Kulture Keys: Reserved Seats

A lot of the travel in Peru gets done in buses, minivans or some weird car-contraption thing. Whether you are traveling within a city or perhaps in between two or three, you will probably use whats called a combi. I am not sure where the name came from, but I like to think that combi comes from ‘combine’ or ‘combination’. Like a whole ton of people (a combination) combined in one car. But then again, probably not because those are English words.

Nonetheless, what’s important to know about combis is that in 99% of them, the first bench seat is reserved for the elderly, pregnant women, or families. This is a Peruvian law and for the most part it gets followed. Sometimes there is a big sticker on the window notifying that its reserved. Other times, the reserved seats are a different color. But if you can’t read Spanish, are color blind, or new to Peru, you won’t know that this law exists.

You can sit in them if they are free, but if someone comes, a mom and baby for example, it’s expected that you give up your seat. And if you don’t do it fast enough, someone will probably call you out. Sometimes this isn’t a big deal because there is another free seat. But if the combi fills up when you’re on it, you’ll have to stand. So if there are seats available, and you think the combi will fill up (which is normally does), its crucial you take a non-reserved seat to start with so you don’t end up standing with your headed smashed against the ceiling and with your neck at a 90 degree angle.

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