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Bus Etiquette

Updated on April 10, 2009

Whether you're an American, Brit, Continental European or something else entirely, there are shared rules of social etiquette between you. At least, there should be. Unfortunately, many of you appear to have missed the memo regarding behavior and public transport, so I've compiled a short list of things you should and shouldn't do whilst on a public bus. Some of these are similar to how one ought to behave on a subway, tram or train, but there are a few differences. The following tips should give you an idea of what normal behavior on a public bus ought to be, and if you're not able to conform -- please don't ride the bus.

Rule #6: Be quiet.

I often hear groups of loud Americans traveling on the bus from the airport to the subway station. Guess what? It's annoying, and nobody cares about, like, your analysis of the last episode of 24.

Rule #7: Respect personal space.

There is no need to sit on someone's lap if there are only two of you on the bus. If you need a map to find an empty seat, something is wrong with you!

Rule #8: Your luggage doesn't need its own seat.

I get really ticked when people get on the bus and put a suitcase on the seat next to them. If you can't get your bags under your seat or hold them in your lap, you need to use another method of transportation. It's RUDE to make someone stand so your Samsonite can take up a chair.

Rule #9: Don't close windows unless it's cold or raining.

If it's summer time and 90 degrees outside, believe me when I tell you that no one cares about your hairstyle, and whether or not the wind is going to mess it up. If you don't want to sit near an open window, move somewhere else.

Rule #10: Don't litter.

Most people in Europe are pretty good about cleaning up after themselves, but you will occasionally see tourists leaving trash on their seats or on the floor. Would you do that at home? Pick up after yourself.

Rule #1: No pushing your way onto the bus.

It always amazes me when I see a fully empty bus pull up to a group of 20 people, and nearly all of those people push and shove their way onto the bus, as though 80 seats might not be enough for them and someone might have to stand. And even if you do have to stand, you don't have to push your way onto the bus. It's rude and makes you look like a prat.

Rule #2: Get up for old people, male or female.

I get very annoyed when I see teenagers or 30 somethings sitting comfortably while a senior citizen clasps the rail in the hope of not falling down. And then there are those who think the men should be ok to stand, even though the poor guy's got a bad hip and arm braces. Here's the deal -- if you're not physically handicapped, you need to get the hell up when anyone over 55 is standing. If they refuse the offer, that's fine; but you need to offer.

Rule #3: Get up for pregnant women

She may be younger than 55, but a 7 month pregnant woman will probably be better off sitting down for a number of reasons. Even if she looks comfortable on her feet, she doesn't need to be jostled all over the place as the bus moves. So get up for her.

Rule #4: Get up for small children.

Even if a kid is big enough to walk, they're not necessarily big enough to stay upright if the bus stops quickly. Get up for children. And if they were brought up well, the person next to you will get up for the mother, too.

Rule #5: Wear deodorant.

This is rather important, and you're likely to annoy everyone in close proximity if you don't. If, for some reason, you can't wear deodorant, make sure you get a seat and don't wind up holding the railing with your armpit in someone's face -- cos if it's my face, my vomit might end up on your shoes.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Yep, people are really rude. I have to wonder on the whole stroller issue that was brought up by another commenter. When I was little, my Mother would take me out of the stroller prior to the bus arriving and have the stroller all ready and folded up. That was in Fresno, CA and from what I could tell when I was little, it wasn't just a Drivers whim thing on whether or not a stroller had to be folded. Up where I live now in WA State, parents with strollers can take up the wheelchair spaces.

      Also regarding parents with small children, why do so few parents actually keep their kids quiet when on the bus? One evening, there was this wretched mother and her very loud toddler on the bus. The kid kept screaming and I already had a bad headache. The Mother didn't seem to do anything to stop her child except gently tell him to be quiet. (I swear if that child had been me, and the mother was mine, we would have gotten off the bus (15 minute wait for another bus that would go to the same places)and I would have gotten a proper spanking.) I'm quite sure it wasn't just me thinking these things, because the driver kept asking her to quiet him down and she just gave lame excuses and proceeded to argue the point when he requested that she and the child get off at the next stop and wait for the next bus if she could not quell his need to scream like a banshee.

      Now as for the luggage thing... We don't have racks here except on commuter buses. I don't often travel heavy, but if I am, I will try to put everything under my seat. If there is plenty of space I might set something on the seat beside me but if space becomes limited or a passenger needs the seat beside me, I will of course, move my things into a better position and free up the seat.

      What really gets me upset are the idiots who make the bus late because they haven't prepared their fare beforehand. Too many people get on the bus, without having their fare ready despite having had at least 5 minutes prior to the scheduled arrival time in which to do so.

      Then you have the people who don't even bother to look at the schedules or find out prior to leaving which buses they need to take so they waste the driver's time asking. I mean, I can understand it if they know where they are going but are unfamiliar with the route and need help getting to the right stop so they don't annoy the driver with constant stop bell ringing and then saying "wrong stop" when they realize they were mistaken. I'm talking people who don't even know what bus to take, despite having plenty of maps and such around and a customer service center a brisk walk away from the main bus stop area.

      I've been a bus rider since I was released from the hospital as a baby. My mother brought me home on city buses.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I was riding a bus in Seattle and a man was giving himself a pedicure --- with a butter knife. Give me a break!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Good on the whole, yet I object to parents who enter the bus and expect three or four seats and a pram space despite having paid for only one!

    • profile image

      Confused in Hoboken 

      9 years ago

      There is a woman that I see on the bus almost daily. She invariably gets onto a crowded bus and has to stand near the front where I typically sit. I want to offer up my seat, but the problem is that I can't tell where she's pregnant or simply fat. She's shaped like a pregnant woman, but doesn't wear maternity clothes and she doesn't constantly rub her stomach like most pregnant women. What to do?

    • Triplet Mom profile image

      Triplet Mom 

      9 years ago from West Coast

      Great tips if only number 5 were known by all. Nothing like a hot stuffy bus with smelly people.

    • Isabella Snow profile imageAUTHOR

      Isabella Snow 

      9 years ago

      Gawd, I would hope that everyone would automatically get up for the handicapped! Sad if that one needs to be mentioned as well! That would really tick me off!!

    • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

      Stacie Naczelnik 

      9 years ago from Seattle

      Great tips. I commute by bus, and a lot of people could learn a lot by reading this. I used to ride a very crowded bus and often saw a man who was handicapped always have to ask for a seat because it was impossible for him to safely ride the bus standing.

      And for those who do offer to give up their seats, don't insist if the stander refuses. An old colleague of mine was blind and would be yelled at for not taking seats when offered. He figured he could safely stand and preferred not to sit, but other riders would end up yelling at him when he politely refused their offers.


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