Everything You Need to Know About Getting Around Your Destination by Bus During Your Trip
Traveling by bus is a popular way for locals and travelers alike to get around various different countries all over the world. Bus companies generally connect major cities with smaller towns and typically run 24/7. This inexpensive mode of transportation is available to travelers in most destinations around the world, so understanding how to make the most of bus travel will help you have a smooth, hassle-free experience navigating an unfamiliar destination. Our bus travel guide will set you up for success, so keep reading!
Bus travel is the lowest cost option, and you can bring your own food and beverages. During the day, traveling by bus gives you an opportunity to see more of the country in which you’re traveling, while bus travel at night means you can relax (and in some cases, maybe even save money on a night of accommodation).
Before heading off for your next trip, read this take in-depth bus travel guide, and learn everything you need to know before experiencing the wonderful world of bus travel.
Bus Travel Guide Navigation Menu
General Bus Travel Information
Bus Travel Tips by Country or Region
Advantages of Bus Travel
While it does have some downsides, bus travel certainly offers a few advantages. Let’s learn about them below.
It’s one of the most cost-effective forms of transport
One amazing aspect of traveling by bus is that it is usually the most cost-effective. Typically, bus travel allows you to go further for a lower price.
Bus fare can be incredibly inexpensive when purchased in advance, with some trip tickets being as low as $10 or $20.
Book ahead of time or at the last minute
Bus travel is generally on a schedule. This allows you to purchase your ticket ahead of time if necessary so you can plan out your itinerary.
As a result, you can often book at the last minute. That’s a great feature when it comes to flexibility.
Choose your seat
Although this is not the truth for all bus services, on many bus journeys you can pick your seat during purchase. When you get to choose your seat, you know you can sit with family and friends (or your preferred section of the bus).
Depending on where you’re traveling (and how safe it is), you might consider traveling at night so you can sleep on your bus. You can save money on a night of accommodation, or get some rest before your next destination.
Quick check in
Unlike traveling by plane, bus travel does not usually require a check in, and if it does it is usually quick. This allows you to arrive right before your bus leaves and waste less time at the station waiting around.
Generous luggage allowance
Usually there are no luggage regulations when traveling by bus. You won’t have to pay for extra baggage. You’ll also be able to bring a few extra bags if you need to.
Bus stations are centrally located
Most airports are far away from the city center and require an expensive taxi into the city. Bus stations are usually closer to the center and allow you to get to your destination more quickly.
Disadvantages of Bus Travel
For all its advantages, bus travel does have some disadvantages.
Can’t always choose your seat
Although many bus companies do allow you to pick your seats, this is not always the case. In the event you cannot pick your seats you might be seated away from friends and family, or seated in an undesirable location.
Bus journeys usually take longer than other forms of travel.
It is also much easier for busses to be delayed than plane or train travel. They also often break down.
This is something you need to take into account when taking a bus.
Bus can be full
If you do decide to book last minute, there is a higher chance the bus will be full than you would find with other modes of transportation. Many busses have fewer seats.
Won’t always travel directly to your destination
Bus travel often requires a few connections. This means you may need to take multiple busses to get to your destination. If you rent a car, you have full control over where you go.
Fewer services and amenities
Although some buses do provide food, you’re not as likely to get a meal as you would on a plane or train. Additionally, busses might not even include a restroom! Make sure to ask about this before you embark on your journey.
Busses are not known to be the most comfortable form of travel. If you have your heart set on a reclining seat or foot rest, make sure you confirm they’ll be included before you buy your ticket.
Safety Tips for Traveling by Bus
Even though bus travel is typically quite safe, there are certain precautions you should take to stay as safe as possible.
Check that the route is known to be safe
Before traveling by bus you should see if the route is known for accidents. If so, you should avoid traveling on it at night. Additionally, you should check whether there are bus robberies in the area.
Choose your seat wisely (if you can)
If you are able to choose your seat then take a few things into consideration. The window might allow you to sleep better and feel a bit more secure. Whereas the aisle can allow taller people to stretch their legs.
