Some people turn their noses up at the thought of bus travel, in favour of plane travel. These are the reasons I prefer bus travel, where time and circumstances permit (not in this order of importance):
- More comfortable. Check out the size of the seating, bigger than most economy plane seats. Some have tray tables. At most I have one person to get around if I want to get out of my seat and am sitting in the window. On a plane I have get past one to three other people.
- Electrical power points and wifi. Not all buses have them, but most do. I can continue working or listening to music or videos of my choice, or do whatever I want. I don’t have to wait for take-off, use flight mode, or pay ot use plane wifi (if it is offered at all). If I have been busy sightseeing all day, I can know I can re-charge my phone before the next destination.
- I can arrive 15 minutes before departure time, instead of 90mins to 270mins. I have even jumped onboard once or twice with 2minutes to spare!! (Not recommended) No baggage drop off, getting undressed/dressed to go through security check-in, pulling out all your valuables on full display to everyone around you during this process; no grumpy security people or customs officials, or police guards with guns.
- No need to adjust all my luggage packing style. I travel with a medium suitcase, cabin bag and handbag. On a plane I have to make sure my suitcase is not over 20kg, whereas I can stuff it to 23-30kg on most buses. This may mean I carry leftover food I have from one location to the next, because I can. I have ALL my life essentials in my cabin bag/handbag – on a plane I have to swap all my normal “essentials” like contact lens solutions and skin creme, deodorants etc to make sure they are under 100mls,. This is not necessary on a bus, so packing is easier.
- Buses TEND to be less picky about cabin luggage size. On a plane, unless you pay extra, you risk that the staff will take your cabin bag at the last minute and want it stowed under, regardless of the size. Buses DO have a smaller overhead section, so you need to make sure your cabin bag is under about 25-30cm deep, but most of the time they otherwise don’t care. On many occasions, the bus driver has frowned on my cabin bag, and indicated to put it under. But as soon as I say computer, they normally roll their eyes and let it on. Only once did a driver insist, so I was able to still get to my main suitcase (impossible if it had happened on a plane), get my fold-up backpack, and repack the essentials into that to take on board. When he watched me do it, and saw actually how little was in there, he then told me not to worry about it, and get on board.
- I can take my own food and water. I don’t have to worry about pouring out the water as I go through security and re-stocking after. I can happily munch on the bus as I wish. You can often take food on a plane too, but their bag sizing restrictions can be tough, so normally I don’t have space to carry much.
- I can see the scenery as I go, or sleep, as I wish
- It is less physically painful for me. I actually really enjoy flying. But I do often get bad ear pain upon descent, especially on short flights. It can also leave me with a “water in the ears” feeling and reduced hearing for up to 2-3 days after
- It’s easier to sleep on board. Not just because the seats are bigger. But because you aren’t constantly interrupted by the dinging of seatbelt signs, safety demonstrations, announcements, selling of duty free and lottery tickets, offers of food/drink
- I can usually get the seat I want, in the back, at no extra cost. Many people do not like the back seat, as they get motion sick. I always book the back corner seat of the bus, if I can. Almost every trip there has been only one other person sitting in the five seats available (more normally none at all), so I have plenty of room to lie down and sleep if I want.
- My luggage is safer and less chance of loss. I try to book a window seat on the same side of the bus as my suitcase is likely to be stowed (but it is a bit hit and miss). If I am on a bus getting off in one of the mid to later stops, I try to get the bus seat on the driver’s side of the bus. Normally the luggage for the later stops are stowed on the driver’s/road side; so no-one will even open that luggage compartment during the journey. And if they do, I can see it from my seat and watch that my suitcase is not taken out. Similarly, if I am at an earlier stop, (ie it’s a shorter trip), I will sit on the opposite side and be watching people like a hawk, removing their luggage from the compartment near mine, making sure mine is not removed. It is much harder to monitor someone taking your bag off plane baggage claim, if they get through customs before you. Or if a baggage handler steals it. Or if it just ended up on a plane headed for another country. I will stress though, regardless of my mode of transport, there is NOTHING in my main suitcase that I will be upset over losing, if it goes missing. Yes, it will be an annoyance to replace the clothes, shoes, bags and assorted things that I now deem essential to my survival, but it is nothing that a bit of cash and shopping time won’t fix. EVERY item important to me in my ENTIRE existence is in my cabin bag handbag or stored on my body in a body wallet or pockets.
- Buses are usually (but not always) cheaper. AND usually more time effective. I would prefer to take a 10hour night bus, than a three hour flight. The time needed is actually very similar because of the need to get their earlier and taking longer to get off. But also, airports are often well out of the town, so you have to spend 1-2 hours on public transport trying to get to/from them. Whereas major bus stations are often located in the cities, close to central railway stations.
- It’s easier to change clothes/shoes etc to adjust to temperature differences between your departure and arrival points. On a bus you normally have easy access to your cabin bag, with different clothes in it, and can adjust as you need. There is a toilet on board to get changed in (often not the most cleanest though!!!). But heck, I have so often been alone in the back seat, I have done a full clothing change in the back seat, while the people in the row/s in front of me sleep!
- Personally, I love night buses (unless I want to see the scenery). Because I can get on late, at the last minute, go to sleep, and wake up a few hours short of my destination, eat some breakfast wash my face, clean my teeth, walk off the bus and within 2 minutes have my suitcase and be on my way.
- Most bus stations in bigger cities are almost as well equipped as airports (and a darned sight cheaper, because they know they are catering to budget market). Arrival/departure screens, cafes/restaurants, waiting areas, power, wifi, toilets, information areas etc etc. But, no doubt, some ARE grungy, poorly catered, not staffed and therefore less safe and comfortable.
Trains are also a good option, for many of the reasons I mention above and I would probably choose a train over a plane for many of the reasons above. However, there are a few advantages and disadvantages I find with a train vs bus, as per below:
- Trains are less secure for your luggage. While some are structured so you can keep your main suitcase near you; many aren’t. They are kept in a luggage compartment near the doors. Unless you are seated very close to it, and keep one eye awake at all times when the train stops, anyone can just get off with your suitcase. Similarly, with people walking up and down the carriages as you sleep in your seat, they could easily grab your cabin luggage, walk to the next carriage or two, then, get off with your bag. It is also easier for someone walking through to lighten you of your handbag while you sleep too.
- Trains are less safe for you, unless you are seated right near a guard cabin. It is much harder for someone to harm you on a bus, without the driver or other passengers being aware. People simply don’t walk up and down buses as much. And even if you one of the few people on the bus, if you called out the drivers would hear you and see you in their mirrors. Not so on a largely empty train carriage.
- It IS easier to stretch your legs on a train
- Seating tends to be smaller on a train. Many also have wifi and electricity. They do have more toilet options than a bus. I have never used a sleeper cabin to comment.
- It is usually a smoother ride on a train than a bus.
Bear in mind that I am traveling throughout Europe, and have only been to some countries, not all. It may be completely different in different countries and continents. But I hope this gives you some food for thought, regardless.