Discover Canada by Bus

Travelling in the slow lane has almost become a lost art. Even on holidays, people rush to get away so that they can have an extended time to relax. In these days of tight schedules and the frantic rush from one place to another, few people seem to be able to take the slower route. But for those who are willing to take the time, getting there can be part of the holiday. Travelling long distances by bus can be uncomfortable, but the chance to see the country and to experience travel from a new perspective can be worth the extra time and effort it takes.

Riding the bus can be a relaxing way to get to places near and far. Bus trips are generally not for busy managers on their way to meetings, but rather for people who are in no particular rush to get to their destination. Passengers will see few business suits or briefcases on board, but many backpacks and diaper bags. Stops along the way are frequent, and the route sometimes includes long detours to travel through small towns to pick up passengers or packages. Travellers should count on being on the road for several more hours than the trip would otherwise take by car and for considerably longer than a plane would take. But if the trip is as important as the destination, the extra time can allow for contemplation, watching the landscape go by, or visiting with fellow travellers.

Boarding a bus is a considerably more relaxed process than boarding a plane. It is best to arrive at bus depots in major cities at least thirty minutes ahead of time to allow time for getting through the lines and choosing a seat, but unless travellers still need their luggage labels, the process of boarding is very quick. Two properly tagged bags can be stored under the bus; at some depots, labels are available only at the ticket counters, while others provide colour-coded labels (such as green for Manitoba destinations and yellow for Alberta). There are normally no security checks, although a guard may on occasion request to see inside a passengerís bag. Ten or fifteen minutes before a bus leaves, passengers line up at the appropriate gate or bench, show their tickets, and hand the luggage they want stowed underneath to the baggage handler or driver. Although passengers can reserve a particular seat for a small extra fee, most prefer to arrive early enough to take their chances and find the seat they like best.

Long hours of confinement in a vehicle require some way to pass the time. Sleeping is always an option; the seats are not very roomy but offer some opportunity to stretch out and push the seat back. Many passengers bring their own pillows as these are not provided on the bus. Many buses are fitted with small screens where passengers can watch movies selected by the driver, and several music stations are also available; headphones are available for purchase in major centres, but most commercial headphones will also fit into the one-pronged outlets. Reading, knitting, writing, or other activities can also fill the time between departure and arrival.

However interesting the activities on board are, passengers should not forget to look outside. From rolling hills and forests to towering mountains to the flat expanse of fields stretching out as far as the eye can see, the Canadian landscape provides fascinating insights into the diverse country where we live. A look out the windows may even yield the sight of wildlife such as birds, bears, and deer. Who would have thought that a stop near the Manitoba town of Wasagaming in Riding Mountain National Park could yield a view of a mother bear with three cubs? Travelling by bus can be a wonderful way of seeing the countryside and its wild inhabitants.

Towns and cities along the way complement the experience of watching the landscape go by, and they also provide the opportunity for crucial breaks. At least every few hours during the day and at longer intervals at night, the bus will stop for anywhere from five minutes to an hour for passengers to stretch their legs, get a meal at a nearby restaurant, or to allow new passengers to board. No food is served on the bus, and passengers should remember to bring what they need with them or to have sufficient money to buy meals at the restaurants and fast food outlets near the depots. While doughnut shops and fast food outlets dominate, some stops are more interesting. Near many of the downtown depots are museums, restaurants, shopping areas, and other places to eat and to pass the break time.

Besides eating and enjoying the sights of each stop, breaks provide a way of avoiding the stiffness and pain that can come with sitting for long periods of time. Taking a short walk at every stop can help alleviate the problems of inaction and also provide a chance to get fresh air. Even at night, it can be important to get out of the bus to avoid a stiff and painful morning the next day.

The bus is an ideal way to travel to small towns. Planes normally land only in fairly major centres, and the trip to a smaller place can often be quite involved. The bus, however, stops at many small towns, thus giving the residents an easy means of travelling outside the area. Even going to bigger centres may be easier by bus than by plane. In many cities, the airport is some distance from the rest of the metropolis; most major bus depots, however, are located downtown and many buses stop at several other places in each city. With these advantages and the chance to see the country, the bus is an ideal way to travel.

It seems that few people these days take the time to see Canada in all its colour and variety, but bus travel offers the opportunity to experience the cities, towns, and natural sights of Canada in new ways. For people who can take the time, it can be an ideal way to travel for business or pleasure.

Discover Canada by Bus
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