I step onto the bus and swipe my IC card on the reader by the door. Easy as anything. A short bleep lets me know that I’ve paid 0.4 RMB, the heavily discounted fare for IC card holders. This discount was introduced in 2007 to encourage more people to use the card, which certainly worked as more people started to use the bus too. Non-card holders, like my friend, have to pay a full 1RMB for a single journey. The passengers on the bus hardly notice my entrance, but to the ones that casually look over, I give a nonchalant nod to say, “Yes, I’ve got a card, I’m nearly as local as you, look at me board this bus like a pro”. I start to head down towards the front of the bus, to see if there are any seats free.
Suddenly hear someone calling my name. “Louise! Come back! Help!” Any illusion of savvy traveler has now been shattered and replaced with nonsense tourist. I turn around to see my friend waving her arms frantically.
“Louise, help, seriously the man won’t take my 100 RMB note and I don’t have anything smaller- have you got any change?” All eyes on me, I walk back down to the calm but mildly annoyed ticket vendor and my friend, who is now flushing bright red. A couple in their mid 30s find the scene hilarious, and their giggles erupt into a raucous guffaw as I pull out a 1RMB note. The vendor hands a ticket to my friend with a mocking grin.
Tip: When using cash to pay your bus fare, have the correct change as it’s a lot easier for everyone. IC cards can be easily purchased at subway stations and are worth having for visits longer than a few days.