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30 Tips For Long Distance Bus Rides

30 Tips for Long Distance Bus Rides

On a recent trip to Chile and Argentina our group of four took three long distance bus rides – ranging in length from 9 hours to 14 hours. I wanted to share what I learned. You’ll find that most of this information is useful anywhere in the world.

I hope these 30 tips for long distance bus rides that pertain especially to South America are helpful to you. 

Tips for long distance bus rides - take advantage of stops to stretch your legs
Take advantage of stops to stretch your legs

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Travel with a reputable company – ones that perform maintenance checks on brakes.

If possible order your bus tickets online. It will save a lot of time at the ticket window and may in fact save you money. I highly recommend using Busbud. I have used it in South America and in Canada.

If you can’t order tickets online then get the local currency and buy at the bus depot a few days before your departure. If you’re going to cross a border take your passport with you to buy the ticket.

The earlier you buy your ticket the better your seat. Seats might be assigned and some routes fill quickly.

Buy the best class of ticket you can afford.

Avoid buying seats directly in front of the TV, underneath the speakers or beside the toilets.

Bring snacks and water. Food provided isn’t necessarily edible.

"Inedible breakfast"
Inedible breakfast

Bring layers of clothing. It can get uncomfortably hot or cold. Consider bringing socks too.

Have a pen handy if you’re crossing borders to fill out forms.

Bring ear plugs and an eye mask if you’re sensitive to noise and light. (Good for overnight buses)

If it’s a particularly scenic route ask in advance which side of the bus is best to sit on.

If you are traveling through the mountains and you have a fear of heights choose the aisle seat.

Tips for long distance bus rides - don't read when there are 27 crazy curves
27 crazy curves to get down – and a fear of heights on the way down for some

Bring hand sanitizer.

Carry Kleenex since many buses don’t have toilet paper.

If you have a form of music, bring it.

Don’t forget your camera. You can get some great shots from the window – especially if you sit in the upper level when that choice is available.

In case you get a sunny seat, bring something to protect yourself from the extra heat.

Tall people will likely be uncomfortable

If you’re over six feet tall be prepared for a very cramped bus ride. Expect to be uncomfortable.

Take your sense of humour.

Don’t take a night bus through beautiful country.

The beautiful and fertile Sacred Valley in Peru
The beautiful and fertile Sacred Valley in Peru – you wouldn’t want to miss this

For really long bus rides think about taking a sleeping pill. In South America some of the rides are over 17 hours long!

Tips for long distance bus rides – keep track of your baggage receipt

Keep track of your baggage receipt. You’re going to need it to get your bag back.

Carry small bills for tip money. Sometimes you need to tip the person unloading the luggage.

Bring a book on board with you in case there are unexpected delays.

Carry Advil and Immodium with you…just in case.

A language dictionary bookmarked to the traveling section could come in very handy.

Be mentally prepared for long waits at border crossings. Ninety minute to two hour waits are standard.

This should go with out saying but don’t even think of carrying illegal drugs with you.

Be honest when you cross the border. Western law does not apply in other countries.

Watch your valuables.

Do any of you have any worthwhile tips for surviving long distance bus rides?

Further reading on things to do in South America

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

30 tips for surviving long distance bus rides especially in South America

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 20 Comments
  1. 14 hours?! Ouuuch. I can’t stand the standard 8 hour bus trip to my hometown. Thanks for the tips, though. Snacks are key!

    1. I wasn’t looking forward one little bit to the 14 hour bus ride. But the seats on a first class bus in Argentina are comfortable and very deep and wide. They play a couple of English movies with Spanish subtitles. No it wasn’t fun but it was so much better than I imagined and only about $US75.

  2. Great tips! I used a lot of these tips on a bus ride from Spain to Portugal. Not only can you be more comfortable but it can also be enjoyable!

  3. – Make sure you ask if there is actually a toilet on the bus

    – To reiterate a point already noted, definitely DO NOT sit near the toilet

    – Don’t expect the toilet to be working (or clean enough to use). Make sure you go before you get on the bus and expect to have to hold it in for long periods of time!

    – If going from Uyuni to La Paz (Bolivia), DEFINITELY take a sleeping pill and have warm clothes ready.

  4. I have previously and am about to again take a 26 hour bus ride down to Florida with the marching band I’m in. Though mine may be a bit easier in someways as we all know eachother on the bus, I suggest bringing motion sick pills, a travel pillow and a blanket. If your going over night the driver will often turn on the AC to help him stay awake and it can get quite chilly!

  5. maybe its just me but i alway bring a bigger bag and a put a smaller one inside.
    16 hours on the bus for my boyfriend :p love is so tough

  6. Give me some good music and some good scenery and I can sit on the bus all day!

    It’s actually terrible taking the bus in some parts of Germany and Vienna where you drive by farm land on boring highways for 100s of kilometers!

    Great tips – def bringing my travel pillow with me for an upcoming 17-hour bus ride.

  7. Thanks for the tips on doing long distance bus rides. I agree that you should remember to bring tip money when traveling because a lot of these drivers try to make the ride as comfortable as possible for you. My brother is looking at chartering a bus for a trip; I will be sure to share these tips with him.

  8. 2019 now and trying to find a bus Salta to SAN Pedro de Atacama for a next Friday. Nothing current online. Any suggestions would help. Thanks

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