The humble combi

7 11 2008

The public transport in Lima relies almost entirely on a system of minibuses.

Wherever you need to get in Lima a combination of combis will take you there. There are hundreds if not thousands of them. They are painted different colours to represent their company and have the names of the most important streets that they will visit written across the side.

Inside a combi

Inside a combi

Combis are small, dirty, usually packed full of people and pretty dangerous. Each one has a crew of two people: one person drives while the other handles the passengers and the money. The latter hangs through the reclining doors and shouts the names of the same streets to attract customers. In order to catch a combi you need to wait at the side of the road, search for one that you think is going your way and indicate that you want to get on – not a difficult task seeing as they all slow down to entice you on board.

In the process of scrambling on to the combi, a couple of words are exchanged with the “conductor” to confirm that the combi is going your way. By this point the driver will have already screeched off again making finding a seat and sitting down somewhat troublesome. The combi then careers thrugh the wild sea Lima traffic, the driver honks his horn as an indication, or more accurately a warning sign to other drivers who begin to pull in front of his path.

After paying the fare, usually somewhere in the region of 20p, you have to shout “baja a la esquina ” to the conductor when you want to ge off. A quick well-timed jump later, prompted by the anxious shouting of the conductor: “baja, baja, baja. baja” (pronounced bacha, ch like the word loch), and you find yourself on the pavement long after realising that the combi has already teared off again.

Apart from taxis, whose drivers need to be bargained with for a fair price, combis are the most affordable way to get about the city.

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