Today we rode the bus in Cuenca. Everyone here says it is fairly safe during the day and to just watch your belongings. But this week is vacaciones (for x-mas and new years) and I guess that is a time when robbers from the coast come inland and make some money. So the first bus we got on was kind of empty and we really stand out as gringos so of course these two guys got up and started an act to scare us (and it worked). But before they could finish our stop arrived so we got off. But as we were leaving they said a phrase I can’t remember in Spanish but it meant: if you understand me you will give me your money so I don’t rob you. Hopefully we won’t see them again.
From all the people I talk to getting robbed is pretty common, and although it can happen in the daytime most often it happens at night in dark alleys or by bars or areas where you shouldn’t be at night anyway. Cuenca is not as dangerous as Quito but more and more people from the coast or Colombia are moving here and those are the one’s likely to rob you or beat you up, not the Cuencanas. And of course if you look like a white little gringa like me or gringo people seem to think you are rich even tho I’m just another kid with no money.
So you will encounter some people who ask for money on the bus, who may also be robbers by night or not. It’s just important to be aware of your surroundings, don’t leave your bag unattended or your pockets overflowing with a camera or phone etc. Since the bus can get pretty crowded it is easy for someone to reach in and steal your phone (a hot commodity). Also, the button you have to push when you want to get off the bus is sometimes at the back of the bus. So if it is crowded you have to squeeze your way though the crowd and during this process or when others are passing you, some people may try to pull on your bag (or dig into it) so its a good idea to wear your bag on your front if you bring one on the bus. I’ll be taking the bus a lot over the next few months so eventually I will try to post on bus times vs. crowds.
Also, it costs 25 cents to ride one way. You can buy a bus card and refill it whenever you need it. To use the card just hold it against the white panel that is usually above the pay meter, it doesn’t matter which way you hold the card.
And keep in mind that every bus experience is not a bad one. Actually it is really fun to ride the bus; it is like a roller coaster ride. Some people even jump off before the bus can stop, sometimes you have to too. Its a wild ride!