How to survive long bus rides (9 absolute essentials)

The UK’s national express coach service is my idea of hell. Before I’d really travelled abroad I would actively avoid coach rides for fear of travel sickness (still happens), the general lack of comfort and the prospect of a very long and boring journey. 

the dreaded ALS bus we spent 17 hours on

Fast forward to Vietnam in 2015 – I spent many an hour on relatively comfy night buses which had small plastic beds. Less than ideal for taller friends but perfect for snuggling down on a 10 hour ride. In Peru I had the luxury of a huge reclining seat with top deck, front window views of the countryside as we wound up into the mountains towards Cusco! 

A similar experience in Myanmar had my night bus expectations relatively high I’ll be honest. With cushions, blankets and sometimes even snacks provided previously, I was NOT prepared for the journey we embarked on from Tarutung, to Bukittinggi in North Sumatra, Indonesia. 

This coach spent over 17 hours winding through the mountains on bumpy roads. The seats were small, it was very busy and no shits were given. If you saw my Instagram story during the ride you’ll be aware that we were subject to “no booked seats”, which meant around a third of the way into the journey we were told to move from the “comfy” seats, to the back of the bus. Here they had added some extra seats (which were definitely from another bus) to make more room for more people – I’m not lying (these were green and all other seats were red hahah).

squashed seats on the bus
Spot the rogue seats!

For the duration of the ride, Thijs and I leaned on each other to maximise the use of space, Paula had to sit with her legs up as there wasn’t room and finally our fourth mate ended up sliding under a seat and sleeping on the floor. Sacrifices were made for space; there was another guy asleep on the floor next to me too. The toilet door was blocked which was a positive as every time it opened, the smell of piss wafted towards us. 

But HOW TO SURVIVE THESE LONG BUS RIDES I hear you cry! What can you do to make this more bearable?

I’m sure many of you secretly think that some kinda drug is the answer to this (googles ‘where to get Valium’). But no, drugs are not the first answer guys – here’s my mini survival kit to help, no matter what the bus is like (good or bad!):

  • Inflatable pillow – no brainer in my opinion. 
  • Hoody / long sleeves – those lovely air conned buses can get chilly (or in our case, very hot)
  • Long pants – no one wants their legs stuck to a seat.
  • Earplugs & earmask – block it all out.
  • Phone and battery pack – for music, Netflix, general social media and entertainment etc etc etc 
  • Snacks – incase the places they stop are crap. 
  • Tissues & hand sanitiser – if you need to use the loo at a rest stop, be prepared.
  • Bumbag – keep your important things close by – very important!
  • Travel sickness meds – if you really think you’ll be sick, pop into a local pharmacy for these before you travel!

Finally, the last thing is the mental strength that you’ll get there eventually, so try to ENJOY THE RIDE. 

Sarah xx

big orange W

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The ultimate guide to long bus rides

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  1. Opi
    April 19, 2020 / 5:20 pm

    Hoi Shara
    You have one very nice survival kit
    Something like this I don’t have to need this here
    (I hope )

    • Sarah
      April 23, 2020 / 11:29 am

      Haha I hope not – it was a horrible journey we had in Indonesia!

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