There comes a time in every backpackers journey when we must decide between a 5hour flight costing $300 or a 20hour bus journey costing only $100. With your bank balance screaming at you along with your bank manager, you opt for the bus, preparing yourself mentally for whoever may sit next to you, how many screaming children you will consider throwing from the bus and why on earth you decided to do it at all! But it doesn’t have to be the worst 20hours of your life, nor should it be time wasted. My longest coach journey was a trip I took from Birmingham, England to Budapest, Hungary. Racking up a total of 36hours! I am a big lover of bus rides, not only because the price is sometimes unbeatable but also because once I learnt how to survive the many hours, I found the time went quickly and on some journeys I could be a little productive!
So here are my top tips for surviving that long bus journey!
Make sure you pack enough entertainment into your hand luggage as possible, your Kindle, laptop, iPod or colouring book! Whatever you can find to keep you entertained, because you will regret carrying an empty bag within the first 10minutes of the journey! Make sure you fill that Kindle with loads of books and your laptop is overrun with movies and TV shows to keep you going for hours! Oh, and one more thing, MAKE SURE THEY ARE ALL FULLY CHARGED! You shall kick yourself otherwise!
You will also want to keep comfortable for as much of the ride as possible, at the end of the day, you will make good friends with your seat, and you want it to be a nice relationship. So, an inflatable neck pillow, ear plugs and a blanket to keep you warm are essential! (I always carry a sarong in my day pack as it doubles up as a blanket when the AC gets a little too cold for comfort)
We all know too well that food from service stations can cause you to experience a minor stroke, so head to the local supermarket before you board that bus! Limit yourself to cold food which will last you through! There is nothing worse than a rotting tuna sandwich at the bottom of your bag! Dried fruit, savoury buns and can of Pringles will see you through!
Turn your phone off/onto airplane mode and pack your charger! Nothing worse than the panic of realising the address of the place you shall be staying is in your phone and you drained the battery by smashing through level 78 of candy crush! Airplane mode will help save your battery, but if all else fails then finding the nearest plug socket at a service station or asking kindly at a cafe will give your phone time to get some juice!
Claim your territory:
Make sure you arrive early for your bus ride! 20minutes should do it for most coach services. This way you can nab a double seat! Of course on busier buses this may not be possible, but if it is, then get yourself next to a window and claim the seat next to you with anything you have. Your bag, your feet or a stray cat! Then once you have that double seat, say hello, because that 1×1 box shall be your home for the next day! Arrange all the things you may need around you, this is what I call making a nest! The pockets on the back of the chairs in front of you are great to stuff your books, tissues and water bottles so you are not rummaging through your bag hunting for what may or may not be dwelling in the depths of your backpack!
Then if you are lucky enough to have the seats in front and behind you free, recline that seat back, put your legs up in the chair in front of you, grab your laptop and relax!
Try and sleep!
This can be the hardest bit. but once you learn to do it, all will be well! Try and sleep at night when everyone else on the bus is too. They will generally all be quiet, the bus driver will dim the lights and you wont miss anything out the window expect for a shadow shaped similar to a tree.
If all else fails, then Valium. That’ll do it.