x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Travelling by bus: guaranteed adventure

Things may not always run smoothly when taking the bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, but it's never boring.

Every so often, rather than driving, I catch the bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. Often, when I tell people this they react with not quite horror, but certainly bemusement.

My reasoning for doing so is simple: the buses are clean, they depart regularly and they are also a bargain (Dh15-20).

Not only that, rather than getting het up about the state of the roads, this allows me to spend the journey doing something productive. More often than not, I bring my laptop and catch up on work, watch a film or write emails to my friends and family (before you get carried away, I send these when I get home - the luxuries of bus travel don't quite stretch to Wi-Fi).

That's not so say that things always run smoothly. Time and experience have taught me a number of vital bus-survival techniques. Leaving plenty of time for the journey is imperative. Rather than following a set timetable, buses depart only once each seat is occupied, and not a customer before. So if you happen to snag the last space, you know that it's going to be a good day. Step on board to find the bus almost empty and an interminable wait can lie ahead.

The air conditioning is nearly always set to a level that might be appreciated by polar bears, but certainly not by humans, so layering up is essential. The most important thing you can bring on a bus journey, though, is a calm, laissez-faire attitude because consistent this experience is not.

Most of the time, tickets are purchased from a small booth at the bus stop but every so often - for reasons I've never been able to work out - the rules change and you can only buy them on board. Attempt to do this with anything but the correct change and you can expect a verbal ear-bashing.

From time to time, the driver will randomly decide to pull over midway through the journey for a quick rest; as you can imagine, this does not go down well with Abu Dhabi workers who need to be at their desks for 9am. And although the final destination is always the same, the route is often subject to change ("No Carrefour stop today").

I've had coffee spilt on me, sweets offered and, on one memorable journey, a (very sweet) baby plonked unexpectedly on my knee. Now you don't get that if you travel by taxi, do you?

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