Long bus journeys can seem a pretty daunting prospect, but once you’ve got the hang of them you begin to appreciate some of the benefits.
- They’re kind on your budget,
- You get to see a country from a different perspective
- You can meet new friends both natives and fellow travellers
- You can even get some of those annoying bits of “life admin” that build up completed without taking time out of your schedule.
How To Survive a Long Bus Journey
1. Prepare properly
This is really key to any kind of long haul travel. Make sure all the electrical devices you may want to use are fully charged, buy some snacks and water beforehand so you don’t have to pay the inflated prices at the bus stations, be aware of time zone changes and what time you actually arrive.
Make sure you have some local currency if you’re crossing country borders. Take time to consider what you will need for the journey and when you get off at the other end.
2. Know what you’re getting for your money
Are meals included? Is there free water available on the bus (often in South America there are coolers with free mineral water in)? Is there entertainment? Is there wi-fi? Is there a toilet? Knowing this will help you to prepare.
This journey in Thailand included an all you can eat buffet.
3. Download a map of the place you’re arriving in
When you get off the bus, particularly if it’s early in the morning or late at night it’s best to know exactly where you are. The you can make decision on whether you can walk to your accommodation or need to get a taxi or tuk tuk.
4. Save directions
If you’ve booked a hostel, double check you’ve got the name and directions saved or written down and that they make sense. We got caught out with this at the beginning of our travels and had to spend unnecessary time trying to find somewhere with wifi – harder than you think in some rural places.
Not what you want to see at 5am!
5. Be prepared for extreme temperatures
Some buses have the air con on max and are freezing, others can have no air con and no opening windows. Disregard the temperature of the country you’re in and prepare for either to happen – dress for warm weather but pack a sweatshirt and long bottoms in your carry on.
6. Take toiletries with you
You will probably want to freshen up in one of the service stations you stop at so take some wet wipes, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste. Even if you aren’t scheduled to travel overnight, it’s best to be prepared for travel delays.
Our travel carry on kit
7. Wear clothes you can sleep in
Jeans aren’t the most comfortable thing to travel in, especially if you’re sleeping. Wear tracksuit bottoms and a comfortable tshirt – it’s not a fashion parade. Also an eye mask and earplugs will come in handy if you’re a light sleeper.
8. Smuggle some beers on with you
Some buses don’t let you take alcohol on with you but what they don’t see, they don’t know. Lots of people do it and sometimes the atmosphere can get quite good! Just make sure you hide them at the bottom of your bag so they don’t get confiscated. No one likes wasting beers!
9. Download films, books and music
Make sure you download everything you want to watch, read or listen to. Whilst some buses have wifi it’s not strong enough to download or stream anything.
We also use long journeys to do offline blogging work such as editing photos or videos and writing.
iPlayer is one of our favourites
10. Put the ticket for your bag somewhere safe
Your rucksack or suitcase gets put underneath in the storage hold, you sometimes get given a ticket so you can claim it back at the other end – keep hold of it. You’re going to have difficulty claiming your bag without it.
If your bag is missing at the other end and an official asks for your ticket to try and track it down, give them the number but don’t let them take the actual ticket! We got caught out by this and our stuff was never to be seen again, nor was the bus official we gave it to and we had no ticket to prove the bag had ever been on the bus. Fortunately it just contained food and drink but it was pretty annoying.
11. Always take your belongings off with you when you get off
This is probably the most important tip as it’s very common for people to have money, passports or even their entire carry on bags stolen whilst they have gotten off for a comfort break. Don’t be caught out, guard them carefully.
We met a few people who had things stolen, one guy just got off to have a cigarette and another passenger on the bus took his passport. We got back on after a comfort break and also found a guy rummaging around in our seats – fortunately there was nothing for him to find because we had everything with us!
Long journeys can actually be a lot of fun if you make sure you’re ready for what’s to come. Follow our top tips and you’ll have no problems surviving a 25 hour bus journey.
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Travel lover, professional writer and football (soccer) obsessive, James loves nothing more than getting outside and exploring little known corners of the globe. He’s also very partial to a drop of Guinness.