Long distance bus rides are an integral part of travelling, especially for those on a budget. In many locations the bus system is almost essential as it presents both the easiest and also the most convenient method of transportation. In the majority of destinations, the bus system administers the largest variety of route choices which allows a traveler to reach everything from popular cities to regions off the beaten track. Occasionally these cost efficient bus journeys can wind through mountains, get a little bumpy, and take a little (or a lot) of time. What you pack on your backpacking journey can be an integral part to easing the pain of a long journey, along with these tips.
#1 Embrace it as a legitimate rest
I think that this is actually the key to survival. Embrace your bus journey as a legitimate time to rest. Traveling is crazy. It can be so physically and mentally tiring that eventually, you and your body are going to need a break…this is where the bus comes in. When we travel to a location we want to see it all. It is not unusual for the allotted time a traveler stays in one location to be quite short. So, while they are there they want to see all the sites, eat all the food and experience all the experiences possible…they want to create memories. Sometimes these long bus rides provide an opportunity to take a break from the activity that is traveling. You are on a bus. You have no where to go in a hurry. You are seated ninety-nine percent of the time. This is your chance. Your chance to unwind, relax, take a break, reflect, read, watch a movie and catch up on sleep. Embrace it, because your next stop will be just as busy.
E-books, Music, Tablets
This is obvious. These bus journeys can last anywhere from 5 to 30 hours…you are going to need something to keep you occupied. Before every long bus ride, I make sure that all of my electronics including my iphone, iPod, iPad, computer, e-book whatever I have, is fully charged. Interested in knowing what I use to entertain myself on long bus rides? Find out here in my Travel Shop. Then when I lose interest in the (probably not english) on-board movie, I have something else to turn to. By listening to music, reading a book, or writing in a journal I know I will have at least a few hours of personal entertainment to enjoy.
Bring an extra charge for your electronics
These were practically invented for travellers and you will not regret getting one. My personal worst fear on a long distance bus ride is running out of power on my iPod. Listening to music makes the journey go by so much quicker as does the rest of the electronic entertainment we commonly bring with us. So go for it…purchase an extra battery so that when you get low on power, be it your book, your music, or your phone, you will be able to recharge it without issue. No longer do we need to ration our power.
Personally I love my Aukey Power Bank
Dress in Layers
Hot or cold, it does not matter the destination, always dress in layers. If you are in a chilly location or if they keep the air conditioner of the bus on high, you wont be disappointed to have worn layers so you can cuddle up and stay cozy on the bus. If you get warm while on the bus or the locational is a sweaty one, then your layers can become amazing pillows! As long as you can take them off and put them back on, you will be prepared for comfort and always have a potential pillow.
The Vinyasa Scarf is a dream for staying warm while traveling. Its a scarf, a shirt, a blanket, pillow…a must have.
Bring Snacks… and water
If you think airplane food is awful…bus food is the next level down. Do yourself a big favour and go for a little grocery shop before boarding one of these buses. Even if the bus provides a meal, your going to want to stock up. I like to bring a little grocery bag of snacks on every journey. If it is a long trip I often stop at a bakery and grab a sandwich as well as packing myself granola bars, chips, crackers and chocolate. Anything to help me get through the journey comfortably. Also bring some water as water stops seem few and far between.
Bring your own headphones
This is essential for me. I chose my headphones because they are comfortable for traveling. If I am about to sit in a bus seat, look out the window and listen to music for ten plus hours; the last thing I want is bad headphones. If there is a movie playing on board that you want to watch, the headphone jack will be your everything. The alternative is, you may have to lip-read. I have had some buses which come with headphones but even so I prefer my own because they are more comfortable and provide better sound. For music, movies, and the occasional noise blocker, bring a good pair of headphones to last you the journey.
Obsessed with my Rose Gold Wireless Solo3 Beats…Obsessed.
Disclaimer. Some of the links used in this post are affiliate links from which I may earn a small commission. This comes at no additional cost to you. The small income I receive here will help maintain this blog and make it more awesome for you!
Doreen Pendgracs says
Great tips! If you have to travel by bus, you may as well be comfortable so that you can rest, relax, and enjoy the ride.
Rob Taylor says
Um, this is wonderfully valuable, as I’m heading to rural China next week and a portion of this is via motorcoach. Good times.
Not trying to blow our own trumpets, but Sarah and I must surely be considered veteran bus travellers by now (4 consecutive days our longest bus journey)and you have some really useful tips!
