I used to take many long haul bus trips whilst living in Germany. I would typically board the bus at 3:00 pm and end up at my destination around 7:00 am the next morning. Almost all my travels to other European countries were done by bus. I travelled by bus to the Netherlands, France, Austria, Italy, Bratislava, Hungary and Belgium. I also travelled from Essen in Germany to Leipzig, Berlin and Gottingen. Taking the bus allowed me to save lots of money on travelling which let me visit more places. Sometimes the train is cheaper than the bus and low-cost airlines do offer amazing deals. However, I found that the bus was often the cheapest form of travel. That being said you have to have lots of patience and a will to get to your destination to handle taking the bus. Right now my weekday commute to work is a 2hour bus trip. I’m basically on a bus for 4 hours every weekday. By now I’m a bit of a bus experts haha so here are my tips to help you enjoy your long haul bus trip.
You are going to get to your destination so it’s best to remain positive. The bus travelling from Hungary to Bratislava had a tyre burst and I ended up waiting for two hours just for the wheel to be fixed. My friends and I had to sit in a hot bus and talk. We also researched Bratislava using the time to do something constructive. It’s best to try and stay calm and make the best of it.
Take along, an eye mask, wet wipes, tissues, snacks and things to do. Load music on to your phone, series, maybe even a movie. I like to have eBooks on my cellphone. But, I also take along one hardcover book in case my devices run out of electricity and there are no charging ports on the bus. Some people knit whilst travelling on the bus. Others take cards and play with their friends, though this can be tricky. Some people do word searches. I usually listen to music, read and study a bit. I read lots of my required readings for lectures on my bus trips. I even took highlighters with me and made notes. As I took many student travel buses some of them had loud students on them who were drinking. Taking a good pair of earphones with me helped me drown out the noise. Sleeping on a bus can also get tricky without an eye mask as the lights on the road and of other vehicles can become annoying. I also had a shawl with me often to serve as a blanket. The air-conditioning in some buses tends to be too cold to enjoy sleep. Be well prepared and see your bus trip as an opportunity instead of a chore.
Try to pack something to eat
Lots of people would buy food at garage stops. But, the food there tends to be old and just bad. I suggest you pack something to eat which is easy to travel with. A basic cheese sandwich is a good idea. Take along a refillable water bottle and snacks such as chips, biscuits, sweets, fruit that won’t bruise easily like apples. I only ever bought coffee once on all my bus trips and chocolate covered Oreos. Some bloggers suggest you drink energy drinks to prevent the need to pee frequently. This is bad advice as energy drinks often contain caffeine which is a diuretic meaning it makes you have to urinate more stick to water. The plain kind no fizzy flavoured ones. Cranberry juice, and caffeine-free tea. Skip the coffee and fizzy drinks.
Look out of the window
The landscape might be dreary but, do look out of the window. For me, the landscape was always spectacular. Germany is a beautiful country and you can spot castles and traditional houses along the highways. There also tends to be a lot of trees. The best part of being on a bus is that you get to see the view. I took photos along the travel roads from the bus window. I never got to walk around Antwerp but, I did get to see its grand train station façade. Being in a plane lets you only see clouds most of the time. The train runs too fast at times for you to take clear shots. The bus, however, allows you to soak in the views. I took a few photos from the bus in Paris which came out good I think. And a few videos from my bus tour part of my trip to Paris in winter. You can have a look below these photos and videos bring back so many fond memories. Taking the bus can have it’s plus side for sure.
Take along some small change
You might want to buy something at the garage stop. You might also need to use the toilet. In Germany, you have to pay to access the toilet. And the machines only accept coins. You also should pay for anything you buy in smaller notes as it will take longer if you have bigger notes. No one wants the bus driving away from them whilst buying a snack.
Try to pack something to eat
Lots of people would buy food at garage stops. But, the food there tends to be old and just bad. I suggest you pack something to eat which is easy to travel with. A basic cheese sandwich is a good idea. Take along a refillable water bottle and snacks such as chips, biscuits, sweets, fruit that won’t bruise easily like apples. I only ever bought coffee once on all my bus trips and chocolate covered Oreos.
Take note of the weather
Like I said bring along a warm small blanket for when it gets chilly if you love sitting at the window like me then take along sunglasses. Have your small sunscreen with you. You can get sunburnt by sitting at a sunny window seat for hours. In my photo below with the red scarf it was a cold day in Paris. And it was warm in Baritslava but, it got colder during the evening. You should check the day and evening forecast to be safe.
Keep important things with you
Keep your passport, medication, and valuables like your camera and phone in a bag that’s on board with you. This is an obvious one. Anything that is worth stealing should be kept on your person.
Basic hygiene items
You should pack your toothbrush, wet wipes, dry shampoo, deodorant, a small bottle of water all with you. I had to brush my teeth and do a quick wipe down at garage bathroom stalls. It was a fast “wash” and I couldn’t even change my clothes. As soon as I got to my destination city I would find a bathroom and do a better clean up as best as I could. If you are immediately checking into a hotel I would still keep the basic cleaning items with me just in case my bags go missing.
Where to sit
Where you sit depends on your personality. Statistically sitting in the middle of the bus is the safest spot. In my case, it’s where I got groped in broad daylight and sat awkwardly for another hour. If the bus does get into an accident the middle is the safest spot. For me, it was always best to sit right in front or closer to the front though. I wanted to be able to see the landscape and the front window provides memorable views. If you have a big fear of heights I suggest you don’t sit right in front as you will see every sharp turn and every mountain pass view will freak you out. Sitting at the back of the bus leads to a bumpier journey as you will feel every speed bump and or pothole times a million. Ultimately it boils down to personal choice.
Don’t keep all your cash in one place. In case you lose the bag you stashed your cash in or if the bus you’re in gets robbed along the way. If you spread out your cash you will still have an emergency fund left. It’s better than losing everything in one go.
Try to pack light and do find out what the baggage policy is of the bus company you’re using.
Do some stretches when you can. Sitting in one position can cause leg cramps or more serious issues like blood clots. Move when you can.
Thank you very much for reading. These are my tips do far. Let me know if I’ve missed anything. And do you enjoy long bus trips or are they horrible?