You know how they say it’s all about the journey, not the destination? Well, I’m not sure that entirely holds true when it comes to long-distance travel, especially when it’s the only way to get from A to B. However, if you’ve got a long bus journey ahead of you, here’s some tips that might just help you survive!
Pulling out of London with a loooong journey ahead
My sister Zoe is back with another of her recent travel adventures, this time offering her tips on how to survive an epic long-haul journey from London to Lyon and back. Take it away Zoe! (And how cute are her illustrations?!)
One of the advantages of living in Europe is the ease of travel. Cheap flights and fast trains make it easy to pop away for the weekend without too much hassle. But some times you leave things too late and there’s only one option – long distance bus travel.
My boyfriend Tom finished up his semester in France in January and I offered to come over for the weekend from London to help pack up and bring some stuff back to the city. Unfortunately by the time I decided to do this even Easyjet flights weren’t an affordable option.
As an Antipodean I feel pretty experienced in long-distance travel and after taking the two-hour coach journey from London to Bath I thought to myself, how bad could a 15-hour journey be? The coach seemed a great alternative as it would take me from the centre of London and drop me off at the train station in Lyon. It also allowed me to take as many bags as I wanted with a combined weight of 30kg, which would have been an expensive add-on if I’d chosen to fly.
It was people’s reactions when I told them about my plans that really got me worried. This also could be down to the fact that I planned to go to work after arriving in London at 6.00am. So I did some research on how to survive the journey.
This would also be a suitable sanity treat!
What to eat
As I like to eat healthy and have a few dietary restrictions I knew it would be much simpler if I brought my own food rather than relying on the pitstops along the way. I took lots of healthy food to munch on including salad, carrot sticks, crackers and tuna, fresh fruit, and a vegan protein bar. A mini packet of Oreos may have snuck in there too. Even though you aren’t really expending much energy I found it easier to have food to look forward to and hey eating is something else to do.
At 11.00pm I ended up with three hours to kill in Paris before my connecting bus so although I hadn’t made it through all my supplies I decided to give myself a “sanity treat”. Just a little way down the street from the bus park I found Rodolph, a cute little restaurant with some very Parisian patrons still drinking and smoking the night away. I ordered a glass of the house red and enquired as to whether they were still serving dessert and the owner brought me over a delicious slice of tart aux pommes that was definitely worth the lactease pill.
I also drank lots of water along the way. It may sound weird but one of the upsides of long distance bus travel compared with long distance flying is the guarantee of a “normal” toilet when the driver has to take her legally mandated breaks every three to four hours. However it is a good idea to pack some spare toilet paper in case you have to use the toilet on the bus.
What to do
Fifteen hours is a long time to sit down but I found listening to audiobooks the best way to pass those seemingly endless hours. My attention span for reading maxes out at two hours. You also have to be looking down at the page, which isn’t always ideal and you need light which can be a bit obnoxious for other passengers during the night. When listening to an audiobook I got into the comfiest position I could find and look out at the countryside flying past. The Audible app also has a great sleep timer function which gives that comforting nostalgic feeling of being read to as you drift off to sleep. The buses had power points but only Europeans ones and I hadn’t brought my adaptor. This wasn’t an issue though as my phone battery lasted really well on airplane mode.
What to wear
I gave up on looking Parisian chic and tried to simulate being in bed with clothes. When it came to sleeping I used my knee length down jacket over me like a duvet, put in some ear plugs, pulled down my eye mask and lastly my beanie pulled down over my eyes which helped to keep out the rest of the light and ensure my ear plugs didn’t fall out. As I’m a bit paranoid about security I keep my passport, wallet, tickets and phones in a small cross-body bag that I could wear all the time. This helped to put my mind at ease therefore increasing my chances of sleep
I may have been lucky but I actually got about 5-6 hours sleep on the way there and back. The biggest disruption I had to my sleep was having to get off the coach and go up to the lounge area when we took the ferry on the way back but with my ear plug-beanie-eye-mask-system I was still able to grab a little shut eye. In the end the price and convenience definitely outweighed the negative parts of the experience.
Lyon is also worth the journey!
My checklist for surviving long distance bus travel:
Scarf, sleeping bag coat and beanie
Ear plugs and eye mask
Comfy shoes and socks
Lots of healthy food and snacks
But also a sanity treat like a slice of cake at a rest-stop or your favourite chocolate bar
Lots of water… and also toilet paper
Small bag to keep on you with your passport, wallet, phone etc in while your sleep
Sit in the mid to front
Have you ever experienced long-distance bus travel? What are your top tips? For more survival tips check out How to Ace Long-Haul Flying