Between Places: Bus Travel Part 2—surviving overnight long-distance bus rides

I don’t fancy taking flights to cross cities if there was a reasonably-priced overnight bus option for the same route. I think short flights are a waste of time; you have to spend at least 2 hours before the flight to travel to the airport, go through check-in and security, before finally waiting for boarding and take-off.

Then after your plane lands, another 2 hours doing the same thing in the opposite direction.

Not to mention, the tough airline regulations to abide by when packing. It’s also especially cumbersome if you’re flying without checked luggage.

Bus travel on the other hand is a whole lot easier. Show your ticket, load your luggage, board the bus. You can go to sleep or watch some shows or eat your weight in snacks.

My favourite part is waking up in the countryside at sunrise, these sights really refresh me since we don’t get to see much greenery when hopping from city to city.

Not that I don’t like cities, but they can be such an assault on (all) your senses sometimes. (I’m looking at you, Marrakesh.)

1. Shower before you go to the bus station.

We stayed in mostly private rooms we found on Airbnb this trip, where check-out times are usually 12 noon. We have been lucky in meeting hosts who are chill with letting us leave our bags in the hall after check-out. We pick them up in the evening before going to the bus station.

But we are so thick-skinned that we also ask to use their showers before we leave. Trust me, this shamelessness is WORTH IT. There’s nothing better than to wash off that summer sticky sweatiness and change into fresh clothes before an overnighter.

2. If you can’t shower, wipe.

There were times where hosts were not flexible/able to let us overstay our welcome and this is when wet wipes became our bootleg showers. Of course it’s not as shiok (Singlish for pleasant) as  a real shower, but it’s better than nothing.

(BTW, Biore has these wet wipes with powder that will leave your skin feeling fresh AND matte. I used them when I stayed back late to study in JC. Didn’t see them in Europe, though.)

I would also suggest using a hankie (wet wipes contribute to a lot of waste, sigh) but it’s a bit hard to dry them while on the bus. If you choose the hankie road, kudos to you.

3. Pack a bus bag.

We each have a big backpack and share a wheelie luggage as well as a duffel bag. We designated the duffel as our bus bag and leave the rest in the luggage hold.

We pack our essentials in this bus bag, such as my scarf (to use as a blanket), our pillows, my skincare bag, water and snacks.

We didn’t have this bus bag “system” on our first few bus rides and I was always missing out on some snack in my backpack or a lip balm.

I also bring my tech bag on board (containing my cameras, portable chargers, external hard disk, spare SD cards and earphones) for doing work or watching movies. I also feel better knowing that my valuables are with me instead of potentially getting stolen in the hold.

Thankfully, we haven’t encountered any theft on our overnight buses.

I truly believe in this bus bag system, I think I might write a more comprehensive post about packing a bus bag.

4. Stay hydrated.

Your mother is never wrong. Since there’s a toilet on board, feel free to drink as much as you like. No need to wait for a pit-stop to use the bathroom.

5. Try to sleep.

I know it’s not the most comfortable of sleeping arrangements but do try to catch some shut-eye. You will need to feel rested enough tot tackle a new public transport system in the morning. Hunting down your Airbnb location can prove to be really challenging sometimes.

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