The Battle of the Open-Top Buses in Alcudia

It’s Mallorca Monday and here’s a little behind-the-scenes insight into what is going on with the battle of the open-top buses in Alcudia…

I’m sure you would normally associate open-top buses with big cities where they have several routes and a complex hop on, hop off system in place, such as in Barcelona, Paris, London, Marrakech… (Okay, Marrakech might not have been your first thought, but we went on one in Marrakech! I’ll tell you about it next time).

How many open-top buses in Alcudia?

The small town (with its admittedly large resort) of Alcudia actually has three open-top bus companies that are vying to take tourists on a crappy couple of hours’ tour around Lagomonte Lake and up and down the smelly canals. And they are charging around the same price that you would pay to go on the PalmaBus for a full day out in Palma, with map, guide, shopping time and return transport.

So it’s hardly surprising that the open-top buses are fighting amongst themselves for this tiny portion of the market that wants to be dragged around Alcudia on one of these buses and pay good money for it.

The strange thing is that the holiday-makers that sit for hours on the airport transfer bus, visiting every hotel in the resort before arriving at their own hotel, and then complain about it, are the same people that, two days into their holiday, are paying to do exactly the same thing. Except this time there’s no purpose of getting from A to B. Madness?

To simplify matters, each open-top bus company in Alcudia has its own colour:

There’s the blue bus, the red bus and the white bus.

The Blue Bus

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The Blue Bus – Photo by Duncan Smith

The blue bus is the veteran. It has been around for about 8 years or more, and was the first one to start “city-sightseeing” in Alcudia. It was already old then and it’s in a state now.

The huge shuddering contraption is covered in advertising for practically every restaurant or business in Alcudia. And it has been said that it’s these big advertising stickers that are in fact holding the bus together (not by me, of course; I would never say anything like that).

The blue open-top bus in Alcudia cannot leave Alcudia. Ever! I don’t know why but it’s something to do with the local council and the type of service the bus offers. So the blue bus is destined to drive the same sorry route round and round Alcudia four times a day for the whole of eternity.

The Red Bus

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The Red Bus – Photo by Duncan Smith

The red bus is the newest member of the Alcudia open-top bus club, having started last year. This is the prettiest bus and the design is based on that of the city sightseeing buses around the world.

This bus is a mystery: you’ll see it going around the resort and you might even see passengers on it but you will never know how they got on as it is impossible to book. Their office on the Bellevue street is never open, for a start.

Last time we tried to book this from our office, here’s what happened: we called the number on the leaflet. The line was dead. We called it again the next day. Same. And the next day and the next. This disconnected number is the only contact on the leaflet. Then we looked on the red bus website and found another number. We called it and spoke to the actual owner of the whole enterprise who lives in Catalunya. He had no idea about pick ups, operation or bookings. He was about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. But he did give us the number of the commercial here in Mallorca, who not only answered the phone but, after a fashion, also took the booking! He then closed the conversation by saying: “But if you have any problems don’t even think about calling this number.” Smooth.

We were also assured that the phone number on the leaflet would be operational as of the following day. It was not and still is not. And as a result the red bus is still driving around Alcudia empty.

The red bus is advertised as ‘hop on, hop off’ so you wouldn’t think it necessary to go through all this palaver of calling and booking; you’d think that you could just turn up to one of the bus stops. But no, the bus only makes a stop if they have a booking. Which begs the question: if you hop off, how do you hop back on again? Answers on a postcard.

How to make a route around Alcudia extremely complicated:

The route on the red bus leaflet is so elaborate and so complicated that even the staff from the red bus don’t understand it, let alone the customers. Seriously, if you ever find their office open and you fancy a laugh, go and ask them where stop 5a is.

The red bus has one route that goes around Alcudia, Puerto Pollensa and Cala San Vicente and another route that goes around Alcudia and Can Picafort. You can buy one route or both.

Last year it was advertised as ‘hop on, hop off’ and then after a week, the local council told them that they couldn’t do that (as it didn’t comply with one of the island’s many ridiculous tourism requirements, which I won’t bore you with). This year they’re advertising it as ‘hop on, hop off’ again but nothing has changed in the local laws so who knows how they are planning to get away with doing it? Anyway, I don’t think the issue will ever be raised as, to my knowledge, no one has managed to hop on or hop off yet this year (the bored tourists on the bus in the above photo are photoshopped).

The White Bus

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The White Bus – Photo by Duncan Smith

The white bus is the Alcudia Xperience. Well, it started out as the Alcudia Xperience, but now there is a whole fleet of Xperience buses and they are pretty smart. There’s the Formentor Xperience, the Palma Xperience and, new for this year, the Sea and Mountain Xperience (though so far, that’s been a disaster experience).

The Alcudia Xperience is by far the least crap of the three Alcudia open-top bus tours. And that’s probably because you spend as much time off the bus as you do on it. You’d still be mad to part with 15€ to go on it though.

