The Beginners Guide to Catching The Bus: Part 1 – Before you board

This is the first part of a series of articles I felt compelled to write having been ‘inspired’ by a post from NX Coventry on Twitter, which linked to an article on their website that didn’t really go beyond planning a journey and buying a ticket, and of course naturally it was all about advertising their own offerings and services. So I thought I’d resurrect something I did before on an old version of this website, bring it into the modern age, and make it a useful reference guide for both new intending passengers, as well as aiding current ones too!


Whether you’re a new bus user, or a lapsed bus passenger looking to use buses again, I hope this guide will be useful as well as entertaining! And I think some current bus users might find this useful and interesting as well!

Plan your journey

Unless you’re the type of person who just hops on buses for fun and doesn’t care where you end up, you’re going to want to plan your journey in advance, so you know which route(s) you need to use and what times to expect them to arrive and depart.

There is a wealth of information available now, and numerous journey planning facilities available, so it doesn’t take a great deal of homework to work out for yourself the best route for your journey, before you even set out towards a bus stop.

It is generally not a good idea to just get on any bus and then start asking the driver to plan your journey for you! Believe it or not, bus drivers are paid to, er, drive the bus, and sell and issue tickets. While many will go the extra mile to help and advise you, please do note that drivers do not always have extensive knowledge of the whole route network, and might only be familiar with the routes they regularly drive, and the areas those routes go through.

The Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) website has a powerful journey planning tool, where you can enter a start and end point, specify time of arrival or departure, and even specify preferred public transport modes.

You’ll be provided with various options, with detailed journey instructions, including details of any possible disruptions to your journey.

You can also use Google Maps to plot and plan your journey, selecting the ‘Transit’ (bus icon) option.

For mobile phone users, there are numerous apps available such as CityMapper and Moovit, as well as TfWM’s own app, that will help you to plan your public transport journey while you’re already on the go.

Bus timetables can also be found at the BusTimes.org website, and there is also a large selection available to download at the West Midlands Bus Timetables site.

There really is no excuse nowadays to not be able to prepare yourself for your journey before you set out on it!

Know your ticket options

If your journey involves just one bus service, then this is easy. A single journey fare is capped at £2 for adults, which you can pay with cash or contactless card on boarding.

If you then travel back later on, on the same bus service, you just pay £2 again.

If your journey will involve multiple bus operators’ services, or more than 2 individual bus journeys, then you’re better off buying an nBus day ticket for £4.50. This allows you an unlimited number of journeys on any bus operators’ services within the West Midlands county, and is cheaper than paying £2 every time!

Where’s the bus?

It goes without saying that most journey planners only work on ‘scheduled’ information, rather than what is happening in ‘real-time’.

And unfortunately, various circumstances and situations will undoubtedly cause buses to run late or be cancelled.

While many bus stops do have realtime information (RTI) displays installed, not all do. Thankfully the TfWM app allows bus users to check on predicted arrival times at all stops.

The BusTimes.org website is also a very useful and handy resource for both checking scheduled departures, as well as the location of the bus operating that journey.

Very helpful for working out if the bus is actually going to be on time, or even turn up, before you even set out towards that stop.

When to arrive at the stop

It is very useful to plan your arrival at your boarding bus stop a few minutes before it is due to arrive. Unless your stop is a designated ‘timing point’, if road conditions are favourable then there’s every possibility the bus might come ahead of schedule by a few minutes.

No-one likes running for a bus, so if you want to be sure of catching it, then make sure you’re at the stop in plenty of time!

Coming next…

In Part Two, we look at what to do once you’re at the stop and see your bus approaching…

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About WMBU

Stu is the founder of this West Midlands Bus Users website.
He is not a bus enthusiast, but as a regular passenger takes an interest in public transport related matters, having relied on buses to get around for over twenty-five years now.

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