When considering your means of transportation from one place to the next, traveling by a bus or a train offers many advantages. First of all, you can see the view – not just your starting point and destination – but everything in between as well. Second, someone else is doing the driving, so it’s one less thing for you to worry about. Instead, you can focus on your work, reading or anything else you’d want to do during those precious hours. And finally, it’s a great way to meet new people, just for one casual conversation, or for a life-long friendship. So now that you’re convinced about trading in those plane tickets, here are some safety and general tips for long bus and train rides.
Before you get on the ride
Schedules may get delayed and things can go wrong along the way, so make sure to take it into account to avoid a stressful ride. Try not to make plans to be somewhere at specific hour. You want to be able to travel with a clear mind.
It’s a matter of personal preference. On trains, it’s much easier to communicate with people and to work or read (as the ride is much smoother). It’s also safer, most often than not. But on the down side, sometimes trains can actually be slower than buses and they’re usually more expensive. So you should decide what is more important to you what picking one over the other.
Bus and train tickets usually only get more expensive when nearing departure, and sometimes become unavailable. If you don’t want to get stuck in one location, you should always reserve.
If you travel extensively, check for monthly passes that could save you extensive amounts of money. Return ticket fares are usually cheaper than one way – so if you’re coming back, always buy those. And also check for special discounts – for students, seniors, nurses, government workers, hostel memberships, car rental memberships, etc.
During Thursdays and weekends a lot of people are visiting touristic resorts, so buses and trains will be packed. If you like your space and comfort, you may want to travel on weekdays.
Like choosing between bus and train, this is also a matter of personal preference. During the daytime you can see the scenery and also get a good night’s sleep in a hotel. However, if you’re on a tight budget, you can travel by night and save on accommodation. If it’s only a matter of saving time, you can pay a premium price and get a bed on trains (even some buses may have them, in India, for example).
You can do that either at the terminal, or use Google search and navigate to the company’s official website. This will help you avoid scams and much higher prices.
The duration of a trip varies wildly according to routes and whether it’s direct/express or local. The travel could take four hours on the express bus which leaves at 16:15, and eight on the one that leaves at 16:30 – so it’s always worth checking carefully. You can shave precious hours off your ride.
But we’re not just talking about the app. Download the maps of your route and destination in advance, so they’ll be available offline. That way, you won’t be dependent on cell-connection. Also know exactly where your final stop is and where you need to go from there.
This goes for any other electronic you need to be using, like tablet or laptop. Youu don’t want to reach your destination without a phone, when you need to use the map or make a phone call.
At least 30 minutes before the train or bus departs, especially if you’re not sure where to board or where the station is. Plus, if you don’t have an assigned seat, arriving late can sometimes mean getting stuck with the worst seat (near the toilet or a screaming baby) or even standing during the entire ride!
Do this before the bus or train leaves. It sounds like a simple advice, but you don’t know when you’ll get to go next, so better go while you can.
What to bring to the ride
- Snacks and a lot of water, and make sure you drink it so you don’t get dehydrate. Recommend snacks are fruits, sandwiches and nuts – they’re filling and easy to carry. Also, you should consider having extra candies and presents for locals, in case you strike a conversation on board.
- Something to read or do depending on your hobbies – knitting, music, movies, podcasts, etc. If you want to do some work on board, don’t count on the internet. Prepare your work for an offline environment.
- Have money available. There may not be any ATM’s where the bus stops.
- Prepare for every type of weather. It changes during the day and around different places. Also, the air conditioner levels are forever unpredictable. Dress in layers, with comfortable clothes and shoes.
- A small inflatable neck pillow can do wonders. Some even bring earplugs and an eye mask. For a night ride, you’d also want to bring toilet paper, tooth brush and tooth paste. It makes all of the difference in the morning.
- Take your passport, even if you don’t intend on crossing between countries. You never want to be away from it for too long.
During the ride
You can make good friends who can also help you with necessary information and things that may come up. If you’re not sure how to start a conversation, just ask a question about something you need and see if people are in mood to speak.
Being disconnected is a gift – read, meditate, be aware of your surroundings, smile.
Don’t pull your seat down if you don’t have to. Be in a good mood. Don’t travel when you’re sick – you’ll just be miserable, and get everyone else sick as well. Let couples sit together. If old people are standing, give them your seat. Don’t occupy two seats if it’s getting full. Let people get off before you board.
You don’t want to start looking through your bag and be embarrassed when the conductor comes for inspection. Also keep the baggage receipt in a safe place – this is everything you own.
Make sure you know how many you get, when they are and especially, how long they are – so you can plan ahead and not get left behind. Leave something invaluable on your seat to mark it as taken.
Make sure to let someone tell you when you arrive, if you’re not getting off at the final stop, or better yet, check your Google Maps from time to time. It can get confusing, as some big cities have several stops, and one may be much better for you (if you’re not sure, pick the central one).
Do this while you’re on the bus or train, and also use the stops for walking. Those long, stationary rides are not good for your health, and may even be lethal.
Safety on board
Pick your seat in the middle of the bus or towards rear. The same goes for trains. During an accident, the middle part is statistically the safest.
This is very important on long rides, especially if it’s a crowded ride. Consider using a bike lock when needed to secure your bag, keep it close to you at all times, and never out of your sight. Keep valuables with you and not checked-in with the baggage.
Try to sit where you can keep an eye on your suitcase. If you checked it in, try sneaking a peek, during stops, to make sure it’s still there. This is not as necessary with high quality companies, though.
In accident-prone areas, you should pick the best company to travel with. You can do that by checking with locals and forums, and paying a little extra. Not only it is safer, but it will also decrease the chances of delays and the bus breaking down along the way, simply because their staff and vehicle quality is better.
If a place is called “the death road” or known to have rebels attacking travelers, you should consider changing course or taking a flight instead.
When you pick who you sit with, if you don’t have an assigned seat, you should just go with your gut. Sit next to someone who looks nice, and may be talkative and make the ride more pleasant.
Some of the best things in life can happen when you’re moving from one place to the next. So if you just prepare, with those simple tips for long bus and train rides, you can hit the road with a clear mind and enjoy the journey – come what may.