I have a secret. Shhhhh, you can't tell anyone. I'll tell you as long as you promise.
I'll tell you.
I rode dozens of European buses without tickets or with reused tickets. Scandalous!
I rode buses in several central European countries and they all used the basic same system. You don't show your ticket to the bus driver. You simply walk on under the assumption everyone has a ticket.
Every time you ride, you're supposed to have a ticket. And, you can't just have a ticket. You need to have a stamped ticket. On the buses and in the subways there are things that look like this:
No, it is not a weird cartoon lego man. It stamps tickets with the current times. You put your ticket in the little mouth-looking-thing and then, STAMP. You can buy tickets for a certain time period and that's how you mark what time you started riding. (Pssst, I stopped using these machines after awhile).
I was told by some Polish college students that there are people who randomly check tickets from time to time and fine those who don't have tickets. I saw a sign saying these fines were on the range of about $50. But, considering how many times I rode without a ticket, I'm pretty sure I saved that much anyway. Most importantly, over eight weeks, I never saw anyone check tickets.
In each city I bought a ticket and kept it in my pocket just in case. I figured if someone checked you pull the I'm-a-tourist-and-I-didn't-know-I'm-so-sorry-WAIL!!!!!!!! card.
I felt a little bad about this. Well, for a bit. Not so much after I accidentally bought the wrong type of ticket in Budapest and it costs five times as much as it should have. In many places there are automated machines, and I don't speak Hungarian! A single ride bus ticket should not cost $10. And really, I used the correct, stamped tickets for the first 75% of my trip.
Considering how terrible I am at standing up on a moving bus, it is more important for me to grab tightly to a bar than take the time to stamp a ticket. It's terrible when you smack into someone and don't even know how to say sorry.
Until next time, God bless America.