I’d recommend if you’ve the chance to grab some fresh fruit as well, as otherwise it is generally junk food you’ll be feasting on (lets face it, many bus stations are usually well served by fast food outlets).
Baby/wet wipes also come in very handy to help try and freshen up after sweating your way through the night!
This may not work for everyone, but we actually found sleeping upright worked better than attempting to recline as well…
Ryan Biddulph says
We did a 24 hour bus trip from Northern Laos to Chiang Mai. Lots of sleep, pack snacks and pray when rounding hairpin Laos curves 600 feet above canyons with no guardrails LOL.
My issue: I want to hydrate properly but a bus without a bathroom/toilet makes this challenging. I under hydrate because I’ve been stuck on a bus when I REALLY had to go, and was not comfortable doing…..well…..using devices and subterfuge to relieve myself on the bus hahaha…
Heather @Travelationship says
Good tips. Bus rides can either make or break a trip so best to be prepared ahead of time.
One thing that I do is keep capturing unusual things on my mobile camera. It is like a game, for you dont know when the next interesting thing is going to come. Try it out.
Adam, Bite of Iceland says
The longest bus ride I’ve had was in Turkey – 23 hours from Istanbul to Kars in the East. It was a little bit too long for me :) 10-12 hours is fine for me, especially if it’s a night journey and you can lie down like in overnight buses in Vietnam or India. Thank you for your tips!
The worst thing is when the bus has no proper toilet facilities like the one we travelled on overnight in Vietnam. Stopping at a service station after six hours with no loo roll is not my best memory of that trip but still a cool experience
Rhonda Albom says
So far the longest bus ride I have taken was Vancouver to Seattle, so not too bad. However, we are headed to South America next year and these tips will come in very handy, especially embracing the rest. You are so right, attitude has so much to do with how get on. My daughter is in Argentina now and she insists that the bus food was pretty good. Of course, she is only 16.
Fiona Maclean says
Great tips…though I am not sure I WANT to go on a long bus trip again ever!
I do not really like long bus trips, I am okay if they are overnight, that is not more than 8-9 hours. I feel claustrophobic in Buses. But on the other hand I like driving through small villages and viewing a slice of local life as the bus cruises along.
Nice tips, Kim especially about layer dressing in cold)) I would also add some comfortable and spacy shoes as a point. Once after a 25 hours bus ride, I was feeling like a hobbit. haha. I could not put my legs inside the sport shoes. luckily I had flip flops with me. Since then I prefer not to travel more than 12 hours continuously!
Vicky and Buddy says
Great tips! I would also recommend taking along a sleep mask, in case you’re trying to get some sleep during the day.
Few months ago, I had several long bus trips and books served as my savior. As much as I wanted to sleep, I just couldn’t, most of the time so here are the books to save my time. And oh, bus rides are also perfect time to write a blog post in a word draft.
Great tips! I especially love #1–I always try to get work done but never end up being very productive anyways, so just trying to get some rest sounds like a better idea! :) Layers are always a good idea too!
Yep layers! I’m always cold in buses and planes and I hate it to be freezing, not only is uncomfortable but I get off with pain everywhere from the tension. And books, always keep entertained in case the window landscapes are not interesting
Megan Jerrard says
I’m not going to lie, I cringe every time I hear those three words in consecutive order “long bus trip” :D I’ve taken so many over the years that I now really prefer to fly lol. But these are great tips – it’s a very practical and budget friendly way to travel, and you can meet some really cool people along the way :)
Aileen Adalid says
These are such great trips! Other than flying, there have been times that I’m really forced on doing long bus rides. It’s often uncomfortable but manageable and your tips are some of those that I practice :D
Kimberly Erin says
Ya, I think everyone agrees….flying is WAY better..but sometimes the bus is the only good option. Which tips do you practice? have any extras for me? :P :)
The layers thing is too true! Nothing worse than being stuck somewhere for several hours either way too hot or freezing! Always better to be prepared.
John Morris says
Great tips! I have recently started to test the waters with bus rides – 4 trips so far on 2 hour journeys. That wouldn’t qualify as “long,” but I prefer air travel for anything more than two hours. I’ll spend more time on a train than a bus – less cramped.
Kimberly Erin says
ahaha fair….trains are more comfy..but where I am from and in my experiences…they are a little more expensive :P
Anita Hendrieka says
Really great tips! I think the longest bus ride I have been on was 12 hours. It was tough but lucky for me I can sleep anywhere!
Kimberly Erin says
I am like you all the way…ahah I can literally sleep anywhere, a hard wooden chair is good enough for me.