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Let’s be honest, long bus rides SUCK but they are inevitable for any traveler looking to save a few dollars. We have taken SOOOO many since we started our round the world trip and while they still aren’t great or as efficient as flying they are cheaper. So we thought we would put together a list of things needed to make these trips better.
After all we do have some experience like that 10 hour overnight bus from Oxford to Glasgow, complete with a drunk woman berating us at the bus station, or the 14 hour bus from Paris to Barcelona on the 4th of July that arrived three hours late. And how could I forget the interminable bus ride from Split to Brtonigla, only to get to Porec and realize there were no more buses to Brtonigla…. Oh and while this was happening my sister was able to fly from Barcelona to Munich, have a 6 hour layover and almost get all the way back to California before we even crossed all of Croatia. So we do have some experience with these long haul bus rides and it does not seem like that will be changing anytime soon.
So what can you do to make them better? Well here is our list compiled after many bus trips of trial and error. We hope that they make it easier for you to have a less shitty time on a long haul bus trip 😉
What To Bring
We talked about both our Kindles and our iPhones in our packing article and they have been invaluable for us on these bus trips. We hadn’t used our Kindles much up until these long haul bus trips and they have been lifesavers! (Especially when BOTH of our cellphone chargers went out within days of each other, talk about bad luck!) On the buses they are especially helpful because generally their battery last longer, leaving our phones for making emergency calls if needed, and if you have the Kindle Fire you can read books, listen to audiobooks and stream movies. Not too shabby 🙂 Our iPhones are handy of course for all the snapchatting. We get really bored during bus trips 😉
Endless miles of sunflowers from Paris to Barcelona….. SO. MANY.
This little fellow is our savior! (Even though we did unfortunately lose our cord that connects the charger to the solar panel) Even though it is no longer able to charge via the sun, this handy little gadget can still be charged through an outlet and then used to charge all USB compatible devices. It has saved our asses from Iceland to Croatia and I love it. We can usually get at least both mine and Alex’s phones to a full charge before it dies and it inevitably comes in use on every long trip we take. If you are ever worried about you electronics dying, this is the one thing I would encourage you to invest in!
Eye Masks and Neck Pillows
For the longest time I refused to invest in these and actually I still haven’t, but we do have them thanks to Desigual. We were able to go on a tour of the Desigual offices while we were in Barcelona and they gifted us these handy little travel kits complete with an eye mask and a neck pillow. So I’ll admit it, I was wrong about neck pillows….They are actually useful and aren’t cumbersome at all. I am still not on board with the eye mask because I like to know what is going on around me but Alex loves his! I think he would wear it all the time if he could.
Carrying cash is super helpful on long bus rides, especially in smaller denominations, as often times the bus drivers will sell water on board and when you stop at the rest stops, 90% of the time they will not accept cards or larger bills.
Water and Snacks
Sometimes the buses don’t stop and they don’t let you know that. You would think that on a 14 hour bus ride there would be some stops but sometimes it isn’t always true. Therefore it is always good to have at least some snacks and water on you. Although I wouldn’t suggest too much water, rest stops are few and far between.
Something to Keep Warm
For me buses are always stupidly hot as soon as you get on and then as soon as you try to fall asleep they blast the air conditioning. Or at least that’s always what happens to me. So since it always happens I usually carry at least a scarf and occasionally a sweater with me. It doesn’t take up much room and if you don’t need it at least you can always put it in the overhead compartment or use it in addition to your neck pillow. If you can’t sleep when you are freezing like me, a scarf or a sweater is invaluable.
What To Do To Ensure The Best Seat
Getting the best seat is key to not hating yourself for 14 hours. These tips may seem callous but believe me if you aren’t doing these then someone else is!
Get Seats in Front
I personally, have a tendency to get car sick so I always try to get a seat in front but even if that is not the case the front seats have several benefits. For starters usually the first row on either the left or right side is used by the second bus driver, they generally do not always sit down and they hardly even lean their seats backs so if you can snag a seat behind them you don’t have to worry about someone encroaching on your leg space.
Front seats are also great because at subsequent stops new passengers coming on usually head to the back to see if they can get a seat by themselves and when they cannot they usually just grab the first available seat where they are (aka the back). So there is a much higher chance that you will get a seat to yourself which leads me to….
Try To Get Seats by Yourself
This is seriously KEY to survive a long haul bus ride. If you get a seat by yourself there is
A. More legroom (tall people, you know how important this is!)
B. You can sleep across both seats
C. You don’t have to have your bag under you feet.
Here are the best ways to get a seat by yourself; you’re going to have to be ruthless!
AVOID Eye Contact
Sounds rude and it is BUT most people who are looking for seats on a bus will sit next to someone who has made eye contact with them. Therefore, avoid it at all costs. I have seen people (and been one of those people) who actually fake being asleep to avoid having to sit next to someone.
Sit in the Aisle Seat
If you sit in the aisle seat there is less of a chance of someone wanting to bug you and get into the window seat. Also if someone ends up sitting in the window seat next to you at least you now have legroom in the aisle.
Put Your Bag On the Other Seat
Don’t want people to sit next to you? Put your bag on the other seat. Most people take the easiest route to choose a seat, so don’t make it easy for them.
Also if you are traveling with someone else, sit in rows one after another. If someone wants to sit in one of those seats at least you can switch and have your travel partner next you. It is either the enemy you don’t know or the enemy you do! So choose wisely 🙂
All in all though, if someone should ask to sit next to you take it with grace and offer them the seat. You want to be rude but not in your face RUDE after all.
Download something to help you fall asleep
I am a huge fan of audiobooks and podcasts but I am not going to lie, sometimes they make me fall asleep and therefore they are the perfect option for long bus rides. Just put them on and zone out. If you need some inspiration here are a few of my favorite (both to listen to and fall asleep to!)
The History of Rome – This series by Mike Duncan is mammoth! It seriously takes you through the ENTIRE HISTORY OF ANCIENT ROME from its founding to its fall. If you love history and nerdy humor, this is the series for you!
Revolutions – Another podcast from Mike Duncan, this one explore revolutions that have happened all over the world from England to France to Haiti.
Secret Cities – I am partial to this because it is by my friend Georgia, who I used to be a tour guide with in Rome. If you want a fun and interesting look into different parts of Rome and other secret cities this is the podcast for you.
Keep Your Valuables With You
Ok, so this one should be fairly obvious, but I am restating it. KEEP YOUR VALUABLES, PASSPORT, ect… on you. Do not keep them in your larger bags below. The luggage compartment is opened at every stop and you cannot control what happens down there while you are in your seat. If you are super worried about your luggage in general, make sure you get a window seat on the side where you put your luggage.
Don’t Be Hungover
Another fairly obvious one but one we seem to fail at, at a startling regularity too. Being hungover on a bus sucks! You may think drinking before you get on will make it better and it will for a few hours and then it SUCKS! Follow our advice and not our actions, don’t get on a bus hungover.
I promise you do not need JUST ONE MORE flaming tiki drink! One is enough 🙂
This is just a personal thing but if you want to be comfortable most people take off their shoes and well, socks smell. Do us a favor and wear sandals 🙂
There you have it, our guide to survive long haul bus rides. We hope that this list helps you so you can go off and have a non-sucky bus ride.
Any other suggestions you would add to the list? And does anyone have any favorite audiobooks or podcasts? I am always looking for something new to listen to!
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