Give Me Five Minutes And I Will Make You A Guru of Bus Travel
February 17, 2015
Let’s face it, bus travel is a last resort for most travelers. It’s the dentist visit of the traveling world. If you could be on a plane or even a train you probably would be. But in fact there are all sorts of things going for a long distance bus trip. These include, among others; stunning scenery, $ savings, interesting local travelers, you can even get from point A to B while you sleep. So if push comes to shove and you find yourself with bus ticket in hand, here is everything you need to rock your bus trip like a genuine bus guru.
So you’ve decided to go bus, the first question is day bus or night bus? (Reasoning: Is there going to be amazing scenery?). The second, if you can score a bus with sleeper berths where you are able to recline? or if you will be sitting upright for the next 15 hours? Here’s a few things to consider when booking your ticket.
•If you’re traveling for more than a few hours straight the rule of thumb is to book the best you can afford.
•Make sure you confirm the sleeper style as the amount you get to recline varies hugely.
•Don't want to spring for a room? Try travelling overnight. In my experience overnight buses can require sleeping pills or at the very least decent ear plugs to make it through the night.
•The earlier you book the better your seat will be if seating is assigned.
•Most cities have a web page where you can plan your trip via public transport. Some of these are great, but some will send you to Timbuktu and back if you're not careful. Check Google Maps to see if you could save yourself three hours by walking 100m and changing buses.
•Confirm dinner breaks and refueling stops to make sure you have enough supplies.
•$1 journeys with discount carriers exist! Check your route for discount and backpacker buses as they often have a one dollar lucky dip fare. The earlier you book, the more chance you're likely to get it. I grabbed a Toronto to New York fare once for $1!
•Go local and skip the pre-booking - when a long distance bus or train is booked out, you can jump from local bus to local bus - it's hard work but it will get you where you want to go.
•Use time-exchange websites to check you have left enough transfer time.
•If you’re really trying to save the pennies get off at a lesser known nearby location - buses into big cities cost more, so get off a stop or two early and catch a local bus the rest of the way.
•Arrive in plenty of time to collect your ticket if don’t have an assigned seating, first in first served.
Bus travel has its own unique hazards; pick pockets can be a problem and some roads are in less than stellar repair, minimize your risks with these tips.
•Watch your luggage when others get off so they don't walk off with your things!
•Check travel advisories before booking to see if the route is safe and not plagued with robberies and break downs. You may also want to jump on some travelers forums and see what people who have previously done the route have to say.
•Travel with a reputable company that performs regular maintenance and safety checks.
•Carry your passport and a pen with you for border crossings, don’t let your passport out of your sight and always be honest with border guards it’s just not worth the jail time.
•Watch your possessions in terminals, preferably be in physical contact with them at all times. When your pack holds all you own in the world you don’t want to become victim to any of the thieves often rife in bus stations.
•Put your bag in first and you will get it back last, you may get a better seat for your trouble. Put it in last and you’ll get it back first but you will want to keep an eye on it when others get off in case someone tries to wander off with it.
•Always keep your valuables on your person if you are going to nap make sure you wrap the strap around your leg or curl around your bag. It’s amazing how quickly your prize possessions can disappear.
•When getting off for a rest stop, keep the bus in sight at all times and make sure you know exactly how long you have. They will leave without you and getting on another bus is a gigantic pain in the ass – I have done the crazy motorcycle ride to catch the bus before the border game and it’s not recommended.
Probably the biggest turn off when it comes to bus travel is comfort, or lack thereof. Nowadays however, some bus companies have lazy boy chairs, internet connection and personal video screens like a first class flight. If you’re not luck enough to be traveling in the lap of luxury here are some ways to ride in comfort.
•Sitting in the middle is less likely to make you motion sick, is away from the smelly toilet, the noise of the engine (which is located at the back in buses) and away from the bright lights up front. You may also want to avoid sitting directly under a TV or speaker.
•Rear seats in buses don’t recline.
•Wear layers and thick socks, it can often be too hot or cold and there is no point shivering miserably all night.
•Tissues in case of lack of loo paper and baby wipes are your friend. An empty bag for your personal rubbish can also help keep things organized.
•Check the power point works when you sit down - you're going to need it.
•The only time you might want to be in the back row is if you think you might be able to get the row to your-self. The three seats in the back row can give you the only option to stretch out and sleep if you haven’t sprung for a sleeper bus.
•Keep busy -MP3 players, movies and books can keep you occupied many buses now have power points and WIFI connections so you can even get some work done. Or bring a pack of cards or small game to share with your fellow travelers.
•Pack a carry on style bag, all you valuables and everything you need for 24 hours including meds, toothpaste and clean undies just in case.
•Include some ear plugs and something to go over your head if you do want to catch some winks, others may not be on your time line.
•Meditation -. I recommend learning simple meditation to help keep everything in perspective and to calm down after those particularly stressful days. Download a 10min guided mindfulness meditation off the 'net, then all you have to do is press 'play' and once you get the hang of it you'll find you can do it anywhere. Come off long bus rides happy and rejuvenated for a change.
•Make sure you bring some of your own snacks, and lots of liquid incase stops are few and far between. a Gatorade type drink is recommended to keep up electrolytes and minimize bathroom breaks.
•Motion sick bands are a life saver. I get randomly motion sick and don't like to take tablets all the time. These wrist bands press against your pressure point to ease motion sickness without drugs. They can be worn for long periods of time and are reusable, for the price of a single packet of tablets. Just to be on the safe side, always carry tissues and a non-perforated plastic bag on long bus trips.
So there you have it, everything you need to become a bus guru and rock your next long distance bus journey in safety and comfort. If you have your own tip for bus travel please add a comment on the main blog page, I would love to hear from you.