The Alcudia Xperience is called the Alcudia Market Xperience this year and it only runs two days a week: Tuesday and Sunday, when there is market in Alcudia. Essentially it is a trip to the market with the sightseeing tour thrown in. People can get off the bus in Alcudia old town and have an hour or so at the market.

What to do when your open-top bus tour in Alcudia doesn’t work:

As you may have gathered, these open-top bus tours around Alcudia aren’t the best value for money and these days, people are a lot smarter with their cash. Plus, with three companies offering different variations of the same, there’s a lot of product for little demand.

There’ll always be some sort of demand for these things in a tourist resort, but perhaps not enough for the companies operating them to focus only on this one product. So they have come to the conclusion that it’s time to branch out. And each operator has done this in a different, and sometimes rather creative, way…

Bright blue ideas

The blue bus company has really taken the plunge and has had the most radical idea. Or should that be most radically stupid idea? Time will tell.

The days of the blue bus really are numbered. That old shed on wheels has been living on borrowed time for the last few years. When it’s time to wake it up in April after a full winter of hibernation and get it back on the road, it invariably breaks down. Every year. In April. And then again in May. The time will come, and soon, when it can’t be fixed.

So the owner of the blue bus in Alcudia has decided to start offering different excursions. Not that he has any experience whatsoever at organising and running excursions other than a 90 minute open-top bus tour in Alcudia that follows the same route all day every day.

And unfortunately for him, his lack of knowledge and his inexperience are more than apparent…

How not to do excursions in Alcudia

He has bought another bus: a big double decker (not an open-top bus; a normal coach) and he has put together a weekly programme of excursions where each day he goes somewhere different on the island with his one double decker bus.

So far it sounds alright, right?

Wrong.

Buying a huge double decker bus, painting it and maintaining it is a massive expense. He has also contracted a full-time guide and a driver who he has to pay regardless of whether he has enough clients to run an excursion or not. And finally, due to his complete lack of experience and his utter ignorance of running tours, he has put together the most ridiculous excursion programme. No one in their right mind would ever buy a ticket!

One example of his crazy tours is his Best of Mallorca tour: he picks up in Can Picafort, Alcudia and Puerto Pollensa in this double decker coach and heads to Formentor to the viewpoint and then to Formentor Beach making stops at both places before driving to the other side of the island to Puerto Soller. Then he goes to Soller. Then he drives over the mountains to Valldemossa. (Of course the client expects free time in each of these places though I doubt they’ll get more than five minutes before they have to continue). And as if all that isn’t enough, he then goes to Palma before driving back up to the north to drop the clients off!

This is madness!

Just to put it into perspective if you don’t know the island well enough to understand how crazy this route is: my company offers a full day trip to Valldemossa and Soller, another separate day trip to Formentor and a completely different trip to Palma. You really do need three days to visit all these places and the blue bus guy is doing it all in one day.

Of course people don’t want to do this and it shows. The last day that he ran this bizarre tour he had four passengers on this double decker bus. And it’s not like he can use a smaller bus because he’s gone and bought the thing hasn’t he!

And his lack of experience coupled with his total ignorance has created the worst kind of problems:

  • That day when he had only four people, he was half an hour late to pick up the last two! How can you time it so badly that you are already running half an hour late before you’ve even left resort and when you only have to pick up a total of four people?
  • The guide he has employed is not an official guide. But to go to many of the places he goes you must be an official guide of Mallorca with credentials. They have already been stopped by the police or the tourism council (in Valldemossa I believe), causing great delays to the poor clients who by this time were probably desperate to get off the damn bus.
  • The bus is a double decker bus. You can’t legally go to Formentor in a double decker bus and you can’t drive over the stretch of mountains between Soller and Valldemossa in a double decker bus either. Apart from being against the law, it’s DANGEROUS. And putting people in danger is not going to end well for you – or them.

So what do you think? You fancy it?

I’m afraid we have run out of time and space here, so that’ll have to be it for today. I was going to tell you about the bright red ideas and the bright white ideas too but that will have to wait for another time.

I tell you what: I’ll update you around September and let you know which open-top buses in Alcudia have managed to last the season and how they’re all getting on with their other projects…

Until then, I have a few tales from my travels in Sri Lanka to keep you amused with.

Filed Under: Alcudiafeaturedmallorcaspain

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About the Author: Lisa, born and grew up in England, live in Mallorca, Spain... Have visited more than 20 countries, have twice as many to yet visit, love sharing experiences....

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  1. Smithy says:

    A great read…..very funny and yet, at the same time, so very true!

  2. Steve says:

    I am sat on our balcony in Puerto Alcudia, looking to go on a bus tour. I then read your very funny and very informative piece and have decided to go for walk instead. Many thanks, I think I’ve found my new favourite travel blogger!

    • Lisa says:

      Ha ha thank you very much! I hope you enjoyed your walk – you probably saw more than on the open-top bus! And hope you are having a fantastic holiday in Alcudia.
      Best wishes Lx

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