Night buses. Night buses, night buses, night buses- every travellers worst nightmare. I mean does anybody actually look forward to sleeping on a bus? I don’t think so! Travelling throughout the night comes part of a backpackers territory and to be honest on paper it seems like a pretty sweet deal; you don’t have to pay for accommodation that night, you get to travel long distances whilst you’re asleep, you don’t have to waste your day on a bus…great right? Wrong! Nobody sleeps on a night bus and if you do then you’re very strange and I need your secret! Night buses can be exhausting, they can be frustrating and quite frankly they can be traumatic. BUT, it doesn’t need to be this way. After my fair share of nighttime transportation I felt it necessary to part my wisdom onto you bright eyed novices- follow my very simple tips and you’re sure to be a night bus pro in next to no time.
1. Accept that you’re going to be tired
This seems like an obvious one, but I’ve heard SO many travellers ramble on about how they’re going to have the best night sleep on a bus. That is really not going to happen and the quicker you accept this,the quicker we can move on. Night buses have so many positive factors; sleep quality is unfortunately not one of them. You are going to be tired, you are going to look like you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards the following day and you are going to be walking around like a zombie for a while, BUT you’re going to save so much money in the process and it will be completely worth it. You can sleep on the beach when you get there.
2. Have a strategy
I always wake up much earlier than I usually would the day I’m getting a night bus and I always ensure my day is going to be jam-packed with activities- this way, when nighttime comes I will be extremely tired and am more likely to fall asleep easier. Does it work? ‘ll be honest, not every time but it certainly does help and is definitely worth thinking about.
3. Sober up
Riding a night bus drunk is NOT fun! When I was a cheerleader in University (cringey I know) my squad (yes I did just say squad) and I went on holiday to Spain via a coach. We all thought it would be an excellent idea to get pretty hammered before hand, we would surely fall straight to sleep. Never have I regretted a decision more in my entire life. This coach ride was 32 hours of pure hell; take it from me hungover bus rides are not fun!
4. Don’t do drugs
I understand that it’s hard to sleep on a bus and I understand that you’re tired but please don’t take sleeping pills. Just yesterday a guy on our night bus knocked back 3 VALIUM- he didn’t know where he was, he was hallucinating, talking to himself, he was white as a sheet, it was really scary and could have proven really dangerous to his health. If you really need to pop a pill, try and find a herbal alternative first.
5. Be prepared
Here’s a checklist of items that are ESSENTIAL on a night bus, make sure you pack at least some of them;
-hoodie/long trousers (for some reason buses always have their air con turned WAAAY up, it’s freezing!)
-ear plugs/ sleeping mask
-entertainment (which leads me on to my next point)
6. Are you entertained?
If you’re bored on a bus, the seconds turn into hours and by the time you’ve arrived at your destination you feel as if you’ve aged about 10 years- make sure you take some form of entertainment with you. Music, podcasts, films and TV shows are great things to have on your phone (use your hostel wifi to download these before hand, it will save your streaming data and will save you for when you drive into the middle of nowhere). The only issue with this is that your phone will eventually die, so make sure you take books, a pack of cards, sketchbooks etc. with you as well.
7. Don’t make yourself feel worse
Treat the bus like you would your bed and aim to stick to the same routine you usually would; would you eat a family sized bag of crisps at 3am? probably not, so don’t do it just because you’re bored on a bus. Stuffing your face all night, staring at a screen until the early hours are not only going to hinder your chances of getting any sleep but they’ll make you feel even worse the next day.
8. You get what you pay for
There are SO many different options when it comes to transportation that it’s really important you do some research beforehand. Rule of thumb; the more money you spend the more likely it is that you will be on a more comfortable and accommodating bus (usually). If you need a toilet on board (like me), want reclining seats or a blanket then you may have to spend a few more pennies to get these luxuries. If however, you spent next to nothing on your bus ticket, don’t spend all night complaining about the state of your transportation- you really do get what you pay for.
9. Don’t forget to hydrate
Buy a big bottle of water before you get on the bus- drink it all while you’re on it. If you ignore all of my other advice, take note of this one. Yes you might have to visit the nasty loo a few more times than you would like but sleeping with your head against the window can leave a nasty headache only water can solve.
10. If all else fails- fly
Night buses really are great…but they’re not for everybody. If you have some spare pennies lying around, are limited on time or don’t do well on little sleep it really is okay to fly to your destination. Don’t ever feel like you’re not a real backpacker if you don’t travel over night, honestly who cares. We would all be lying if we said we’d prefer to rough it on a bus then fly.
I HATE sleeping on a bus, but it is unfortunately a necessary evil for me as I just can’t afford to fly everywhere (although I would if I could). These tips really help me and although it’s never a perfect night sleep, they do ease my pain a little bit. What are you top tips for sleeping on a bus?
Much love from wherever I am xx