13 Tips for Long Bus Journeys

It seems like no matter where you are in the world, you can always take a bus to go from one place to another. Most importantly, it’s usually the cheapest mode of transportation. However, it’s important to understand that a 16-hour bus journey is a completely different beast from a casual two-hour trip.

You’ll most likely get bored, use nasty toilets (if there are any), and possibly feel sick on the twisty-turvy road. So, in the same way you need to plan ahead for any trips, you should do the same before a long bus journey in order to have a pleasant experience.

1. Have a Killer Music Playlist

Unlike trains and airplanes, which tend to stay steady throughout the entire trip, buses are always shaky and stopping every few hours. Because of that, reading is not advisable as it can cause headaches and dizziness when you’re constantly straining to focus on the “moving” words.

On the other hand, listening to music is the ideal pastime as you can do it while taking in the beautiful landscape outside. Make sure you have a diverse playlist to put you in the right mood at the right time. And don’t forget to charge your iPod/mp3 player!

2. Consider Taking Travel Sickness Tablets

It’s not uncommon for buses on some specific routes to have sick bags for their customers. Most of the time these routes go over mountain ranges and involve non-stop turns. If you already feel sick on fairground rides, these bus routes can be a nightmare.

Gladly, there is medicine that can help you with that. It goes without saying that you should consult with your doctor before taking any tablets, so you don’t have any adverse effects. Some of these tablets have the added benefit of inducing you to sleep, which can come in handy on night buses.

3. Keep Your Valuables with You

Unfortunately, when it comes to high standards of safety, buses are probably not on the top of the list — especially in some developing countries. When you put your bag in the luggage compartment, you have to be willing to accept there’s a chance you might lose it.

So, it’s essential to always have a daypack with your most important items next to you. Laptops, tablets, passports, bank cards, and prescription medications should always be within your sight or between your legs. In that way, even if you’re unlucky enough to have your bag stolen, you won’t be in a desperate situation.

4. Bring Warm Clothes or a Blanket

One of the main problems you may face on buses in warm countries is that they like to blast the air-conditioning to the maximum. So, it might be 32 degrees Celsius outside, but inside the bus, you might as well think you’re visiting Siberia.

Instead of just suffering through hours of blistering cold, make sure to have warm clothes within reach or carry a blanket. If you don’t have any, either wear lots of layers or try to convince the driver to turn the air-conditioning down. Unfortunately, the latter will most likely fall on deaf ears.

5. Load Your Device with Some Movies or Series

In the past, watching movies on the bus was probably just a dream. Nowadays, it’s just a matter of downloading them to your favorite device. Although you still need to focus on a screen, it’s not as bad as reading. Moreover, you’ll probably not feel sick.

A long bus journey might be the perfect moment to binge-watch a new series without feeling like you’re wasting your time. Just don’t forget to carry an earpiece as the people around you might not want to listen to Game of Thrones at 1 a.m.

6. Be Open to Meeting New People

When you’re traveling with a friend or partner, you usually don’t have to worry too much about finding entertainment as there’s always someone to talk to. However, if you’re on your own and have gone through your playlist three times, it can get boring quickly.

The best course of action is to try to befriend other travelers or locals on the same bus. Sometimes, a polite hello when the bus stops for food or toilet could be all you need to start an interesting conversation that lasts hours

7. Find Out If There’s a Toilet

In most developed countries, you can expect to find toilets on buses that drive for more than two or three hours at a time. However, it’s usually not the case in the rest of the world. In these places, 16-hour bus rides with no toilets are just normal.

That’s not necessarily a problem as there are toilet stops along the way. However, they can sometimes be three to four hours apart. Because of that, you should really be conscious of how much liquid you’re drinking, so you don’t suffer needlessly.

A bus with a toilet is not entirely great news either. They tend to be horrible, so make sure you have hand sanitizers and toilet paper just in case.

8. Research the Company Beforehand

If you’re traveling to some remote area of a country, you may learn there’s only one company serving a specific route. On the other hand, a popular route might be served by three or more companies. As such, the quality of buses can vary wildly.

You should try to read as many reviews as possible before just choosing the cheapest company. Some companies could be known for scamming tourists, while others are praised for offering free drinks and entertainment.

9. Take Plenty of Snacks

Although most long bus journeys have plenty of stops to satisfy your hunger, they’re still a few hours apart. To make matters worse, you may not be enjoying the cuisine of the country or have specific dietary requirements.

Instead of embarking on a 12-hour fasting experiment, just make a visit to a supermarket before the trip to stock up on all the things you like. You should probably try to eat healthily, but snacks full of carbs will make you feel fuller for longer.

10. Pack Earplugs, Pillows, and Eye Masks for Overnight Trips

Much like airplanes, sleeping on a bus can be a horrible experience. Unless you take one of the super-duper sleeper buses, which are marvelous. Not only do you need to find a comfortable position, you also need to block out annoying passengers.

The easiest way to feel like you’re alone on the bus is by taking earplugs and eye masks. With those items, you won’t be bothered by loud talking or someone using the overhead light to read. In order to avoid a persistent neck ache, take an inflatable pillow as they’re light and easy to pack.

11. Learn Different Games to Pass the Time

If for some reason you don’t own a laptop, tablet, or mp3 player, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to keep you and others entertained. Come to think of it, people have been traveling for years without technology.

The obvious solution is to carry a deck of cards because you can play dozens of different card games. You could also take a crossword, sudoku, or word search book. If you’re not keen on any of those games, there’s always “I spy with my little eye”.

12. Stay Alert on Late-Night Stops

Late-night stops can be problematic for a couple of reasons. If it happens to be your stop, you need to make sure you don’t sleep and miss it. The last thing you want is to wake up hundreds of kilometers away from your stop.

If it’s not your stop but you decide to go outside to stretch your legs or grab a coffee, don’t forget what your bus looks like. It’s common for travelers to board the wrong bus and end up in a different destination.

13. Arrive Early

Whether you’re a beginner or pro traveler, arriving early should be a given. When you plan to get to the bus station early, you give yourself some leeway in case there’s traffic jams or other reasons to be late.

Another good reason to be there early is that some bus companies don’t assign seats to passengers. So, if you happen to be one of the last people to board, you might not sit together with your companion or end up sitting next to the stinky toilet.

Franziska & Tom Werner / Getty Images



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