If it were up to me, I would travel exclusively by train and first class flights. Unfortunately it’s not up to me; it’s up to my wallet. Well, that’s not entirely true either. If it were exclusively up to my wallet, I would be walking and hitchhiking a lot more frequently. When I can’t find flights on budget airlines or early bird deals on train tickets, my RFID blocking wallet and I are forced to compromise. This compromise usually results in me taking some ridiculous cross-continent trip on a bus. Most North Americans are familiar enough with Greyhound to stay away from it unless absolutely necessary. Having taken multiple trips from California to Georgia, I can relate, and while I promised never to do it again, the reality is that I travel by bus more often than I would like.
In Europe, you can travel to virtually any major European (or Moroccan) city by bus using Eurolines. It’s a long haul, but it’s inexpensive, reliable and you don’t have to pay if you go over the weight limit for luggage. The downside is that it’s a really long haul and sleeping on a bus isn’t exactly the high point of comfort.
Here are a few tips to ensure you maintain your sanity while spending 10+ hours on a bus.
No, seriously. BRING HEADPHONES. I know this probably goes without saying since almost everyone has an mp3 player or a smartphone that they never leave home without. Still, make sure you have something with you. You might luck out and sit next to someone who is interesting, funny, and engaging. Or you might sit next to someone who does not know when to keep their mouth shut and will read over your shoulder and steal your snacks. Bring headphones. Sunglasses and a hat are a good idea too. Just saying.
Wear comfy shoes
Wear shoes that you can slip on and off easily. The bus will generally stop every few hours at a gas station or rest stop to enable passengers to walk around, use the restroom, and grab some snacks at the convenience store. You don’t want to spend any of your precious 15 minutes trying to wrestle your shoes on and off.
Though some of the bus stations are in the city center or near the main train station, some of them are out of the way so make sure you do a little bit of research and figure out where you’re going to need to go once you arrive. It doesn’t hurt to make friends on the bus ride who are from the city or who know exactly where they’re going. Tag along with them.
I don’t care if you have to elbow people out of the way, try to get a window seat. Often the buses will be empty enough that you can get two seats for yourself. Either way you don’t want to miss out on having something to lean up against when trying to sleep. While it’s nice to be able to stretch your legs out into the aisle, it’s better to be able to wad up a jacket into a pillow and snuggle up to a pane of glass. Trust me.
Keep Toiletries Handy
It’s nice to be able to wash your face or brush your teeth at various rest stops throughout the journey. If you have room, throw in some baby wipes
Invest in a Map
For the longer hauls, it’s always fun to track your progress as you move from country to country.