Long distance buses are part and parcel of any backpacking trip so love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ll be spending countless hours on these mobile prisons. Poultry, screaming babies, puke, any and all forms of wild stock, cockroaches, sheer drops, drunk/stoned drivers, near-death experiences, distinct lack of personal space, oven-like temperatures or pneumonia-inducing chills– all of these are regular features of the most common form of backpacking transport. Wonderful.
As I have just finished yet another 16 hour stint on an overcrowded public bus in the sweltering heat, I feel I need to purge myself of the fury and frustration so here is a list of the 10 things I hate most about long distance buses when you travel:
1) Punctuality. Regardless of the time they say they will leave and arrive you can bank on it being late by at least one hour, thereby throwing your other plans into disarray
2) Cleanliness. I am no Martha Stewart when it comes to hygiene but I draw the line at people coughing up yesterdays dinner and half their lung and spitting it on the ground by your feet. Or, finishing their food and assuming the entire bus is some sort of rubbish-tip where they can discard their leftovers.
3) Chickens. There comes a time in every travelers life when they share a bus whith some form of wild stock and I’m perfectly ok with that. What I’m not ok with is some devilish chicken/rooster with razor sharp talons running around your ankles, whilst seemingly saving all its p*ss and sh*t for when it’s under your seat, right beside your bag
4) Safety. As an impulsive, fast-paced type of dude myself, I can relate to people becoming frustrated at excessive traffic and what not. I don’t think that justifies gunning your bus (full of people) at 150km per hour on a single lane road with too many blind corners to mention. Slow down mate, I don’t wanna die!
5) Ringtones. Ok, I’m not talking about the crazy frog or some old Britney Spears tune irritating me, what I’m taking about is the sheer volume of foreign mobile phones’ rings tones! Look out for it next time (probably when you finally managed to fall asleep) and 10,000 decibels of Enrique Iglesias blare into your ear drum. Why do manufacturers even make them that loud!? Madness.
6) Personal space. I would love to study the various countries’ languages that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit and find out their translation for ‘personal space’. I would imagine that either the term simply doesn’t exists or that it simultaneously refers to some negative Western concept whilst encouraging people to sit even closer together. 3 on one row is fine, 3 on one row and another 3 literally on of top of them, not so much. Give me some breathing space, I’m suffocating here!.
7) Stopping for fuel. This is a minor yet very irritating feature of so many long distance journeys. You know you’ll be cramped in the bus for the next 12 hours and you’ve come to terms with that. Why oh why then do they not fill up their tank before we set off! It seems that we wait for everyone to get on the bus, leave late and then 30 seconds into the journey pop into the petrol station to fill up. What?! You didn’t realize you were going to need fuel?! You make this journey every single day, fill up before we set off!!! arrrrgh
8 ) Headrests. Admittedly this doesn’t apply to all buses and if you’re high rolling it may not feature in your list of hates but I assure you one of the banes of a budget travelers life is a headrest that you can’t rest your head on. How does that even happen?! Who designs these things?!
9) Air conditioning. This swings two ways, neither of which is delightful. First up, a country is 45 degrees but has no A/C on their buses, that’s uncomfortable of course but I understand that, A/C eats fuel, it’s expensive, maintenance costs etc so that’s fine, I’m only paying $5 I don’t expect luxury. On the other hand, a bus that does have A/C seems categorically compelled to blast that A/C on the minimum temperature regardless of the temperature outside or the travelers comfort. Beware! They have A/C and they’re not afraid to use it.
10) Sleepers. This is a personal hate of mine, something I need to get off my chest. I don’t know what other nations include in their education systems but I’m sure they have a class on how to sleep on buses. Within 10 minutes of any given joureny, 90% of the locals will be the midst of their snoozefest, dreaming sweet dreams all the way to the destination whilst I am left looking around cursing their ability to sleep so easily despite the noise, bumps, temperature etc.
Phew. That feels better. Thanks for listening to my rant! I hope the buses treat you well over the course of your travels. All jokes aside, if it wasn’t for cheap buses around foreign countries who knows where we’d be, probably sitting at home wishing we could be overseas traveling in a long distance bus Happy travels =)