You also might want to consider the area of the bus you are in. The front is known for being good to those who get car sick. Meanwhile, the back is known for being bumpy. The middle of the bus is generally the safest part of the bus.
Hide valuables in a few places
Whether you keep your money in your wallet or in your sock, when riding on a bus try to separate your cards, cash and any other valuables. In the event you are robbed, you may be able to salvage more than you would if everything is in one place.
Wear your seatbelt (if available)
If you have the option to wear a seatbelt, do it! You’ll be glad you did if there’s an accident.
You may not be able to purchase water during a long bus trip. Bring water with you to avoid this.
How to Buy a Bus Ticket
There are two main methods of purchasing a bus ticket:
- At the station
Online can be a very convenient method as you can do it in advance. Unfortunately, buying bus tickets online isn’t always possible.
If the only option is buying your tickets at the station, you may have to pay in cash, so make sure you have enough on you.
Traveling by Bus with Luggage
Here are some essential tips for when you bring luggage on your bus trip.
Check the luggage allowance
Although many busses do not have a luggage allowance, make sure you check the rules of the bus company you plan to travel with.
Watch your luggage as it goes under the bus
Some bus companies offer a receipt for your luggage when placing it in the underneath compartment of the bus. Other companies simply place your luggage underneath the bus and expect you to collect it after.
Bring all valuables and documents onto the bus with you
Make sure to keep everything valuable close to you on the trip. This includes your passport and ticket as well as any valuables you brought with you.
Label your luggage
Mistakes happen! If your luggage gets lose but has your name and address on it, you’re less likely to lose it forever.
In case of theft
If your luggage is stolen, first report it to the authorities. It may not be an actual theft but an accident.
What to Pack for a Bus Trip
Traveling by bus is often a tedious journey, but there are a few essentials that will make any bus journey much more manageable and enjoyable.
Scarf or blanket
If you are taking a bus that has air conditioning you may consider yourself lucky, until you are three hours into a freezing cold bus ride.
The A/C is often raised extremely high, so it would be in your best interest to bring a large scarf or a small blanket with you. You can also bring a sleeping bag liner for overnight journeys.
Travel pillow, ear plugs, and facemask
A travel pillow will improve any journey, especially on a bus. Whether you bring an inflatable or a cloth neck pillow, combining this with ear plugs and a facemask will allow you to sleep much more easily.
Wear something comfortable
Remember, busses tend to be quite cramped. It’s a good idea to wear comfortable clothes, especially if you’re have to sleep while you’re on the road.
Bring snacks (and water)
Most busses do not have food, so you should come prepared with your own snacks.
Here are some examples of popular foods to bring on a bus journey. Make sure to bring some bottled water, too.
- A to-go meal (along with a beverage)
Unless you get lucky with a bus that provides Wi-Fi, you should make sure to have entertainment loaded up on your phone or tablet device. This might mean downloading some of your favorite shows, movies, and games.
You should also make sure your headphones and devices are charged. Bring a portable charger too, if you can.
Download an offline GPS app
Since your phone might not always work in every country you travel to, download an offline map app such as “Maps.me.” This will allow you to monitor how close you are to your stop.
Hand sanitizer, wipes, and tissues
Tissues are great for bathroom stops when toilet paper is not available.
Hand sanitizer and wipes are also handy for when there is no soap or you need to quickly clean your hands.
About Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tours
Hop-on-hop-off bus tours are a fun and cheap way to explore a new city.
With hop-on-hop-off bus tours, you generally pay for a pass for a specified route. You can often purchase these far in advance and then book closer to your departure.
On a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, your driver is generally your tour guide as well as travel agent. You should show this person your ticket as you board.
Throughout the day on your hop-on-hop-off tour, you should be offered many options to use the toilet or purchase a refreshment. Some hop-on-hop-off tours have multiple busses going on the same route, and if you have that advantage, you can spend as much time as you like at each stop.
There is the option to have a quick tour packed with activities, or a slow and relaxed day as well.
Recap: The Basic Principles of Bus Travel
Traveling by bus is not the same in every country, but there are certain tips that will help out everywhere. Here they are below.
