Whether it’s a bus, plane, or train, most people groan at the thought of extended travel. Why wouldn’t they? We’re all used to being crammed into a small seat, surrounded by noise, struggling to sleep or just distract ourselves from the whole experience.
But there is another way. Surely you’ve seen people who seem to move through bus queues and get off airplanes as if they don’t have a care in the world. Those experienced travellers who’ve figured out some kind of secret to worry-free traveling. Well, as one of those travellers, I’m here to tell you, the key is knowing how to prepare.
Having taken nearly two dozen 8+ hour bus trips on three continents myself, I’ve turned making them into an enjoyable experience into a science. These are all of my hard-earned top tips to make your next bus ride a total joy.
Choose a seat (preferably one with a table)
If you think all bus seats are the same, think again! Sure there are window seats, and the front seat on the second level of a double-decker can make you feel like a king. But the most practical choice (when available) is actually four seats around a table. Solo, this can be a chance to get a bit of work done but with friends it’s the chance to talk, play a board game, and watch the hours melt away.
Familiarize yourself with the spot where you’ll be picked up
Full disclosure, I’m a paranoid traveller. I constantly worry I’ve forgotten something, I’m in the wrong place, or even got the date wrong (it’s happened). While buses usually pick you up from a station, occasionally the spot where you’ll wait might not be very well marked, so for your own peace of mind, do some research to make 100% sure you know where the bus will pick you up. Knowing where it will drop you off doesn’t hurt either.
Bring the essentials
What often makes the biggest difference on a long bus ride is what you have with you. Trust me, whether it was crossing Vietnam or Poland, I’ve spent many hours pondering how I could have forgotten to bring my sleeping mask.
If your bus ride is long enough that you’d like to get some shuteye, don’t rely on your eyelids or a neighbor closing the curtains to keep things dark. Often, lamp posts along the highway with create flashes of light that can easily keep you awake (they sure keep me awake). That’s why being sure to bring a can make all the difference.
While I’ve gotten away with sleeping with my noise-cancelling headphones on, this can be tricky. First, it makes it impossible to lay your head to the side. Next, it will probably run your battery down. The more economic option is to switch to earplugs. They don’t have to be anything fancy, a pair typically costs just a few cents.
Noise cancelling headphones
For when you’re not trying to get some shut-eye, this is perhaps the most essential piece of kit on any long bus ride. The reality is, every form of transportation comes with some constant background noise. Getting rid of that buzzing, humming, or rattling makes a massive difference in how enjoyable your trip is.
This may be a far from common item on buses, but as I mentioned, many actually have tables that are perfect for playing a game with friends. Turning a few hours staring out of a window or into a screen into a few hours interacting with your travelling companions is a sure way to make any long bus ride far more enjoyable.
Note: Americans in Europe, don’t be scared off
Taking long-haul bus rides as a young university student in the US, I was exposed to the truly unique customer service experiences that often accompany US bus trips. Buses were regularly 4+ hours late with no apology or explanation and fellow passengers were often far from courteous. But, if this is your only experience with long bus rides, don’t fear! Buses in Europe and Asia are generally far friendly, comfortable, and affordable. So, don’t be scared off.
Time to try it!
Now that you’ve learned everything you need to know to have a great bus experience, why not put those skills to the test? Buses let you travel between some of the world’s most fascinating and beautiful cities for just a few euros. So try booking a bus trip today!