How to Survive Long-Haul Bus Trips

Chicken bus in Santiago. Via Wikimedia by Greg Willis.

Chicken bus in Santiago. Via Wikimedia by Greg Willis.

I’m not sure how many hours I have spent staring out the window of a bus somewhere in the world. I have had some truly disastrous trips and some spectacular ones. Here are some tips to make your next bus trip an enjoyable one.

Choose a versatile outfit
I am not talking fashion here. Trust me, when the air conditioner is set to 100 degrees below zero, you will not give two hoots what you look like. Wear (or take in your backpack) lots of layers so when they crank the air-con, you can rug up—and when the sun scorches through the tightly closed windows, you can strip down.

I am an excellent sleeper on buses, but if you usually can’t sleep on a bus, plan ahead a little to be tired. If you’re taking an overnight bus, wake up early during the day and keep busy. That way (hopefully) you will be ready to crash when you’re on the road.

Get entertained
When traveling alone, it is hard to keep your mind from turning into a grumpy zombie after hours and hours on the road. There are the obvious activities: reading, writing, daydreaming. Get some apps if you have an appropriate device. I have been learning French with Duolingo, watching free talks on TED, and studying philosophy with Coursera. Keep your mind occupied and you will hate life a lot less.

A bus trip in Ethiopia. Via Wikimedia by Rod Waddington.

A bus trip in Ethiopia. Via Wikimedia by Rod Waddington.

Take this free time to clear your mind and find some calm amongst the chaos. Concentrate on your breath or repeat positive mantras. I am a recent convert to this meditation business, but it really does work to give a sense of calm.

Feed the hungry beast
When I’m hungry, I get hangry. Add sleep deprivation and discomfort to that mix and I am one unhappy camper. Take lots of snacks and water for long trips; it will distract you from your boredom and you won’t be frustrated waiting for the next stop.

Talk to strangers
I have had many an entertaining bus ride by starting up a conversation with the person next to me. Sure, people are not always up for a chat (they could be the aforementioned hangry), but you will soon sense the vibes and if the conversation fizzles, so be it. Chatting away can be especially great when traveling in a foreign country. With my dictionary in hand, I get a free language lesson and usually some local advice. You might learn something new and at the very least you will have a distraction to pass the time.

Be aware of security
I have heard and experienced firsthand the ease at which pickpockets work on buses around the world. Put things into pockets in your bag, be aware of where your things are, and watch your surroundings.

Don’t watch the clock
At the moment, I am traveling in Central America and not one of the buses I have taken in the last three months has arrived on time—not one! If you’re on a long bus trip, counting the hours can just be depressing. Forget the time and try to see the journey as just as much a part of your experience as the destination itself.

Eleisha Lauria

About Eleisha Lauria

Eleisha is a travel-obsessed globetrotter and adrenaline junkie from Melbourne Australia. She loves to experience the essence of travel and tell her stories to anyone who will listen. She is currently traipsing through Central and South Americas looking for the next adventure.