Travellers from Kigali yesterday experienced challenges as they headed upcountry to celebrate the New Year as the buses plying several routes were overwhelmed by a surge in number of passengers.
Nyabugogo Bus Terminal, which is the main stop for buses headed upcountry, was teeming with travellers waiting to catch a means out of town.
Although most of the buses were fully booked and required queuing up for hours, travellers waited patiently with their luggage, with the majority paying in advance to avoid missing a chance to travel before the New Year.
To ensure efficiency through the congestion, bus operators issued numbered tickets to the passengers indicating their position on the queue.
"I have been here for close to four-and-half-hours. I am headed for Huye to be with my family over the New Year's Day as I was not able to travel over Christmas due to work assignments," Belinda Ingabire, a traveller, said.
The most overwhelmed destinations were Rusizi, Karongi, Nyagatare, Rubavu, Huye, Muhanga, Ruhango and Nyamagabe. These routes are plied by Impala, Excel, African Rours and Volcano Bus companies.
Damien Nkuranga, a ticketing clerk at Nyabugogo Bus Terminal, said although most companies have adequate buses, the festive season has many travellers, which could easily overwhelm the transport companies.
"Some of those who were able to travel earlier were here very early or had advance bookings. All we can do now is to ensure order and see to it that the passengers who are here are served fast," he said.
Nkuranga added that none of the bus companies had taken advantage of the situation and increased their bus fares.
"On normal days, it would take one a maximum of 30 minutes to get a bus after booking a ticket, but today, it took me about three hours," said Jack Uwanzwenuwe, who was headed to Gakenke.
"Struggling to get a ticket is one thing, but finding your way out of this park after boarding is another thing altogether because of traffic jam," Uwanzwenuwe added.
Eric Mario Mukunguru, a ticketing clerk with Yahoo Car Express, said despite increasing their fleet, the number of travellers was still overwhelming.
"We increased our fleet by four buses and reduced our departure time from originally every 30minutes to 15, but the upsurge is still too much," Mukunguru said.
According to Dada Hadidja, a ticketing clerk with Sotra Tours, some people started booking a day after Christmas, the reason many failed to get means.
She added that they tried to limit the time each vehicle spent upcountry after dropping off passengers so as to pick more passengers.
Buses headed out of the country to Kampala and Bujumbura also experienced an increase in passengers, with most of them fully booked hours before departure.
Jaguar Executive Coaches, Kampala Coach, Trinity Express and Yahoo Car Express had many bookings yesterday, including those made in advance.
Meanwhile, Etienne Kabera, the assistant inspector of Police in charge of Nyabugogo Police Post, said some pickpockets and fraudsters took advantage of the situation to rob from unsuspecting travellers.
He said about 40 suspected petty thieves have been arrested since Christmas Eve.