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Authored by Alice Ross

The excruciating misery of confined legs and sore necks, lack of sleep and constant anxiety attacks – these are some of the reasons people don’t look forward to long-haul bus rides.

And while some companies have made the experience a lot easier, with facilities like toilets and TV, that doesn’t change how terrible it can be to find yourself stuck on a bus. It’s one of those ideas you can usually file under “seemed like a good idea at the time”.

Most people are happy acknowledging that the long haul bus plain sucks, though there are many reasons people continue to travel this way; they can’t afford or don’t want to spend their money on expensive plane tickets, or, to reach some destinations, there may not be any other choice.

Luckily, there are simple ways to make the experience more comfortable and fun. Here are some tips and suggestions to help you how to survive long-haul bus.

How to Survive a Long Haul Bus Ride

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Choose Your Seat

This is not always possible, but where you can, choose not to sit down next to anyone. If you have your own seat, you can stretch your legs or even lay down.

It’s more likely that there will be spare seats if your bus route is not a popular one, or you’re not traveling during a peak time.

Stand up From Your Seat

Even while the bus is running, you can stand and walk around to stretch your arms and legs. Doing this will make you feel less tired. You’ll get some of your blood flowing and moving continuously which will get you feel better.

However make sure that your movements throughout the bus do not distract the driver.

Bring a Small Pillow

You don’t have to bring a full-sized pillow with you on the bus, a nice travel neck pillow will do. It will allow you to rest your head so that you can sleep more comfortably than you would using the window or the shoulder of the stranger beside you!

Though bus seats can be incredibly uncomfortable, and if you’re not using your pillow to support your neck, you could place it behind your back, or sit on it if that’s more comfortable.

Sleep as Much as You Can

It might not be the easiest thing to do, but if you can, take a nap. It will mean you’re less tired when you arrive at your destination, and will make the travel time seem faster.

Having earplugs and eye masks with you are essential for falling asleep, and you should avoid drinking alcohol and coffee before or during the trip.

You might find these beverages comforting, but they are more likely disrupt your ability to fall asleep. Passing out after having bottles of beer on the bus doesn’t mean you will have a comfortable sleep. It will also make you more dehydrated.

Bring Enough Food

Yes, most bus trips have scheduled break times where passengers can to go to the bathroom and grab something to eat. But you never know when you may get hungry, and you may have to go hours without food if you sleep through a scheduled stop, or *knock on wood* if the bus breaks down.

You can also never guarantee the standard or quality of food being served at your scheduled stops, so it’s best to bring enough food to last you throughout the trip. The best food to bring are protein bars, sandwiches, chips, and bottles of water.

Long haul bus ride

Have Covers

An air-conditioned bus can get really cold. I’ve seen people wearing strapless shirts and shorts and that’s something I wouldn’t do on a long bus ride.

To protect yourself from the cold, make sure you have something to cover you. Whether this is a blanket, a jacket, or a pair of socks, always pack under the assumption that at some point in the trip, you’ll get cold.

Ways to Stay Occupied

If you can’t sleep through the trip, there are a lot of ways to keep yourself occupied during the long ride. A handheld console gaming device is a great way to pass the time, (Sony PS Vita, PSP, or Nintendo DS), and is likely to keep you occupied for hours. If you have a friend who can play multiplayer games with you, that’s even better.

An audio player (with earphones) is another asset on a long ride, as music can go a long way to keeping you sane. And if you’re one of those people who can read on a bus, books (or a kindle) can be a great way to beat boredom, and will feed your mind.

Bus ride

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Long haul bus rides are never easy. The best way to survive them is to keep your attitude positive and prepare your mind for it.

So, the next time you are stuck on a bus for an extended period of time, use these ideas to make your trip more comfortable and fun than than dull and boring.

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Alice is a travel blogger, world adventurer, and life lover, traveling the world at slow phase to immerse herself into what this wonderful world has to offer.

Join in her daily adventures at Fortravelista.com or on Twitter and learn tricks and tips for a cheaper, less hassle travel journey.

Photo credits: Texting and braiding hair on open air bus in Manila by Wayne S. Grazio.

    20 Comments

  1. Great tips! Bring enough food is the BIG one for me! Traveling while hungry is the worst..and I just hate buying snacks from places when I don’t know what I’m going to get!

    • Bringing enough food is definitely the big one! I’ve found eating helps me get to sleep too – nothing worse than having an empty stomach and no where to buy food!

  2. I tend to fall asleep easily on buses and trains but I do have a problem on flights so these tips are great for that.

    • These tips can definitely be applied to flights too 🙂 Not a fan of anything long haul really whether that be a flight or a bus lol!

  3. I always have a book on my phone. Plus, scrabble against the computer- that can keep me occupied for hours.

    • Scrabble is great! I play against my husband on a version we have on our iPads – agree – it can keep you occupied for hours, and keep your brain active which does help not feeling blah after long hours in a confined place.

  4. The buses in South America could be pretty plush if you paid a little extra, so I didn’t mind those so much because you could actually sleep! Can’t say the same for buses in Southeast Asia.

    • I’ve been hearing this about South America – a couple of people have commented on our Facebook page and said that Argentina has buses which are fully kitted out with seats which recline the whole way to let you lie down, WiFi, the works! That’s a bus I could ride on!

  5. I can’t sit in a bus for longer than 6 hrs. Love the tips about the neck pillow. Some buses take breaks in between when you can get out for some time. That really helps.

    • I had someone on Facebook comment today that they’ve recently done a 24 hour bus ride through South America – that tops even me! I think the longest I’ve done was 9 hours and I was DONE after hour 1 lol!

      I’m glad the tips about the neck pillow helped 🙂

  6. Thank you for the tips! There was a period of my life when I used to spend many hours in busses and I didn’t like it at all! I feel quite nauseous when I’m on a bus and I have trouble in sleeping. Music was the only that helped me relax a bit! I could try a pillow too next time!

    • You’re welcome Efthimis 🙂 Sorry to hear that you have trouble with nausea on buses – definitely try a pillow and an eye mask as well as the noise cancelling headphones if you have any upcoming trips 🙂

  7. What a timely read. I recently just completed a long haul bus ride in Peru with my kids. Thankfully the bus ride had built in stops every few hours so the kids did not get too bored. But it definitely helped that they had their ipads to keep them occupied when they weren’t sleeping 🙂

    • Thanks Christina – wow, I hate buses when I have just me to worry about let alone traveling with kids! Glad to hear that you made it through though, what would we do without iPads and technology right!!

  8. We always try to avoid long haul bus journeys as we find them quite strenuous. However, when we do need to do them, we take all necessary steps to ensure that the ride is as comfortable as possible. All the tips provided by you really help. One needs to get up from the seat and stretch the legs as much as possible.

    • We’re the same, we avoid them like the plague 😀 Though there are some instances where its impossible otherwise, so good to know how to make it a more comfortable ride 🙂

      Glad we could partner with Alice to help with these tips 🙂

  9. My daughter went to Argentina last year and she said that there, buses are the main mode of long-haul transport. She showed me photos and they look a lot more luxurious than the type of bus you were on.

    • Yes, I’ve since had a number of comments on our Facebook page that the buses in Argentina are quite luxe – seats which fully recline so you can sleep – they sound incredible!! Now to clone these and distribute throughout the rest of the world 😀

  10. Adequate amounts of food and a nice pillow are an absolute must! Being hungry (hangry) is worse than possibly any discomfort 🙂

    • Totally agree – being hungry is probably the worst situation you can put yourself in! Need a positive mood and mindset to get through long haul bus trips, and being hungry makes that extremely difficult!

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