Preparing for the ceremony – you get your ticket from the local bar
If you’re going to be travelling on public buses, you need to be aware that you can’t give the driver money for a ticket. You have to buy it from a bar, before the bus comes. They sell bus tickets as well as alcohol, ice-cream, cakes and coffee in there. So you can buy a cake with custard in it and a return to the next town at the same time – you just have to be careful not to absent-mindedly hand the wrong one to the driver.
It’s embarrassing to have to get off the bus because you didn’t buy a ticket. It’s also hard work because the steps were clearly designed by the same firm that built the Giants Causeway. And finally, it’s frustrating, because you’ll rush into the bar, fret in the queue, buy your ticket and emerge triumphantly into the street, just in time to see the bus disappearing round the corner.
If you don’t fully understand what’s happened; don’t worry. You’ll have an hour to think about it, before the next bus comes along. But the simple answer is, the buses run on time and to a tight schedule. The driver couldn’t wait, even if he wanted to.
The ritual proper
When you do get on the (next) bus, you can then participate in the ticket ceremony. It works like this. You don’t hand the ticket to the driver. You just hold it out, serrated end towards him. He’ll twist off the serrated bit, while you’re holding the other end, and you keep what you’re holding. You can now see why it’s important not to get the ticket and the custard cake mixed up.
As you’re getting off the bus, it’s nice to exchange farewells such as ‘arriverdeci’ (goodbye) or even ‘arriverdeci bongiorno’ (goodbye, have a nice day) or ‘arrriverdeci buona sera’ (goodbye and good evening). However, this part of the ritual is not compulsory, so you can just keep quiet and slope off if you like. It’s up to you, but whatever you decide, please mind the steps.