5 Tips for Long Distance Bus Travel

As a student who attends university 11 hours from home, I spend a lot of time travelling long-distance. And being a student means that I have more time than money, so flying is not an option. Bus transport may be slow but it’s affordable, and I’ve learned how to keep my sanity and my luggage from going AWOL. By Holly Allison.

Here are my top 5 tips to surviving long-distance bus journeys:

1.  Luggage

A throwback to my first bus trip featured me being asked, “Grahamstown to Durban?” I innocently replied “yes” and placed my bag with all the others. Fast forward to a road two hours outside Port Shepstone where I was summoned by the attendant to go see the bus driver. I was sternly told that I should have put my bag in the compartment allocated for passengers getting off before Durban station. The result? My family and the disgruntled bus passengers waited over 15 minutes for the attendant to rummage around in the trailer for my luggage.

Tip: Understand the difference between your destination and where you place your bag.

2.  Motion Sickness

I suffer from motion sickness – in the elevator, in the car, and unfortunately, in the bus. During my first few trips, I had no way of dealing with this so I would keep my eyes closed, ensure minimal usage of my phone and try to sleep.

Tip: Chew gum. To my mind, chewing bubble gum keeps pressure from building up in my face and keeps my thoughts off the motion.

On a more scientific note, the gum gets your saliva production going which neutralises stomach acid and keeps nausea at bay. I don’t recommend chewing gum on an empty stomach though because that can have an even worse effect. If you struggle eating on the bus, I find snacking regularly on something light like fruit or an energy bar not too hectic, and will also help fight motion sickness.

3.  Entertainment

Travelling, especially long distance, means there’s a lot to watch. Besides the passing countryside, if you’re lucky, there will be good movies to watch. If not, you may end up watching Red Bull competitions on repeat with a brief interlude of adverts for each of South Africa’s provincial tourism attractions. Due to overly loud volume settings of bus speakers (if not broken altogether), a headache is bound to ensue.

Tip:  Learn to lip read. It will help you keep track of the movie and avoid a headache.

4.  Passengers

There’s always some interesting characters on bus journeys. However, being in such close proximity for a long time can get frustrating. There is often a loud passenger who recounts their trip and lunch choices loudly down the phone. There may also be the unintentionally noisy passenger who receives an assaulting ‘ping’ on Watsapp every few minutes. Travelling by bus also requires a sound ‘chat radar’ for the person next to you. It’s important to strike a good balance between talking and quiet.  Then there’s the silent type who only nod as they awkwardly shuffle past your knees to get across to the aisle. Nevertheless, you’re together for a good few hours so be ready for anything and keep calm.

Tip:  There’s always someone on the bus who really wants to talk, so it’s up to you to strike a healthy balance between conversation, sleep and staring out the window.

5.  Sleep

Sleep is useful for passing the time but rigid bus seats can make this somewhat uncomfortable. Your seat’s location is important so try to choose a window seat and bring along a neck pillow to ensure at least a couple of hours of shut eye. If you’re someone who manages to sleep easily on a bus, the night coach may be your best option but, if not, a day trip can be more interesting for staring out the window.

Tip:  Avoid sleeping with your head on the aisle side, it will get hit by one of the following: a leg, a bag or a child.

Travelling long-distance by bus is a cheaper option to flying and although it may take much longer, at least your feet don’t need to leave the ground. I also find it simpler as it saves a lift to the airport (and my parents the bother of a two-hour drive to pick me up). In the end, you will reach your destination.

About the author: Holly Anderson is a Christian third-year student at Rhodes University where she studies Journalism & Media Studies and Drama. Holly is the News Features Editor at The Oppidan Press and has a blog called A Normal Affliction.

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