Before the annoying trolls come through with their predictable comments, realize that I am writing this to spare others from my trauma. After eating and drinking until 3AM in Palermo, I woke up late and was in danger of missing my train to Catania.
I was going to take a taxi to the train station, but the hotel advised to take bus 101. A hater of taxis, I was happy to save a few euros by taking the bus. When I got on the bus, I saw the ticket validation machine. This should’ve been my cue to hop off of the bus. I figured I would ask the driver how to pay at the next stop. Before I could, I saw a man harassing two minorities on the bus for their tickets. The man was scolded and left them alone. He then came to me and asked for my ticket.
Caught red-handed, I said I didn’t have one and tried to explain that the hotel didn’t provide instructions that tickets should be purchased in advance. He wasn’t having it and demanded documents and money or he would call the police.
Having lived in Europe, I know that there are enforcement officers at train and bus stations who check to see if people are buying tickets or are trying to ride for free. I also know that the penalty for getting caught is exponentially higher than the price of the ticket.
When the man handed me the ticket, it looked official. I tried to protest but he kept saying he’d call the police. Then he said he could charge a fine per passenger. I relented and paid him 52 euros. As soon as I did, he and his fellow ‘officer’ hopped off the bus. I looked to the other passengers for sympathy. No one had any. I tried to ask if it this was real or a scam. No one would say anything.
Perhaps I’ve watched the Godfather too many times, but my gut tells me that this was a shakedown by nefarious characters. A Google of ‘no ticket bus Palermo trick’ revealed nothing. A Google of ‘bus in Palermo’ validated that the fine amount is correct.
The penalty for traveling without a bus ticket is legitimate, but I have questions if the persons enforcing the penalty were.
Bottom line, don’t get on a bus without a ticket. It could cost you dearly, legitimately or not.