Bequia’s Best Entertainment Value: “The Dollar Bus”

Posted on: Saturday, January 24th, 2009
Posted in: Travelog, 3rd Stop: Bequia, Latest Trip | 4 comments

Within moments of landing on this island, one is struck (almost literally) by the plethora of mini-vans bearing massive monikers in front, blasting deafening reggae, and driving like NASCAR wanna-bes.  They’re called “the dollar bus.”  And for about 40 cents (US), they’ll move you and your stuff and most always guarantee some real-life thrills. 

When you gotta get to town, you need Faith.

When you gotta get to town, you need Faith.

Story goes that just about anyone can enter this line of work, decide their own route (there are only a few), and make up their own hours. Most driver-owners customize their vehicle’s interior with an assortment of lights, signs, accessories and sparkly upholstery. They also determine their own bus nickname, of course, which offers a glimpse into the driver’s personality or view of the world.  

Here are a few of the buses plying the rutted streets of Bequia these days…

  • BE BE
  • B COOL
Traffic peaks week-day daytime—with students, workers, and errand-runners—but someone is usually running 7 days a week between about 6 am and 8 pm.  Most busses have a second person, usually a boy, who collects the money (at the end), runs the door, helps with stuff management, and may dictate the seating arrangement. 
Looking back on a few weeks’ worth of journeys, a few favorite memories come to mind…
On my first ride—with both children—we got on a VERY full bus with 21 people, and were seated in separate rows.  CurlyGirl looked like a deer in bus headlights.  But after, when I asked if she liked it, she just said, “Yeah, but I was kinda squished.” 

 Riding the BusWhat if someone needs to get out and we’re all in the way?  What else?  We all climb out, the helper handles the fold-up seats (in the aisle), we maybe bid “good evening” to the departing, and then shimmy back in again.  Always in the middle of the street; there are no official stops. 
An argument between a man and woman who got on at different points went on the entire route, at full volume.  Eventually, others tried to calm them, chimed in, or laughed.  When they disembarked downtown, they continued their quarrel on the street. 
At about 5, when bus use peaks, about 20 of us were squeezed inside and then taken to the only gas station where we politely waited.  And waited.  The driver got out and chatted up friends, eventually paying with 100s of coins (how he’s usually paid).  Since the door was open and I was on the edge, I snuck to the nearest bar and grabbed a beer—with the driver’s permission, of course, “No problem, mon!  No problem!” 
An elderly lady got on and off, always taking the helper’s arm, and given the best seat (beside the driver).  As she exited, the helper made sure she got her 12-pack of Pepsi up to her house. 
Another time, we made a detour to Lower Bay so the driver could make a delivery.  Riders are offered no explanation, but you learn to just trust and go along for the ride. 
When stuck downtown awaiting more passengers, we all watched a large, loud local man who was preaching in a booming voice about something in the middle of the street.  I could only fully comprehend the foul language for sure.  
When I asked, “Wha he yellin’ about?”  The driver replied, “Oh, he just need more sex.”  Everyone laughed.  So I retorted, “I don’t tink dat be any way to get it!”  And everyone laughed harder. 

When on “MAJESTY” once, it started to rain.  The driver keeps a clean, dry vehicle.  So he stopped suddenly, made us all roll up the windows, started the AC, and then made us all check the rear vents.  When it stopped raining, he stopped, and we did all that again in reverse. 
When I took a picture (at a distance) of FAITH, the driver called me over, gave me a nasty tongue-lashing, and insisted I owed him EC$25.  I explained that I like his bus name, and anyway, I thought FAITH sets you FREE.  He kept trying to collect until I just walked away—to the sound of devilish, cackling laughter of a woman spectating nearby. 
When I photographed MORE FAITH, things went much better.  I’d been passenging—chatting some with the rider and helper.  This time, I politely asked permission as I got off.  He smiled and answered, “Ya shore.  You a good boy!” 

When a little Faith isn't enough...
The helper stuck his head out—which is often how they ride—so he could be in the picture too.  Guess it just goes to show ya:  We could all use MORE FAITH. 
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4 Responses to “Bequia’s Best Entertainment Value: “The Dollar Bus””

  1. GJ Says:

    It’s really cold in Minnesota. Wish I was hitchhiking and you’d pick me up in one of these vans about now.

  2. scott Says:


  3. bequia guy Says:

    the real name for the ”helpers” is conductor.just thought you should know

  4. kirk Says:

    Aha! Should have known that, and maybe did, but forgot–or wondered if it would confuse my readers (who might think they were dollar trains!?!). Thanks for the heads-up!

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