The Long Way Down. Bus rides: how to cope

The Long Way Down. Bus rides: how to cope The Great Indian Traveller by rAmmoRRison

This article was written by Global Graduates, published on 13th July 2010 and has been read 21379 times.

Travelling on long bus rides (or flights) can be a little depressing, and take some getting used to. That’s ok, the sceptics will say, the ticket says ‘10+ hours’ - more than enough time to get used to the idea. Or not. So what do you pack for such a meaningful trip?
Well, being a bus connoisseur (Salta to Santiago, 24 hours of Argentine buses and dodgy toilets) myself, these trips have taught me well. Lack of sleep, a distinct look of boredom when scrolling through my MP3 only to discover that I’d heard all my favourite albums at least 12 times, and a rekindled relationship with drool for company, have all prompted me to name my top travel essentials for trips along the Andes or the Himalayas. Or across the Autoroute du Soleil. Whether you’re booked for a First class experience, or lodging your behind on ‘clase turista’ (that famous euphemism for 4th class), here’s some stuff you should consider taking with thee...

1) Earplugs

Time for a show by Slightly NorthNot the fanciest of pieces, but a damn sight better than headphones. Also a bit of an awkward so and so to get in and out, but boy do they do the job when your neighbour’s bringing in everything but the kitchen sink with him on board, and he’s just realised at 2AM he fancies some crisps and a natter to the wifey back home in some unrecognisable lingo and lots of impromptu (and rather noisy) grunts and suchlike. Yep, that’s a small price to pay for peace and quiet. You may even decide that leaving them in for a day or two, on or off buses, might prove handy.

2) Toilet paper 
Freedom is a toilet tissue by ruSSeLL hiGGsEver heard the expression ‘it’s all sh*ts and giggles’? The guy who came up with that was clearly into toilet humour. You don’t have to be. Immodium can take a while to kick in, and besides, when you gotta go, you gotta go. There’s nothing more depressing than unloading your baggage (take from that what you will) and realising - with an air of despair, frustration and possibly an ironically befitting expletive spurted out - there’s no Andrex. If you’re saving the pennies (but still spending them in the loo), pick up some serviettes at a restaurant. BEFORE getting on any moving contraption.

3) A zip-up hoodie or sweater
For some God forsaken reason, bus drivers seem to think you need to cool down on sleepover buses. Take my advice - travelling in shorts, flip-flops, and a rather pretty-yet-totally-inappropriate-for-8-degrees T-shirt will forever be tattooed in my mind as one of the coldest nights known to Man. The Alpacas shed their wool for a reason, make sure you keep that reason very close to you when it comes to beddy-byes.

4) Seats
Muni Bus Interior, Circa 1947 by Troy HoldenYou don’t need to pack these, but make sure you pick them carefully. Mid-bus means you won’t get the full choice of in-house food (if it’s a First class ticket to your final destination) and the back of the bus is a big no-go. Toilets flapping open and swinging through vertically challenging bends are not for the faint hearted. Worth the experience once, but never, ever again. Pick the front, or close to it. Plus you might even get to catch some of the badly dubbed films on show, if you ask the attendant nicely.

5) Baby wipes
This is not a baby wipe by pheezyThey’re not just for those giggling babies, as their mother softly wipes them clean. You can be that happy too, although we strongly advise you do the job yourself, and not ask the rather well-endowed female stranger next to you for help. Make-up, grit, dirt or just to smell nice(r), these are an essential, regardless of whether you’ve got hairs on your chest or mascara on your cheek.

6) Toothbrush
Morning after? We don’t need to say anymore.

7) Passport
You never know when you might get stop-checked.

8) Reading, music, notebooks and a pen
If You Could Read These Black Lines by shifty eyes.It doesn’t have to be a page-turner, you might just like to bring something so horrifically boring it’ll send you straight to sleep. Or, on the contrary, you might want to jump into a romantic bit of literature as you’re going past flat fields. Same goes for notebooks and pens - you never know, your best travel writing/idea/rant might float along your neurons ready to be put onto paper as you travel through the jungle. Music can also help set the mood/inspire your mind to wander - make playlists ahead to suit the trip, or just made up of what you’re into at the time. And don’t forget to charge the thing first, though - your battery running out 2 hours in is not much fun.

9) Food and snacks
Tour Eiffel Snack Bento by Sakurako KitsaI once travelled with a friend of mine, who refused to board our bus (despite the fact it was leaving in 2 minutes), because we didn’t have any food. She chose well, as we stepped on with a couple of chocolate bars and some fried chicken (she didn’t choose too well on that last piece - but it was all that was left at 11.30pm), and the bus left a little later than expected, working on a Mexican schedule. You might not be so lucky - either with the chicken, or the belated bus departure. Make sure you plan accordingly, and get something to munch on (and drink on) a little while before your travelling takes off to stave off travel sickness. Nuts, fruits, sandwiches, crisps, anything will do, but bring something that isn’t too messy, and something else to wash it all down with. You never know if stop-overs are included on the route, so it’s best to bring something to pick on, if it’s going to be a long journey. Remember: when hunger strikes in foreign lands, the Shreddies monster doesn’t come running to help...

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