TIPS: How to prepare for a pleasant long distance bus ride
If you have the mad idea to go on a long-distance bus ride, to ensure that it is as pleasant as possible, here are some tips for you, based on our experience in South America.
When I thought of buses in South America, my impression would be that they had hard metal seats, windows open, people crammed in with bags, guitars and chickens. Women would be nattering away, babies crying and the old man squeezed near the front would be puffing on a big cigar. Each time we careered around the corner, we’d be wondering if the piled high items on the roof would topple off or gravity would force the bus to tip over. I am sure that there are some buses like this. This bus we are sitting on is nice and comfy; each person is snuggling up on their seat, air conditioning blowing, the odd snore, and our cases tucked away safely in the hold beneath us.
Mind you, this coach is not as deluxe as the overnight bus we had for the mire 6 hour trip from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro; Its wonderfully lush seats reclining to 30 degrees had plenty of room between the seat in front, giving room for a horizontal footrest so that we could near enough lie down and sleep. We also received pillows and blankets to use.
This morning we arrived at the bus station in Rio, swapped the Busbud voucher that we purchased online and hopped on, getting settled for our epic 29-hour bus stint.
“Are we there yet?” Tim said, for a laugh, thirty minutes into the journey. Why have we decided to use this mode of transport? Do we really need to put up with the discomfort of being stuck on a bus for so long? Our decision was based on a few reasons:
• It’s much cheaper than flying here in Brazil; internal flights are not that cheap unless you book way in advance. We don’t plan way in advance though.
• It has the benefit that we can see more of this incredible country. The scenery is stunning, so green with tall oval shaped mountains, forests of palm trees and bamboo and rivers gently flowing in the valleys.
• And on the righteous side of life, it reduces our environmental impact. Yes, I realise that cycling would be even better, but have you ever seen me on a bike?
While sitting for so long on this bus, I thought I’d write an article about how to prepare for a pleasant prolonged period on a bus. It’s about buying tickets, wearing comfy clothes, eating healthily, spending the time wisely and making the most from your technology:
Purchasing the ticket
• To save yourself time, and often, money, you can easily buy your ticket online. We use https://www.busbud.com/ as it is very straightforward to use, it’s in our currency and gives options and prices of the various bus operators. It does say in bold writing that you need to print off your ticket, however, with no printer, we hadn’t and had no issues.
• If there are options, get the best. Our deluxe journey from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro was very comfy with the reclining chairs and flip up leg rests, turning into a small bed.
• Get to the ticket office early and remember your online ticket and your passport.
• The earlier you order your ticket, the better as it gives you a choice as to which seats to book. We tend to like being near the middle and on the side of the pavement; giving us better views. Make sure you are not near the toilets, they can be a bit whiffy when people open the door.
• Remember to take earplugs, if you like to use them, and eye masks.
• If you are going through the mountains and have a fear of heights, may I suggest that you get an aisle seat, or see someone like me beforehand to get over your Phobia!
• Make sure you keep track of your baggage label that you receive when putting it onto the bus. You will need to hand this back in exchange for your back at the end of your journey.
• Have a good meal before you get on the bus, something bland. You certainly don’t want to have an upset stomach on a long journey like this. We had our usual porridge, walnuts and banana this morning.
• Remember that you are going to be on the bus for a long time, so eat when your regular mealtimes are – make sure you plan what are you going to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
• We have invested in a small cool-box and use containers for cut up fruit and vegetables. It keeps food much fresher.
• Freeze bottles of water if you can beforehand, and remember to take them from the freezer! Do keep yourself hydrated. The bus will have comfort breaks. Also, you can book a coach with a toilet on board (take toilet paper and antibiotic gel to clean your hands afterwards)
• Don’t keep snacking; this may cause you to feel bloated and uncomfortable and also avoid sugary foods. You don’t want those suddenly energy spikes or to feel “Hangry”.
• When it’s night time, stop eating. It’s always best to have a 12-hour gap for your stomach to rest anyhow. (as per The Four Pillar plan by Dr Chatterjee)
• These long bus rides may be a good opportunity to catch up on sleep; however, personally, I’d rather keep awake during the day and then feel tired and sleep at night. Tim has no problem sleeping at any time of the day or night.
• Don’t rely solely on technology for entertainment especially if you think your battery won’t last
• Get yourself a good book, if you can or download a selection on your phone/kindle beforehand
• To keep supple invest in a pack of Exercise or “Resistance Loop” bands. They are very light to pack and great to use for arm, chest and some leg exercises. If you are sitting next to someone you don’t know, then make sure you don’t elbow them in the face though!
• Be creative – take a pen and paper – and either play a game of squiggle with your seat buddy or sit and draw. We went on a great sketch class in Cape Town and learnt some easy, quick and fun sketching exercises such as draw something only with dots. Get those creative juices flowing
• Master the art of relaxing and meditation. Rather than fall asleep, sit and rest your breathing, imagine that each breath has a colour and as you breathe in, visualise that colour spreading around your body. As you breathe out, expell gently that colour. Slow each breath and be aware of any tension. Imagine that your muscles are like silk and as you breathe out, you can metaphorically gently stroke the creases of the silk out.
• What car games do you play or have played in the past? We used to, and still do play the animal game, where one person thinks of an animal, and the other person asks closed questions (answer can only be Yes or No). Through the results, you then decipher what animal has been chosen. Just play this with someone willing that also can speak the same language as you.
• Be curious about the views, what do you see? – Be mindful of each moment.
• If you like writing, write about your experience or anything else for that matter.
• Charge everything up beforehand – laptop, mobiles and the charger if you have one. The buses here in Brazil do not have internet plugs
• Download films, TV series and books beforehand (remember to have good earphones, not everyone wants to hear Abba songs from Mama Mia II. If you are watching something scary, be mindful of your yells or heavy breathing (Tim – when watching Walking Dead). Similarly, if it is funny, not everyone will appreciate your raucous laughter.
• At the comfort breaks, take your plug adapter, charging cables and mobiles and get plugged in. There are usually plugs at the service station that you can use for free or for a small charge.
• You want to have a comfortable and pleasant trip, so may I suggest you ditch the latest fashion and wear something baggy and comfy with layers. I like to have my legs covered and am too hot in trousers here, so I am wearing my long cotton dress, which I can convert into a skirt.
• Wear shoes that you can easily take off. Feet can puff up a bit with all that sitting. I have my fit flops, so easy to slip on and off, and a pair of socks in my bag in case my feet get cold at night.
• Have something with you that you can use for a pillow or keep warm. We both have our puffer jackets with us, and I also have my Sarong which I can use as a thin blanket
And finally, have a sense of humour. Things can go wrong, that’s part of life’s rich tapestry and especially when you are travelling (see Day 423-424). I hope that you find these tips useful. If you can think of any more, then please do let me know. We are always open to learning.