Whenever I visit my family, which lives around 1000 km away, I take a bus. Very often I am asked: how long does it take? why don’t you fly? For me it is way cheaper and I can take a bigger luggage. I also don’t have problems to sleep in a bus, so it is not the worst.
In this post I would like to give some tips on how to prepare for such journey to make it pleasant and comfortable.
Journey starts long before you even enter the bus. That’s why I would like to start with all the essentials you need to take care of to survive it!
18 hours on a bus (or more!) – sounds awful? Many people wouldn’t even consider such an option. So the first question you need to ask yourself is: should I go by bus?
There are a lot of reasons why the bus might be the best choice for you.
- Simply it might be the only possible mean of transport that reaches your destination.
- You are scared of flying.
- Your budget is limited or you’re buying the ticket last minute when everything else is already expensive.
- You have a lot of luggage.
- You … (whatever your reason is).
1. Buy a cheap ticket. If you decided to use a bus, let’s make your journey as pleasant as possible. It requires a bit of planning and preparation, but it’s worth it. So, you already know where and when you want to travel. Great! Buying a return ticket can help you save some money. Make sure if the chosen bus company offers “open” tickets without return date. They are usually cheaper than 2 single tickets and you have one year to decide when to come back.
Check if the company offers any VIP cards. Again it makes your ticket cheaper, but also you can have a preference in choosing the sit, you can have bigger luggage and you may even get a free coffee;)
2. Choose a nice sit. When making reservation, if only possible, choose a sit, so that this information is already on your ticket. If you are smoking or you need to frequently use a toilet aim for sits close to the door. If you have long legs don’t sit close to the window – you may have not enough space to move! It sounds obvious, but having a good sit makes a huge difference.
Personally, I always book sits by the window, so that it is easier to sleep at night. A sit by the window makes it also easier to take photos or videos on the go. When traveling with someone together you may want to sit together. Again you should make sure you reserve two sits next to each other, not to create extra drama when you want to change a place.
3. Check if digital tickets are accepted. In some cases you still need a printed copy of your ticket.
4. Prepare all necessary documents. When traveling between different countries, always make sure which documents are required and keep them in easily accessible and safe place. Waterproof bags are not a bad idea. Don’t hide your ticket at the bottom of your bag – you may still need it in case of control on a way.
5. Check the departure time. It should be always stated online when the buses arrives and how much in advance you are supposed to come. Packing suitcases and checking tickets takes a while, so it is good to come a bit earlier, so the bus can leave on time. It also reduces the stress if you are not in a hurry.
6. Luggage. The big advantage of travelling by bus is an option to bring realtively huge luggage with low costs. However, make sure what the weight limits are. You might be asked to pay extra for additional bags or in worst case you won’t be allowed to take it at all. I have seen such situation only once, when the lady in Berlin had 7 huge suitcases with her…
The less bags you have the more space to sit inside.
MAKE YOURSELF COMFORTABLE
7. Sitting in the same position for hours is not really enjoyable after some time. The nice idea is to bring small pillow and a blanket or a scarf to make it a bit more cozy and soft. Depending on a season of a year and driver temperature preferences it might be very hot or very cold inside. Always wear layers and comfortable clothes and shoes that are easy to take off.
If you are able to sleep on a bus – lucky you. It makes the journey feels much shorter. You can also bring some ear plugs, head phones or eye mask to help you fall asleep and reduce the noice made by others.
8. Enjoy the breaks. On such long journeys usually there are some short breaks to use a toilet every few hours (around 3h). Always listen carefully how long the break is and check how your bus looks like or if it has a specific number. Otherwise you might be surprised when you come back and there is no bus waiting for you.
Even if you don’t need to use a toilet, take a chance to go outside. Take a breath of fresh air and straighten your legs. You can even walk around a bus to move your muscles. It really helps to survive next few hours.
9. Money. Always have some change with you in the currency of the country you travel through. You may need it to pay for the toilet, some snacks or your extra luggage.
10. Food and drinks. Obviously, if you have any dietary restrictions you need to make sure you have a proper food with you. Anyway, it is a good idea to have a sandwich, some sweets, chewing gum, water, tea/coffee. In most buses you can buy a coffee and grab some snack, but for such a long way you may need a bit more food with you. It is possible to buy some stuff at the petrol stations, but it is much more expensive.
If you know that you have motion sickness, headaches etc. prepare also some pills just in case.
11. Clean and fresh. Always pack some wipes, regular or wet ones – might be very usefull, if there is any spillage or lack of paper in a toilet. Another little item worth packing is disinfectant gel. It might be also helpful to have a little toothbrush and a toothpaste or at least a chewing gum. I would also recommend packing a lip balm, a hand cream and a nailfile.
12. Entertainment. Once you are comfortable and are satisfied with all the food, it is time to make it more exciting. 18h on a bus might be the best time to finally answer or your emails or read a book which you always wanted to read. It could be also a great idea to read some tourist guides and make plans of what you are going to visit at your destination point if you haven’t done that before.
If you are a music fan prepare some nice playlist or listen to the podcast. In many buses movies are displayed in the evenings, which makes time fly. Remember to pack your earphones and chargers for a phone or power banks. Once putting all electronics add also a small portable torch if you don’t have it in your phone.
Not sitting alone? Make a chat with a neighbour – just not too loud. You can meet very interesting people on the bus and hear wonderful stories.
If you are traveling during the day check the schedule and the bus stops on the way. Maybe your bus goes through some interesting area, which you can explore through the bus window. Prepare your camera and take some photos of what you see on the way. It could become your next travel destination.
I hope that after reading this text you will be more eager to take a bus next time. Even long hours can be spent in a nice and productive way.
Do you often travel by bus? What are your own survival tips for long bus journeys?