“You want a taxi to Riga?”, I was asked this morning in one of those classic moments of misunderstanding, due to the lack of a common language.
I’d arrived at the bus station at about 5.30 this morning, a good half-hour before the terminal was due to open. Looking at the schedule and seeing nothing on the screen about buses to Riga, I wondered if I’d gone to the wrong place. There were only two buses listed: one to St Petersburg and another to a town on the Estonian/Latvian border.
I went online last night and found there were no train options to get me to Riga, the capital of Latvia. There are several buses every day between the capitals, so there must be a fair bit of two-way traffic going on.
At about six in the morning, I had two options. There was your stock standard bus, probably still run by the government, and there was a private-sector competitor offering what they described as “business class” bus travel.
There wasn’t much difference in the price between the two, but the business class option listed wireless internet, catering and “an attendant” amongst their bonuses. Unfortunately, I couldn’t book online, as they would only accept Estonian-based visas, so I thought if I went to the terminal nice and early I might be able to buy a ticket beforehand.
For a while this morning I thought I’d actually gone to the wrong terminal. Without any sign of the Hansa Bus on the departures board, I had pretty much resigned myself to joining the long queue of those taking the traditional bus service.
“It’ll be fine”, I thought to myself, as I waited in the fairly lengthy queue. And then all of a sudden there was a loud bang and then a crunching sound. It was then we all realised the driver had misjudged the height of the terminal and had crashed the bus into it.
Oh my goodness”, I thought to myself, as the woman next to me in the queue and I looked at each other with a worried look on our faces.
As it turns out, she was also booked on the Hansa business class bus and was similarly confused. We then offered each other a smile of relief, and a look of condolence to the others in the long queue, when our bus arrived a minute or so later. The physical contrast between the two could not have been more stark. The standard bus looked twenty years old, ours was bright, shiny and new.
And while the other bus is packed to the rafters, ours is half empty. We’ve already been served coffee by our “attendant”. I have a single seat with plenty of legroom, though the tray table is a little small. I could also go for a walk if I wanted to and read one of the newspapers or books from their library, watch a movie, or maybe just sit back and relax and have a nap under the nice blanket the attendant has given everyone. But no, I’m making good use of the wireless internet and decided to update my blog, simply because I can.
4 responses to “Blogging Because I Can”
So, I’m guessing that the price was the same for you, but to any local entitled to any type of concession, the state service was cheaper?
My God man, what’s happened to the hair ? hehe
I had a haircut in Stockholm. There’s still hair there, it’s just shorter.
The standard service only seems to offer discounts to those under 26 and over 65, but even then not always.
-10% for elderly in age 65 or more and children in age 12-26.
-50% for children until age 12.
NB ! Discounts do not apply on all departures !
So yes, there is a concession, though not always, and not very much it seems. You would think over 65s would get more of a discount than 10%. Still, every little bit helps I guess.
Oddly enough, my reading of the situation was that about half of those in the queue for the standard service were actually Western backpackers, who probably had read about it in an old copy of Lonely Planet. On the bus I travelled on, I was the only person from the west. I’m guessing it’s because the Hansa bus is only a new service, and thus locals are more likely to know about it.
One further clarification, I was wrong in thinking the standard service was state-run, as it’s also privately run.