Riding the bus without paying

 

There are some advantages to growing older. When our daughter turned 18 and was no longer eligible for reduced price tickets, we reached an age above which our cinema tickets were subject to discount. Our daughter was not amused.

 

freedom

 

If you are a London resident, you are eligible to receive a Freedom Pass after you pass a certain age over 60 years. This pass allows the holder to travel free of charge on London’s buses, trams, Underground trains, and national railway lines within certain limits. A London Freedom Pass holder can also use most local bus services anywhere within England (but not in Scotland). So, if you have the time and patience, it is possible to travel long distances in England free of charge by using a Freedom pass on local bus services.

‘K’, an old friend of mine, enjoyed exploring England with her Freedom Pass. On one of her earliest explorations, she set off from London to somewhere deep in the heart of Kent. She reached her destination eventually, having used a series of local buses without having to pay. The return journey was less successful.

K began her homeward trip and arrived at Tunbridge Wells at about five pm. When she made enquiries about local buses heading towards London, she received a diappointing answer. The last bus of the day that would taken her in her desired direction had already departed. The next would run on the following day. So, K was forced to return to London by train. Instead of paying nothing, she had to spend money on a costly one-way railway ticket. Her anticipated day of free travel ended up quite expensive. Since then, she has been more careful with her trip planning and not had a repeat of her unexpected travel expenses.

We make great use of the Freedom Pass when we are out of London. One of the best ‘bargains’ we have so far encountered was at Exeter in Devon. We parked our hired car at an Exeter ‘Park and Ride’ and boarded the bus which was to take us into the city. We were fully expecting to have to pay for a day’s parking and also the bus ride. When we showed our passes to the bus driver, he told us that there was nothing to pay.

Tram number 28

Tram

 

We had only been in Lisbon (Lisboa) for about three hours when we boarded the picturesque old-fashioned tram on the number 28 route, which winds its way uphill to the old Alfama quarter of the city.

The tram was quite crowded and I stood in the small entrance hallway at the rear of the vehicle. I looked up and noticed a sign in three languages (including English) that advised passengers to be wary of pickpocket thieves. I was just about to take a photograph of this sign when the tram reached the stop we wanted.  Getting off the tram was somewhat difficult becauses three men tried to disembark at the very same moment as me. 

When I reached the pavement, I noticed that my overfilled wallet had gone missing. I had been pickpocketed. The thieves got a good haul: several credit cards, my driving licence, and a large sum of cash. I was stunned for a moment. Then, we used our mobile telephones to cancel our cards. Our enthusiasm for Lisbon fell to an all-time low.

We were directed to the local police station, where we began relating our sad story. Before we had managed to say a very few words, one of the policemen said:

“Tram number 28?”

We were then asked to visit the Tourist Police in the centre of Lisbon. We walked there feeling very downhearted and wishing that we had never come to Portugal. The Tourist Police could not have been nicer. Between them, they spoke every language you could think of. They helped us contact various banks and assured us that whoever had stolen from my pocket could not possibly have been Portuguese. After spending about an hour with the sympathetic Tourist, we left feeling much better about Portugal despite our recent loss.

With my driving licence stolen, the rented car that I had hired from the UK was no longer feasible. To our great surprise, the car hire company, learning of our disaster, cancelled our booking without charging us anything – we paid nothing for the car we were not able to use.

Without the car, we had to change our travel plans within Portugal. One of the places we visited, which we would not have seen had we had the car, was the university city of Coimbra. We spent several days in that delightful city during the period that the academic year begn. The city was full of groups of cheerful students wearing archaic black capes. Had it not been for our ill-fated trip on the 28, we might well have missed this. As they say, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’.