What Was Your Most Hellish Train Or Bus Ride?

Image credit: Rat Race
Image credit: Rat Race
CountersteerYour true stories of good and bad things that happen in cars.

Occasionally, we don’t have access to our car or our friend’s car, so we have to find alternative means of transportation across the face of this great earth of ours. And I don’t mean on a plane.

Take Jalopnik’s Engineer-In-Residence David Tracy, for example. David’s bus hell took place on a 12-hour standing-room only train in China, from Beijing to Xi’an. He and his friend couldn’t find an airport on the map. And they were cheap and figured “standing-room only” really just meant that they could sit on the floor.

This was not the case.

They had to stand in the aisle. They couldn’t sit because a woman came by with a cart every five minutes.


Those 12 hours were followed by a 27-hour sleeper train from Xi’an to Guilin, during which David’s nose kept bleeding and his friend got salmonella.

When they arrived, they learned that the airfare was the same price as their crappy train ticket. How’s that for a kick in the gut?

What was your worst train or bus ride?

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.

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NYC, 2007. My friends and I plan a long weekend at someone’s parents’ Jersey Shore house, but being broke college students we are forced to resort to the infamous Chinatown buses. But not even the name brand ones, like Lucky Star or Fung Wah. No, the genius in the group who distributed the tickets had bought them off some sketch website with a generic name like “Best No. 1 NYC-PHI Bus” or something like that. But they were about $5 a pop, so none of us wanted to ask too many questions.

So the five of us show up at the address on the tickets late Thursday afternoon, only to discover the storefront is a fish market almost underneath the Manhattan Bridge. Red flag number one. I go in to ask if they know anything about a bus, and a man wielding a very large cleaver jabs it towards a few plastic lawn chairs hapazardly strewn on the sidewalk and grunts. Red flag number two! But soon a few other travelers with suitcases show up and mill about, then a man with a clipboard who starts checking tickets, so we feel pretty OK in our decision making even as the departure time passes with no bus in sight.

Suddenly the man with the clipboard takes a call in Chinese and gets very animated. He hangs up and excitedly addresses the group of passengers, about 15 in total at this point. “It’s coming! It’s coming! Get ready!” We all sort of half pick up our bags, not comprehending the urgency of the situation.

Just then a janky old Van Hool comes lumbering around the corner. The man with the clipboard begins pacing anxiously. When the bus is about 30 feet away, doing maybe 3-4 mph, the door swings open, and the man shouts “OK! You go! You go now!” This is the point where we all realize we are to jump onto a moving bus.

As it gets closer, clipboard man starts grabbing peoples bags and tossing them in the also-open luggage compartment. The group is shocked, but a brave soul breaks the spell with his flying leap into the doorway and we all surge forward to try. The leap is much more terrifying than it should be, as the image of that woman in Speed who gets blasted under the wheels flashes in my mind.

The bus nears the end of the block, green light, and I’m settling into my window seat when I see it - a woman sprinting full tilt towards us holding a baby above her head. Clipboard man stands in the open doorway. “GIVE ME THE BABY!!” he shouts. Like some fantastic sports highlight she manages to pass the infant to him just as the bus starts the turn and she stumbles, collapsing in a pile on the curb. The door slides close with a hiss and the man looks out at all of us staring at him in horror and smiles as he holds the baby in one arm. “Don’t worry, we go back for her!”

Later we found out this company did not have a permit to pick people up in NYC, so they tried to create a loophole where they didn’t actually “stop” the bus to pick people up. Kinda brilliant if you ask me.