London’s Identity: The Red Bus

One of the first things which comes to my mind when I think about London is its unique red double-decker buses. The red telephone booths and the red buses are London’s identity. Probably every tourist or a student studying in London has a picture next to the iconic red phone booth. Multiple times the red bus has photobombed my pictures while I am trying to capture London’s beautiful architectural buildings, but I do not mind because it just adds to the aesthetic. Similarly, Karachi is identified by the colourful buses with famous truck art which are difficult to miss. Again, they have often ended up being part of my pictures even though I did not intend them to be.

I had made sure to watch a short youtube video on how to use the bus in London, as I had no idea that we were supposed to signal to the bus driver for the bus to stop and had to press the stop button before I need to get off. Despite watching this video, I excitedly sat on the wrong bus realizing after two stops that this bus was going in the opposite direction of where I actually wanted to go. But I managed to get on the right bus after that and reached my destination, thanks to Google maps! I felt less dumb when I got to know that two of my friends made the same mistake as me when they used the bus for the first time in London.

Fun fact is that I have used the bus more times in 1.5 months in London than the total number of times I have used the bus in 21 years in Karachi. This is probably because of the huge difference in culture. The need to use public transport is much more emphasized upon in London and also that I do not have a car here. In Karachi, it is more common to travel by car if one can afford it and I also love driving. The bus system in London is also much more organized where Google maps can tell you which bus to take and how long it will take for the next bus to arrive. The maps at the bus stand are also supposed to be pretty helpful, even though I haven’t really used one. In Karachi, you would have to ask someone who uses the bus frequently about which bus to take to reach a particular place.

The red bus accepts no cash and you have to tap with an oyster card or contactless at the card reader. On the other hand, the colourful Karachi bus accepts only cash, where there is a conductor who collects the bus fares from every person. The first few times I traveled by bus in London I did not go to the upper deck fearing that I would miss my stop. However, once I tried sitting on the upper deck, I loved it! The upper deck in London’s bus is paralled by sitting on the roof of the Karachi bus. Often when the bus is full, people tend to climb and sit on the top of the bus. Both these buses have a special place and are beautiful in their own way. I plan to use the bus more often when I am back in Karachi and will try to encourage my friends to do so as well!


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