Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Edinburg Bus System / Lothian Bus Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a tourists city. For anyone that wants the European travel experience, with the lease amount of culture shock, Edinburgh is the place to go. Everywhere, and I mean everywhere, within the city centre can be reached within half an hour. There are no subways, or confusing transit systems required. On foot is the best way to get around and explore.

The architecture is different enough to make you feel as if you've been transported back in time hundreds of years, and there are grocery stores, hostels, hotels, and restaurants around just about every corner. The cash machines are free to use, the people are willing to help. There is just one downside:

When Privatization Goes Wrong...
As I said, there is no confusing transit system required to explore the city, but if you feel the need to use it, my goodness you are in for a shock. The less said about the system the better, but I will do my very best to explain it.

The first thing you need to know is that there are far more than one bus line. This is not like New York, London, or Toronto. The main bus lines are First, and Lothian. Then there are the four (count them – four) tour buses that roam the streets. If you're into live guided tours or, on one, prerecorded tours then skip the confusing buy the tour pass, and enjoy some simple busing around, and historic education. But if that's not your cup of tea, or you want to go further than those will allow, you need to make a choice. What line is best for you? I choose Lothian. Not only is it only three pounds for a day ticket, the maps were also easily available at the bus centre on Wavery bridge.

Looking at your map, you need to figure out where you want to go. What route number is it? O.K. now that you've figured that out, find out what color line it is on the “outside of the city centre” portion of the map. Great, now see what letter that exits the city from (exit A, B, C, etc.) Now turn the map around and see what colour that line is within the city centre (because keeping them the same would just be idiotic, of course.) Now that you know that, check out where you can catch it. Most buses are best caught on either Waverly bridge, or George street. Hop on board, and hope for the best.

There are no updates from the driver as to where you are. There are no scrolling text updates letting you know where you are. There are no big names on the bus stops when you pass them, and even if there were it wouldn't matter because the stops are not listed on your route map. How anyone decided this was a good system is beyond me. How anyone learns how to find their way is of even bigger concern. The best bet is to look outside, and try to read names on buildings. Headed to a specific town? Look out the window, if any buildings have that name as part of it such as [town name] general store, well then you best push the stop button, and hop on out. You'll probably find there was a better stop, closer to where you wanted, but were you really willing to risk it?

Trying to find a specific tourist spot? When the bus empties, you're probably there.

As I said, once you get on that bus, you just have to trust your instincts and hope for the best. Such is the Edinburgh mass transit system.

Despite the confusion it presents, it is a very long reaching service, extending miles and miles in every direction, taking your just about anywhere you could want. Often times it is a much better option than the train could ever hope to be.

Headed out to explore the land beyond these city walls? Enjoy. And good luck!

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