Utilize the Extras
Whether this is to use your free Wi-Fi or the reclining seats, find the aspects of the bus that can make your trip the most comfortable. This might also include the ability to pick your seat, or simply arriving early to snag the front window.
Track Your Trip
Use either your phone’s GPS or another form of map. This will allow you to be aware of your surroundings and know when it is your time to get off the bus.
Bring Charging Cables and Charge Your Devices In Advance
Not all busses have charging ports onboard.
Make sure to bring your charging cables, but also be sure to charge all your devices ahead of time. This includes headphones.
Wear Layers and Bring a Blanket
Always bring a blanket and wear layers of clothing. You never know what the temperature will be like on board.
Bring an Eye Mask (and Even Ear Plugs)
Bring your earplugs and an eye mask if you plan to get some sleep.
Bring a Night Light or Head Torch
If you would rather stay awake on a night bus, bring a night light or head torch to be able to read or do activities
Bring change. If you want the opportunity to purchase items along the way bring some cash.
Stay Calm and Be Ready for Anything
Remember that a bus journey is more prone to delays.
This could mean a flat tire or an engine issue. Keep a good attitude, and be ready to embrace any issues or part of the journey that can occur while traveling by bus.
Tips for Taking a Bus in the USA
Traveling by bus within the USA is a popular and affordable way to get from one location to the next. The buses within the United States usually offer Wi-Fi, comfortable reclining seats, and onboard bathrooms.
Well known bus companies in the USA include:
Purchase in advance
You can generally save money by purchasing your tickets in advance. Visit the relevant bus company’s website.
Ride during the day to view more of the scenery
There is beautiful scenery in many states in the United States. Traveling during the day allows you to view gorgeous mountains, forests, lakes, and even city lights.
The best way to get through a bus trip in the U.S is by bringing healthy snacks such as fruit, nuts, or pre-packaged snacks, like energy bars. You might even be able to pick up a sandwich or salad at one of the rest stops, but don’t forget bottled water to stay hydrated.
Dress for the climate
Since there are several different climates around the United States, it is important to dress for the climate you plan to end up in. You can also bring layers in case the bus is cold, or if you are starting in one climate but moving to another.
In the US seats are assigned on a first-come, first-serve basis. Make sure to arrive at least one hour before your bus is scheduled to leave in order to get the seat of your choice.
Tips for Taking a Bus in Costa Rica
Long distance busses are very nice in Costa Rica with reclining seats and often air conditioning. The smaller local buses can get a bit uncomfortable, but they are quite cheap and better than walking.
Get on in the front and pay the driver at that time
The price for your bus should be listed in the local currency on the window.
Do not put your bags on the top shelf
This makes it very easy to slide bags towards the back and eventually steal them. Keep your bag next to you or under your feet if possible.
Keep an eye on suitcases below the bus at every stop
If you have a big suitcase it is inevitable that you will need to place it underneath the bus. Make sure you keep an eye on that side of the bus at every stop to avoid your bag being stolen.
Tips for Taking a Bus in Ireland
Traveling by bus in Ireland isn’t specifically luxurious, but it’s certainly budget friendly. Most connections are available between major cities.
Long-distance buses are reliable and comfortable. Local busses are known for delays and occasional breakdowns but are still an inexpensive way to travel while on a budget.
Book ahead of time
Long distance busses can be booked ahead of time via the BusEireann website.
Most long-distance busses offer Wi-Fi, but you should download any media you want to watch ahead of time. Reserve the free Wi-Fi for chatting or surfing the web.
Catching a local bus
To catch a local bus you will need to wave at the bus driver as it approaches. If you do not wave, the bus will not stop.
Ask about discounts
There may be available discounts for students, seniors, or tourists. Always ask about possible discounts.
Tips for Taking a Bus in Spain
Busses are a preferred method of travel within Spain, and they allow you to see many parts of the country at a low price.
