Stories from the Overnight Bus

Overnight buses are a budget traveler’s friend. They’re a cheaper alternative to planes, trains and automobiles, and they allow you the freedom to get off and on where ever you please. Plus you save on a night’s accommodation because you spend it on the bus. However, the mere mention of taking an overnight bus sends shivers up my spine. Perhaps it’s because I find it impossible to sleep in an upright position and the next day, like a creature of the night, I stumble down the steps of the bus into the bright early morning sunlight with bright-red eyes, wildly disheveled hair, an aching back and numb limbs. Then I have to sleep a good portion of the day to catch up on the sleep I missed by not sleeping on the bus. Convenience my ass.

But perhaps my disdain is because of the following experiences:

  • The first overnight bus I ever took was from Bangkok to Surat Thani in Thailand. We were wooed by the amazing price of this bus ride, but a couple of days later, we realized how they make their money — we were very stealthily robbed during the night. How they got to the wallet that I hugged to my chest all night is beyond me. A night of firsts, this was also the first time I’ve been robbed — actually make that the only time (fingers crossed.) We splurged on the train on the way back and enjoyed a crime-free rest.
  • About a month later, we found ourselves in on a long overnight in Vietnam. For the record, buses in Thailand are like Buckingham Palace compared to buses in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Anyway, the un-air-conditioned bus was so full that they actually sat people on folding chairs in the aisles. Lo and behold, we broke down in the middle of the jungle at 3am and the drivers couldn’t get the bus going again until about 5am (I think they need AAA in Vietnam.)
  • From Brisbane to Airlie Beach (a mere 17-hour trip), my travel friend Lauren ended up with a broken chair that didn’t recline. Right next to the bathroom, allowing us to enjoy some pleasant odors all night long.
  • Also in Australia, I spent one night busing it behind a troll-like man who snored unimaginably loud almost the entire trip (10+ hours) and then engaged in questionable behavior while he was awake (it was dark on the bus and we were looking at him at a funny angle so we couldn’t tell exactly what he was doing but it looked bad)

I suppose these are all down to bad luck, and I realize that overnight buses have saved me lots of money in the long run, but in some ways they’ve taken years off my life too (ok, maybe that’s a bit dramatic.) My point? Beware.