As a long term traveller, you will find it quickly pays off to learn some tips to sleep on a bus. This is because the cheapest way to get between destinations is often taking a long overnight bus. Long distance bus travel is also a greener option than taking a flight for those who are dedicated to practicing responsible tourism. Despite all of these positives, sleeping on these buses can be very challenging so we have put together some advice for how to get a good night’s sleep on an overnight bus!
Overnight buses are also a common rite of passage in many backpacking destinations. For instance, it’s hard to get anywhere in South America without signing up for an overnight bus and it’s often the best way to stretch a dollar for the budget minded traveller. If you want to arrive at your next destination somewhat refreshed and minimize the downtime recovering from these bus journeys we’ve got some tips for you.
Get comfortable and warm enough.
Comfort is paramount for long bus journeys and the buses can often get quite cold at night. Higher quality buses provide blankets but it’s best to be prepared in case they’re not provided.
Thea loves her HappyLuxe wrap because it is functional, versatile, and cozy. Philip likes to have his Arc’teryx fleece handy for the same reason, it is soft and cozy to curl up for the night in. You could also use a sleeping bag liner to keep warm while the AC blasts you all night.
Pack a Pillow
Whether your preferred pillow is a neck pillow, down camping pillow, or a bunched up sweater, falling asleep will be a lot easier with something to rest your head on. Pack whatever does the trick for you.
Thea loved her HappyLuxe eye mask until it was lost, unfortunately quite near the beginning of the trip. She eventually picked up a replacement but it wasn’t as luxurious as her HappyLuxe. This is definitely her favourite product to add a bit of luxury and comfort to overnight bus trips. The eco-friendly modal fabric is very soft against the skin and it doesn’t pull or scrunch your hair up like other eye masks can do. It comes in a variety of fun colours too!
Sit in the Middle
Choosing where to sit will help you be more comfortable and fall asleep on your overnight bus journey as well. If you have the choice of where you sit, take advantage of it! If you sit at the back you’ll feel every bump in the road and won’t get a moment of shuteye. If you sit in the front, other drivers’ headlights may disturb your slumber, or you may be disturbed by the crazy aggressive way your bus driver drives. Ignorance truly is bliss.
On the other hand, if the bus is a double-decker, they typically have a curtain at the front of the bus to block out the headlights of oncoming traffic and the front seats get more legroom. In those cases, you might want to book up front!
Keep your Valuables Secure
Your main bag will likely be checked under the bus but you’ll want to have a carry-on style bag with anything important or fragile. Unfortunately, these important items tend to be worth more, and you’ll sleep better if you’re not worrying about somebody grabbing them or pickpocketed the bag while you sleep.
Thea carries her Pacsafe purse at all times when travelling and it’s nice to be able to lock the zippers so that you can’t open them easily. Phil keeps the cameras with him in the camera bag. Sometimes the bag can be stashed under the seat but make sure it’s hard or impossible to get at, sometimes the camera bag winds up spending the journey on his lap.
Phil also packs a carry on backpack with the laptops as we don’t want those being tossed around underneath the bus as we’d likely get to our destination with cracked screens or something equally terrifying. Those get locked up with cheap TSA locks to provide an extra deterrent, and usually rest by our feet. You lose a bit of leg room but again, that’s the compromise for security and peace of mind.
If it’s a long bus ride there will probably be a point where you have an urge to eat, or a little something to take the edge off when you arrive in the morning. Pack some healthy snacks like nuts, granola bars, or dried fruit to keep you going until you get to real breakfast. A reusable water bottle is a good idea as well.
Headphones, Music, or Earplugs
Listening to music or a podcast might help to dull your senses to the world and put you to sleep during your bus ride. At the very least they might block out the noise of the other passengers snoring. If you can’t sleep to music or a podcast, pack some earplugs to give you a quieter environment to sleep in. You may want to pack a battery pack as well in case the bus doesn’t have a charging port so that you can keep your electronics fully charged for the bus journey.
Splurge on first class
If it’s an option, it may be worth it to splurge on a first class ticket, just make sure it’s for real first class and not “firts class” like we experienced while traveling to the Amazon in Ecuador. In South America where overnight bus travel is common, it’s fairly affordable to bump up to first class. The first class seats are a lot more comfortable as they recline more and your fare often includes some light refreshments. “Semi-Cama” (seats that generally recline 145-160 degrees) or “Cama” (seats that generally recline 160 to 180 degrees) seats make a huge difference to surviving an overnight bus and getting a bit of sleep.
You’ll probably never get the same quality sleep as you will in a real bed, but with these tips, you’ll be on your way to surviving the overnight bus journey and hopefully getting a little bit of rest.
What’s your top tip for getting some shuteye on a long bus ride? Let us know in the comments!