Main bus companies in Spain
- Bus Almeria Madrid BAM
- Comes, Conda
- La Serrana
- La Union
Upgrade if you can afford it
Most buses in Spain offer multiple class options which can really improve your traveling experience. Specifically while riding on ALSA, the largest bus company in Spain, you can choose from the following options:
- Premium: Luggage control, special menus, touch-screens for entertainment, free Wi-Fi, plugs, baby seats and bottle warmers, and door-to-door pickup service.
- Supra+: Free WiFi, additional travel security, free bottles of water, child care service, baggage control and service, catering and drinks, leather seats with leg rests, a hostess, and gifts.
- Supra Economy: Free Wi-Fi, additional travel security, and free bottles of water.
- Eurobus: Preferential treatment, fast embarking, and free bottles of water.
Tips for Taking a Bus in Europe (countries we haven’t mentioned)
When taking the bus in Europe you are given the opportunity to travel at a great price, with no luggage fees. The major bus company in Europe is Flixbus.
Purchase in advance
In order to secure your ticket at a great price go on to the Flixbus website and purchase in advance. This might allow you to pick your seat ahead of time as well.
Cancel or change your ticket
If you need to cancel or change your ticket, you can do so through the website. This is usually only for the cost of 1 euro and can be done up to 15 minutes before departure.
Dress in layers
You do not want to be too cold or too warm during your bus travel.
Maybe the A/C is blasting or you’re heading to a cold destination. Be sure to wear layers and bring an extra sweater or scarf.
Bring some cash
Since most of the time you are able to buy snacks or drinks on the bus, you may want to bring a bit of cash to make it easy to do so.
Bring your charging cables
Since most European busses are equipped with Wi-Fi, make sure to bring your charging cables to be able to plug your devices in on the trip.
Make sure to arrive 15 minutes before departure, and have your passport and your ticket ready to go.
Know your baggage policy
Regarding baggage, you will be allowed one small carry-on and two pieces of large luggage. Make sure these are marked with your name and address, and be sure to put your valuables in your carry on.
Tips for Taking a Bus in Mexico
Mexico has a great network of buses that are generally comfortable and connect cities to smaller parts of the country. Many cities and towns have one main bus terminal from which all long-distance buses operate.
Main bus companies in Mexico
Busses can be robbed
One way to avoid being on a bus that is robbed is by splurging for a deluxe or 1st-class bus. You can also ride during the day.
Place baggage in the baggage hold
You should receive a receipt for your baggage after you place it in the hold. Be sure to keep your valuables with you.
Bring a blanket or layers
Although Mexico is known for being warm, the buses are typically air conditioned. Either wear layers or bring a blanket with you.
Bring an eye mask and ear plugs
Most buses play music videos or movies the entire trip. Bring an eye-mask and earplugs if you prefer to sleep.
Tips for Taking a Bus in New Zealand
Travelling by bus is a great way to see a lot of the country while in New Zealand. You get to meet locals and possibly make new friends.
Book in the slow season
The slow season is from April to August. Generally, it is cheaper to purchase bus passes during this time. Just make sure that you activate your pass within one year.
Look for views
Oftentimes there might be a better side to sit on the bus in order to have the best view. You can ask the driver which is the best side so you can see the best views.
See if lunch is included
Although sometimes lunch might be included, other times it won’t be. Make sure to pack lunch on the bus for trips that have not included it.
Pick your seat wisely
Avoid sitting near the toilet as it can be smelly on long trips.
Do not be late
Although buses aren’t always on time in New Zealand, make sure to be on time as the bus will not wait for you.
Tips for Taking a Bus in India
Taking busses in India should only be done by those who are ready for an adventure and not expecting comforts.
Prepare for anything
In some cases you may be asked to get out of the bus to make a sharp turn, or be asked to help push the bus. If you are traveling by bus in India prepare for anything.
Typically you cannot buy ahead, so you will need to simply show up early and purchase from the driver’s helper.
Keep your belongings close
Theft can happen anywhere. Keep your bag close to you at all times. On a sleeper bus you can choose to place your bag behind your head or below your bed.
Wear appropriate clothes
You may have air conditioning or you may not. Be prepared for either option so you are not freezing cold or overheated.