When you are traveling to a large city (or between cities) a great mode of transportation is the bus. The biggest obstacle when taking the bus is going to be the language barrier, so if you can plan on how to get past that hurdle, you should have smooth sailing, as long as you make sure to pay attention to where you are going.
Here is how you approach the language barrier:
If you know a national that speaks English in addition to their native tongue, ask them which buses to take, where to get off, and have them write down where you are going so you can show it to the bus driver in case you get off on the wrong stop or something else goes askew. Also make sure you are not going to be taking the bus on a holiday! (For more about why to avoid doing this, check out this article)
The next thing you need to think about is bus etiquette. In California, my home state, most people don’t really have bus etiquette anymore, but in Europe, many people still take it pretty seriously. Since my pregnant belly became more apparent, people in Athens have been very insistent about me getting a seat when I enter the bus or the metro. In fact, they even let me cut in line when I go shopping! Make sure that if you are sitting with a small child, you place them on your lap so that they are not taking up a whole seat if there are many people standing, and always give up your seat for a pregnant woman, and elderly person, or another parent with a small child if you are able to stand, and are sitting in a seat by yourself.
As far as safety while in a bus, I am going to post an entry on this topic by “The Car Seat Lady,” who are actually two ladies, Debbi and Alisa Baer, both medical professionals and experts in the field of vehicle safety for children. (This excerpt was used by permission. For more information on safely traveling with children, please check out their website www.thecarseatlady.com)
Is it safe to take your child on the bus without a car seat?
It depends on which bus you’re going on!
Public City Buses
Public city buses, like those in New York City, are great modes of transportation and allow you to safely move around the city with your child without having to bring a car seat with you! Most kids love taking the bus. As a parent interested in your chilld’s safety, you should like the bus too, because buses are safer than cars.
Why is the city bus safe?
Buses are large and thus very visible, which means they’re less likely to be involved in a crash. They also move at slower speeds than cars (especially some NYC buses) which means any crash is likely to be less severe. When a bus is involved in a crash, the bus’s large size helps protect the passengers by absorbing most of the crash forces. Passengers are less likely to be injured also because–unless hit by another bus or truck–they are sitting high off the street, so they’re hit around their legs and feet, not around their head or chest like if they were riding in a car.
How do I bring my child on the city bus if not in a car seat?
You cannot use a car seat on a public city bus because the bus does not have a seat belt or lower latch anchors–so there is no way to secure the car seat properly. To safely take your child on the bus, make sure you hold your child tightly or use a front pack carrier (BabyBjorn, Ergo, Snugli, baby wrap, etc). And make sure you hold on yourself!! Obviously if you can get a seat, sit down. Kids will stay entertained by looking out the window and interacting with other passengers.
Long Distance Buses
Long-distance buses are a different story, and while it isn’t required that you use a child safety seat, it’s a good idea. Long distance buses travel at high speed on the highway. Fortunately, these buses are becoming safer for small children (and adults). Some buses now have seat belts and some even have lower latch anchors. If you plan to take a long distance bus journey with your child, find out which bus companies offer seat belts or lower latch anchors–and allow you to bring the child safety seat–and book your trip!
Hope this information helps you, and remember that even if you have never taken a bus before, vacations are always a perfect opportunity for new adventures!