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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.

bus with goats

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

chickens on the bus

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.

broken window on bus
our natural A/C on the bus

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.

crashes from the bus
watching a crash from our bus :S


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 =)

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50 thoughts on “10 Things I Hate About Traveling on Buses

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  7. hehehe..interesting. Anyways buses are so annoying especially down this side in Africa but at the end of the day thats always african stly.

  8. Haha. Same Here Bro. I am living in India and here also the same 10 problems you have is common. But i had been used to it. But one thing i hate is people speaks so loudly on mobile while traveling in bus, that the driver would also be able listen to his talks.

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  12. The list is bang on, but my favourite escape is riding roof rack – which is an amazing and crap idea in equal measure. You get the best view , but if you’ve ever tried making yourself comfortable on solid iron bars for 8 hours in nuclear sunshine – the whole sitting on a massive grill and cooking like bacon thing makes you regret it a bit. Definitely still enjoyable tho.

    Catch you soon mate, Ig.

    1. hey mate! thanks for popping by, always good to hear from you 🙂 I’m a big fan of riding on top of the roofs too but it’s a surefire way to get sun burnt, i got cooked badly in Nepal doing it, awesome fun though 🙂

    1. wow, classy move from ur ecuadorian mate :S No guidebook in the world can prepare you for that one! What did u do?!

  13. Haha so true…another personal fave is (in any of the following countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Korea) the need to blast bollywood/ K-Pop/ J-Pop/some other god awful screechy music at full bore…in the middle of the night!
    I was heading to Seoul the other weekend and a Korean version of the Wiggles was playing at top volume! Never mind that there wasn’t a child in sight!

    1. K-pop and J-pop – i’m ashamed to say i actually quite like it! Or maybe it’s just my obsession with the Wondergirls 😛

  14. That picture of hen/chicken is pretty awesome click… I am wondering how would have I reacted if something like that happened with me !! I also love the lines to describe it, ” 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”.

  15. Hahah this is hilarious! So true! I traveled by bus all over South America and I have to say, you hit it dead on! Haha. Whyyy do they always need fuel right after we’ve left?

    Worst bus ride I’ve ever been on was in Bolivia. I was the only traveler there and everyone couldn’t stop staring at me.. the farmer lady in front of me put her seat waaaay back even though she had 2 all to herself and it was literally on my lap for 18 hours. Finally the guy next to me took some pity and asked her to move it up a bit, and man, was she angry! Like.. c’mon lady! Oh, and it was freeeezing cold at night. All night. And the guy next to me tried to sneak a picture of my chest while I was sleeping. GROSS.

    1. Hey!

      pickin’ up dudes on ur journeys were u Kelly!? anything to make the time go faster i guess 😛

      South America is home to some loooooong bus journeys, that’s for sure. At least you survived tho, and to top if off there’s probably a photo of ‘you’ circulating the bolivian farming circles!

      It seems we all share the same pain but it has to be done :S


  16. Nice summary, Johnny. I, too, have had a lot of crazy and awful – developing world – bus trips and know exactly what you say. Chickens shitting on my bag, goats & pigs loaded in, dripping blood from red meat, puking, kids with diarrhea, buskers, musicians, beggars, breakdowns, the heat, the freezing A/C, the snorers, road blocks, strip-searches, more breakdowns, death of a passenger … god, the list is endless. But they were very memorable journeys. Much more fun than a flying in cattle-class.

    One story I will share: On a bus with the smell from hell – Chile @

    Regards – MRP | the candy trail … a nomad across the planet, since 1988

    1. hey michael,

      i guess 20 odd years of travels would rack up a few stories! if we had nothing to moan about we wouldn’t be truly happy! you’re right, whats 12 hours of pain for stories that last a lifetime =)

  17. Wow, with a sales pitch like that, how can I resist signing up for a long bus trip? 😉 Seriously, I may never take a long bus trip in countries where people are allowed to bring chickens on board. That just sounds horrid.

    1. hey gray,

      most of it’s tongue-in-cheek honestly! don’t let me discourage you, no-ones life is complete until they’ve shared a journey with a chicken or 12

  18. Having people smoking inside the bus is also very annoying, especially when the same group of people talking very very loudly. I like your chicken story, and I think the goat picture inside the bus is great!

    1. hey dina,

      thanks for the comments. the goat picture may be great but having them butt you for 12 hours isn’t so great lol

  19. i hate it when people smokes inside the bus and all windows are closed… im a smoker but i just find it hard to breath in that kind of situation.. it happened to me in china…

  20. My best travel tips on buses is get on them when you are drunk or tipsy this way you can sleep throughout the length of the journey and you can be the anoyying sleeper for a change

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