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7 Tips for Surviving the Night Bus

WORLDWIDE | Friday, 21 October 2011 | Views [4735]

All budget travelers eventually have to learn to love the night bus. It's not the quickest or most comfortable mode of transportation, but often it's the most sensible. Buses are a lot cheaper than flying and roads go many places that planes and trains are not able to. Plus, there's something so cool and convenient about being lulled to sleep by the wheels of the bus only to wake up at your final destination.

Unfortunately the reality is not usually so pleasant. Cramped quarters, bizarre midnight stops and petty theft are all night bus hallmarks. Depending on where you're going your night might be spent on a bed or a hard bench, sleeping soundly or bracing for your life as a half-awake driver hurdles around steep corners. There's a pretty good chance you will arrive at your destination exhausted, barely having slept a wink.

Luckily, there are some things you can do to make your night bus experience more comfortable:

1. Spring for the Better Bus

The cheap bus might sound like a good idea early on when you are well rested and energetic, but it will feel very different when you are exhausted at 3 am. It's almost always worth it to spend the few extra dollars and upgrade to the bus with reclining seats or even actual beds. Some nicer buses will distribute blankets and pillows and sometimes even meals. A nicer bus gives you are far better chance of actually sleeping on your long ride.

2. Prepare some Rations

For 6 hour-plus rides you are bound to get hungry at some point and it's often impossible to know when the next stop will be (or what kind of food might be available). Have a personal supply of snacks that you can tap into when the hunger pangs get to be too much. Dry, non-smelly things like crackers and chips are a good bet.

The caveat here is liquids. Nothing, I mean nothing, is worse than being stuck on a bumpy road with a full bladder and no working bathroom. Don't do this to yourself, ration your water intake.

3. Dress for Cold Weather

I don't know why this happens, but ever night bus all over the world likes to treat passengers like refrigerated cargo. It can be tropical outside but inside the bus, prepare for arctic weather. Come prepared with some warm socks, long pants and a sweater. A long scarf or sarong is easily converted into a thin blanket.

4. Bring (or make) a Friend

On most buses you're going to have a seatmate (or bed mate). This can lead to becoming very intimately acquainted with someone you may have just met (particularly in country's with a different definition of personal space). If you're not already traveling in a pair, it might be a good idea to befriend another friendly-looking solo traveler to be your bunk buddy for the night.

5. Bring Headphones

It is almost certain that around 4 am everyone on the bus will be sleeping soundly and you will be wide awake, counting headlights and bored senseless. This is when it helps to have some stimulation in the form of an ipod (be sure to be discreet with it though).

Occasionally you will stumble onto a night bus where sleep isn't an option. In Asia night buses often like to show local movies at top volume late into the night. Sometimes the buses will blare loud music or even have karaoke. This is another time it's nice to tune out to the music of your choice.

6. Watch Your Stuff

People do occasionally get robbed on night buses so it's important to always have an eye on your valuables. Anything expensive or irreplaceable should be in your seat with you- not below the bus. Things like money, electronics and passports should be on you at all times: if you need to get off the bus for any reason, take your possessions with you. When you sleep, cuddle your purse or day bag so that no enterprising passengers can rifle through your stuff.

7. Remember, it will all be over in the morning

When you are wide awake at 3 am in a freezing cold bus full of snoring passengers, it's easy to  despair. The morning will come, your bus will arrive at it's destination and you can look forward to exploring a new place (and sleeping in a real bed).

Related Articles:

On the Rails in India - Tips for Surviving Train Travel

Taxis in Vietnam; Avoid the Scams

About the Author

Stephanie is a girl who can't sit still! She's lived, worked and traveled through Europe, Asia, Australia and now South America. She blogs about her adventures, tips and photos at Twenty-Something Travel.

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Tags: safety, transportation, travel

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