Travellers: 5 tips on surviving an overnight bus ride.

Traveling overnight is usually the number one top tip for budget travel.

Traveling overnight is usually the number one top tip for budget travel. It saves on booking a night in a hostel and gets you from A to B whilst you sleep peacefully, delivering you to your next destination by sunrise. However, for all the money and exploring time you save, you can expect to lose a good night’s sleep and your sanity at that. Overnight buses don’t have beds or showers and they don’t offer a free breakfast. In fact, you’re probably in for the most uncomfortable, tormentuous night of your life. Don’t let that put you off though. Here are seven top tips for surviving an overnight bus. With a little persistence and ingenuity, you can sleep safe and sound as you speed onwards to your destination. Sweet dreams!

1. Arrive early and get in line quick

If you can turn up a little early, it will make all the difference. Queues for international buses can start forming an hour before the bus departs. Keep in mind that for many international buses you will be required to check in beforehand which means an extra queue before the main queue for the bus. The etiquette of queuing varies across the world; from the UK where jumping the line is heavily frowned upon to parts of Asia where lining up is not part of the culture. Even so, there will always be a bit of a scramble to get onboard the vehicle (even in Britain) so be ready to use those pointy elbows to stand your ground.

2. Pick the right seat

You’ve queued and battled your way onto the bus first and now you have 52 empty seats starring back at you, pleading you to pick them. You’ve earned this choice. Which do you take? Start with the obvious ones you definitely don’t want. Any seats near the toilet are no-go’s. The couple of rows near the front are also to be avoided, only the nerdy kids and those who like to be woken by people boarding the bus sit there. As long as the toilet isn’t housed there, the back is probably your best bet. If you’re lucky then you might get all five seats across the back row. It’s also where you’re less likely to have to sit next to latecomers. People who arrive just as the bus is about to depart usually take the first seat they see. Picking the right seat can seem like a lot of planning but if it’s the difference between an uninterrupted night’s sleep or half a seat next to an obese guy who wants to chat to you all night then I’d recommend giving it some thought before you board. 

3. Hog an extra seat

If you want to get some kip before you roll into your destination in the morning then having a free seat next to you can really help. The freedom to curl up with your head against the window and your feet on the armrest cannot be overrated. It will also mean that you don’t have to spend the night next to some random guy who has his headphones on full blast and a penchant for cheese and onion crisps. However, on a busy bus, getting a second seat to yourself can be difficult. Keep your bag on the seat, tell enquirers that you’re saving it for a friend, or my personal favourite, spread yourself out across both seats, put your hat over your face and pretend to be asleep. Only if there really are no more seats on the bus will anyone have the temerity to wake you from your fake slumber.

4. Bring a hoodie

Not only are hoodies warm and comforting companions, they also make excellent pillows and their soft textures have been known to cancel out the vibrations of even the shakiest bus. Stick the hood over your head and use the body of the jumper as a wedge between your head and the window of the bus. If you’re unlucky enough not to get window seat then the hoodie can still come in handy as the arms can be used as a blindfold and the rest of it can fit around your neck as a comfortable neck-rest. Scarves can also be used in a similar fashion. Don’t bother bringing a travel pillow – it won’t be used at any other point of your trip, will take up a lot of luggage space and will make you look pretentious.

5. Take charge

Not of the bus, but of your electrical devices. Having your phone die out half way through the journey will leave you mourning your lost source of entertainment and regretting the decision to not fully charge it before you left. Some buses come fitted with plug sockets, but many don’t so make sure you find a free plug socket at the station or in your hostel room before you go to charge up. The same goes for tablets, laptops and mp3 players. If you know that you rely heavily on your electrical devices and would die a digital death without them then consider investing in a second battery or a backup charger that can run off AA batteries.