12 Long-Distance Bus Travel Tips (for car people)

I’ve been on a bus more often this past month or so than I have for the past decade. Whilst naturally traumatic for the petrol head, I’ve collected together some tips of how to make use of shared automotive transport less terrible.

(The photo below was taken from a bus, because who wants to see a picture of one?!)


  • There are other people on a bus, you have not been hijacked. This is normal on public transport; and takes some getting used to.



  • Hydrate. Constantly. You don’t want to get to your destination and feel like a sloth on a lazy day. If you need to problem solve on arrival, you can’t let your brain become a raisin en route. This applies especially to those who aren’t morning people, and always arrive at the bus last minute in a pool of sweat.



  • Remember what your mother told you at the services: “Go now, even if you think that you don’t need to.”. You always need to (if you followed the last step properly), you’ll be glad you did when the loo is broken on the bus…


View from the service stop in Woss, BC.
View from the service stop in Woss, BC.


  • Take healthy snacks. This seems like a given, but being so used to just traveling with a credit card (and claiming back expenses where possible), I only realised how expensive service stop food is when I was on a budget. They’re also infrequent, which leads to unhealthy choices; if you’re starving at a 15 minute rest stop, you’re getting the first take-away you see.



  • Take a coat or fleece onboard. “But it’s air conditioned!” I hear you cry. It’s not for that; when you want to nap (and on an 8hr+ journey, you will nap) the rapid percussion of skull on plate glass is a recipe for a nice cranial bruise. Your coat is your cushion. In addition, at layovers on the Greyhound you have to be off the bus, and sometimes the waiting areas at remote terminals aren’t that cozy. That and in Canada, you might be boarding in sunshine, and alighting in snow.



  • Sit glass-side. For the napping. Some buses don’t have armrests on both sides, so if you nap aisle-side, you’ll wake up as you fall out of your seat on a tight bend. I’m not saying this has ever happened to me…



  • Research your route, if you like a view. This is straying into the “planning not traveling” domain a little, but if you’ve got a few spare minutes at the bus depot, use it to check for potential prettiness on the way, then sit on the side of the bus that will get the best views.



  • Sit mid-glass. This is for two reasons: you’ll get a better view of what ever is out there to the side, and you’ll have somewhere to rest your head that doesn’t have a sharp edge on it, as the pillars often do.



  • Get over your fear of bus toilets. If there is one and it’s working, use it. I’ve sat with people that have refrained form conversation for hours waiting for a rest stop, trying to focus their mind through the internal damage happening to them. I find this hilarious, as fortunately I can go anywhere (#TMI..). If you are sat next to one of those people, try to make them laugh.



  • [Bonus tip] If you’re prone to travel sickness, sit on the rear axle. Whilst this will be noisier as you’re nearer the engine, you won’t get flung around as much on twisty mountain roads as you’re at the pivot when the bus steers. You also get a wider field of vision out of the front and sides peripherally as you look toward the front of the bus, which I’ve also heard helps. (This one’s a bonus as I can’t confirm; I don’t do travel sickness.)



  • [Canada-specific tip] Pre-connect your phone/tablet to fast food restaurants and cafés. If you’re on a mainland route, you might have WiFi and and a power socket. Cool! You’re sorted! If not, look out for A&W burger restaurants, Starbucks, Tim Horton’s and to a lesser extent, KFC whenever the bus stops – Greyhound depots tend to be near retail parks that have these. Some depots have free WiFi too, so that’s another option. They usually have free WiFi that spills out into the surrounding area, so if your phone already recognises the names of the hotspots you can save precious seconds syncing before the bus drives out of range again.



  • [Blogging-specific tip] Use the right mobile apps to remain productive whilst you’re offline. I use Pocket to buffer articles to read later (stripped out articles sync automatically for offline reading), Falcon Pro and Evernote for writing things like this blog post when there’s no signal. Instagram let’s you take photos whilst you’re offline, so if you see something cool, take a photo and just hit the spinny refresh thing later on when you’re back on the grid. If you’re a traveling smartphone addict, be sure to check out the post on my essential travel apps.


One Reply to “12 Long-Distance Bus Travel Tips (for car people)”

  1. Liking your blog posts matt, this one is particularly helpful in the general travelling sense and your apps one.

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