What are “barras contadoras” (scanner bars) in buses and why should I care?
These bars are there to count passengers getting on and off the bus and, unfortunately for the inexperienced passenger, they can be frustrating if he or she doesn’t know what they are. They are usually located on the stairs by the door or beside the driver at the beginning of the aisle. And, there are usually bars at the rear exit of the bus.
The first thing you need to know is to not stop and stand in between them. If a person stops between the bars, they will be counted more than once, which gets you yelled at by the driver to the tune of, “¡Páseme la barra por favor!” Or worse, you will be charged more than one fare.
This makes it tough if you have large bags that are difficult to carry. Always “hug” your luggage on the way in so it doesn’t get counted as another passenger. If you have a bag that you can’t carry against your chest or on your back to get into the bus, then you might want to take a taxi. Some drivers will open the rear door so you can put your bags in that way, but they won’t always oblige.