yes, getting on a minibus during rush hour can be an uncomfortable experience, and Russian buses definitely aren’t easy on the eyes. But whenever a Russian asks me what I think of the public transportation system, I can smile and confidently say, “you know, I really like it.”

A typical marshrutka. This is my least favorite kind, because these easily get crowded and you often have to push through a mass of people yelling "позвольте пройти!" if you don't want to miss your stop.
A typical marshrutka. This is my least favorite kind, because these easily get crowded and you often have to push through a mass of people yelling “позвольте пройти!” if you don’t want to miss your stop.

I have never had a car in America. I managed to get through college bumming rides off friends to the grocery store, church, and the like; still, I felt a lack of independence. But summers were the worst. Since I didn’t have a car, the only time I could plan to get out of the house for sure was if both my parents were home from work and didn’t need to use it. It was easy to feel isolated and much more like a 12 year-old than a young adult.

A covertly taken picture from the inside of a bus today. Notice the charming babushka on the left- she was laughing and joking with a man on the bus. Another plus to public transport: a great place to eavesdrop.
A covertly taken picture from the inside of a bus today. Notice the charming babushka on the left- she was laughing and joking with a man on the bus. Another plus to public transport: a great place to eavesdrop.

Then I moved to Russia, and for the price of 13 rubles (about 50 cents), the world was at my fingertips! With a little knowledge of the route numbers, I could get wherever I needed to be in about 20 minutes. Whereas for Russians, the often dirty and crowded buses were a nuisance, for me, they signified freedom.

"13 rubles. Large bills hand to the driver IN ADVANCE." This is one tricky part of riding the bus here. You must pay the driver directly when you get off, and they sometimes get cranky if they have to make change when there's a line of people waiting to get out. I always try to have exactly 13 rubles, but that can be tough.
“13 rubles. Hand large bills to the driver IN ADVANCE.” This is one tricky part of riding the bus here. You must pay the driver directly when you get off, and they sometimes get cranky if they have to make change when there’s a line of people waiting to get out. I always try to have exactly 13 rubles, but that can be tough.

Another reason I love Russian transportation is that in the midst of a society where plans are constantly changing and you never know what is going to get thrown at you next, the buses faithfully run their routes from 6 am to 8 pm every day. There is something comforting in the simple knowledge that no matter what craziness happens over the course of the day, I can hop on that dingy number 6 bus and get dropped off right by the grocery store, my cellphone provider, or my favorite cafe. In a land of chaos, public transportation in one of the constants that helps me to stay sane.

What a #6 bus looks like. Despite its unattractive looks, this kind is my favorite. Because it is wider than the typical marshrutka, this type gets overly crowded much less often.
What a #6 bus looks like. Despite its unattractive looks, this kind is my favorite. Because it is wider than the typical marshrutka, this type gets overly crowded much less often.

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One thought on “Riding the Bus in Russia

  1. It is interesting to read your opinion. 🙂 And in Naberezhnye Chelny mainly microbuses Ford Transit, fare is 15 rubles. There are also large buses, but they are few. Except buses, trams go.
    🙂

    Like

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