Taking overnight buses can be a smart move. Not only will you save the cost of a night of accommodation by sleeping on the bus instead, but you will wake up in a new destination and will not have to spend one of your precious travel days on the road.
You won’t get the best sleep of your life on an overnight bus, but once you get used to sleeping in transit you can manage a decent night of rest. From someone who has been on plenty of overnight buses all over the world, here are some things that you should know.
Tips on Taking Overnight Buses
1.It’s Often Worth Paying a Little More for the VIP Bus
In many destinations in Southeast Asia, South America and Central America you will have the option of paying slightly more for the “Deluxe” or “VIP” overnight bus experience. The difference is only about $10-$15 most of the time, but the level of comfort is very different. Instead of a rickety, musty old bus you will have a newer vehicle, a cushy seat that reclines and a much more comfortable journey. However, now that many bus ticket sellers know this, they have been labelling all of their buses “VIP”. However ask to see a photo of the bus interior so that you know what you are buying.
2.It’s Colder Than You Think
One of the lessons I learned taking overnight buses in Southeast Asia is to always bring a warm sweater on an overnight bus, even if it is 35 degrees outside. For some reason, the air conditioning in the bus is always cranked up to maximum. If you are in shorts and a t-shirt you will be shivering so hard you won’t be able to sleep. A cosy hoodie is good to bring with you, as you can pull the hood over your eyes to help you sleep. A sarong is also a great accessory as it can double as a blanket.
3.Keep Your Belongings Close
Don’t fall asleep while taking overnight buses with your valuables next to you on the seat, or in the overhead compartment. It’s too easy for someone to snatch them while you are snoring. Instead, place all of your valuable items such as your wallet, passports and camera, in a small carry-on bag. Then keep it in contact with your body while you sleep. You can wrap the strap around your arm, hug the bag or rest your head on it. The idea is that if someone tried to riffle through it, it would jostle you and wake you up.
4.If You Aren’t Sure Where You Are, Ask
You wake up bleary eyed at 5:45 in the morning. The bus has stopped and some people are starting to gather their belongings and disembark. Have you arrived at your destination, or are you somewhere else? Unlike on the Greyhound bus in North America, the driver often won’t announce the destination clearly. Even if they do, it might be in another language or your sleep-addled brain won’t understand the accent. Instead of panicking and getting off at the wrong stop, just ask.