There are individuals rules, traditions and ‘division into castes’ in buses. If you look at Baku out of the window of Baku bus enroute ‘Keroglu-Buzovna’, your impression of the city won’t be the same as that of a private car owner.
Buses operate from 6a.m. till half past 12 midnight. A travel fee amounts to AZN0,20, which is approximately US$0,10. ‘Long’ peripheral routes from the city center to Baku’s suburban settlements-AZN 0,40-0,50(US$0,30), whereas the express bus to the airport-AZN1,3 (US$ 0,70).
Children under 7 can travel free of charge. However, this information is presented in a different way in the announcements that are often hand-drawn on a piece of cardboard: ‘Children aged over 7 years should be paid full fare!’
There are two ways to pay for a fare in Baku: by a special plastic card in BakuBus’ new buses (there are only 11 routes so far); or pay in change directly to a driver in other buses. In the ‘old’ buses, no body usually checks, whether a person has paid or not, but everyone submits 20 kopeks in a disciplined manner. Tourists are sometimes surprised by such a lack of control: it’s not that our people are that honest en masse, simply ‘fare-beating’ is not a customary thing and it will never even occur to anyone.
BakuBus is a world of clear-cut rules. In the nice red buses it’s prohibited to quarrel with a driver, eat sunflower seeds, drop off the bus just anywhere and knock at the door. One can board on bus only through the front door and get off through the rest two and only at a bus stop. Therefore, there are people who don’t use them out of principle.
Will BakuBus buses run in the periphery? If so, then the drivers will be facing hard times, because even in the center it was difficult to make people get accustomed to the fact that a bus can’t be stopped anywhere along the route, as well as to different entry and exit doors. Some few months ago one could hear a driver ‘lecturing’ the passengers: ‘Move to the rear, don’t crowd in the front, there is a free space in the rear. Why are you standing here as if it’s raining on the other side of the bus? You will anyway have to get off through the rare door, won’t you’?!
Not to mention the conservative rural residents.
Won’t I be trampled?
There are rush hours traditionally before the beginning of a working day, from 8a.m. till 10a.m., then at about 2p.m., when children are taken from schools and students are travelling back from the universities, and then after 6p.m.
Azerbaijani mindset is a combination of two paradoxical traits. On the one hand, you won’t be let fall down in a bus –everyone is ready to catch you; the disabled are given up seats and patiently helped to climb the steps; the elderly are usually offered seats in a polite manner. On the other hand, these ‘kin’ relations have a reverse side: no one will apologize for pushing you, and in an overcrowded bus you willy-nilly find yourself in rather close relations with everyone surrounding you.
What are the chances for a woman to be groped in Baku bus? Each woman answers this question based on her own experience. Since there is no precise statistics, let’s say, it is the case. And quite often.
Another interesting phenomenon is ‘female’ and ‘male’ seats in buses. One-third of the rear part in a bus is ‘traditionally’ regarded as a ‘male’ one, especially in rural areas. It’s sort of inappropriate for a woman to take a seat there. However, it should be made clear that it’s not the case always and everywhere. Yet, there is such a tendency and it is rather viable.
Once, a native of Sabirabad (a district in the southeast of Azerbaijan) even brought the following example of falling morals on the disput.az forum: ‘Everything used to be so civilized in a bus in our village-the women sat separately from the men. And what do we have now? Guys are hugging girls, drooling over them. Oh the times, oh the manners! “
Let me advise all those, who likes to talk about people’s aspirations while sitting in a cozy pub with a pitcher of beer, to leave their jeeps in the garages and travel by buses. This will bring some interesting ideas to your mind. You’ll see the difference between the center and the suburbs; how people are dressed and how many women have to carry heavy bags.
You will see fashion-mongers in fur coats and moms with babies; students discussing a session and young guys spitting on the floor, who are not even thinking of enrolling in the university. You’ll see those very people who are paid an average salary and an average pension.
They are the real Azerbaijan.