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If you love travelling chances are you’ll come across an overnight bus journey at some point. I love them because they’re usually cheap and I’m a bit of a budget traveller in case you hadn’t guessed!
Family holidays abroad usually involved an overnight car journey when we were younger. Because of that I guess I never got to that stage where you have difficulty sleeping while on the road. Myself, brother and sister all used to curl up on the back seats, play Pokémon on our Gameboys (and irritate our parents with the repetitive sounds…), and then fall fast asleep.
In South America we travelled the continent almost exclusively by overnight bus. And yes, overnight buses in South America tend to be a lot nicer than overnight buses in Europe, but at the end of the day they’re still a bus. Buses can be hot and stuffy or cold, or noisy. And you can guarantee at one point you’ll feel like absolutely everyone else is asleep apart from you.
But I end up taking overnight bus journeys again and again. There are several things you can do to make an overnight bus journey more comfortable. Yes, really!
I you’ve booked an overnight bus trip because it was cheaper (and they generally are, especially when you take into account that you’re not paying for a night’s accommodation), or because it was the only time left, you might be dreading the journey. Perhaps you’re wondering how you’ll ever get to sleep and, if you don’t, what will you do faced with a day of sight seeing on no sleep? Bus journeys, or other overnight journeys, aren’t to fear though. Here’s some (hopefully) helpful tips for overnight bus journeys that’ll help you sleep and enjoy them!
Pack a travel pillow
Whilst the type of pillow you use for your bed is comfy, it’s not so easy to pack it up into a bag when you’re short on space. There’s a variety of travel pillows that’ll solve this problem for you. Most of the supermarkets seem to have them in stock, so they don’t even have to cost you a lot!
(or bring along someone comfy)
Failing this take along a comfy travel buddy. Just make sure their shoulder has a bit of padding and you’re good to go!
Trust me when I say there’s nothing worse than being kept awake by the person across the aisle snoring like there’s no tomorrow. Take some headphones, plug into some music of audio books and block them out! Noise cancelling headphones are the best, but any will help!
Chances are you won’t have a good wifi connection or signal to get data while travelling overnight on a bus.
Even buses that promise WiFi aren’t that reliable and it’s deathly slow as everyone else is using it. Download some audio books (I’ve really been enjoying ‘You are Badass’) or podcasts (my favourite currently is The Receipts Podcast.
Or, do what I did throughout our trip to South America and load up an iPad with episodes of your favourite TV show. Our choice was Breaking Bad and it kept us going for 3 months!
Bring some snacks
Whilst overnight buses do have scheduled stops you’re never really sure when they’ll happen (if at all!). There’s almost nothing worse than your stomach rumbling or being thirsty and not knowing when you’ll be able to solve that problem.
Make sure you take some snacks or, better still, grab a sandwich/premade lunch and take that on the bus with you so you’ve got at least one meal prepared.
Go to the toilet every chance you get
I don’t want to sound like a Mum talking to a two-year old, but seriously follow this. No one wants to use a bus toilet. No one. They’re okay in desperate situations but they really are something to be avoided – you can be sure they’ll be a state within the first 10 minutes of movement.
Take a blanket
In some countries you absolutely won’t need a blanket but in others (Bolivia I’m looking at you) you most definitely will. The buses in Bolivia were absolutely FREEZING and I don’t know what we would’ve done without the alpaca blanket we picked up in Cusco.
Or do one better and take a sleeping bag
We don’t often travel with sleeping bags but if you’re someone who does then remembering to get your sleeping bag out of your big rucksack before getting on the bus is a genius idea! The people who did just looked so snug and cosy…
Make sure you have some cash on you
This one is always useful but can be a bit of a life safer in certain countries. Whilst in the UK it’s unusual to come across shops that don’t accept card elsewhere it’s a lot more common.
Having a bit of cash on you could mean you’re able to pay for that much needed toilet, buy some water, or make an emergency phone call should things get desperate.