As a solo female traveller, and a backpacker living on a budget, I'm often asked about the cheapest and easiest ways to reach various locations around the world. Now much as I love flying and train journeys, they are not always the most practical or cost-effective option and, as I have discovered myself, sometimes the best choice can actually be kicking back on a coach from A to B. Not only do you get to relax and catch up on some Zzz's, but you can often have saved a small fortune which can help you have the time of your life when you arrive at a destination. So many of us are put off by the thought of spending several hours on a bus for comfort reasons, but the truth is these days buses are some of the comfiest ways to travel with plenty of leg room, plug sockets available to charge your devices and even wi-fi. When you take into account all the rail disruptions we suffer in the UK these days and the price of internal flights - climbing aboard a coach really does start to sound like a great option.While it's been a few years since I travelled by coach in the UK, I've found all over the world that it is more often than not the best and most efficient option. From crossing the border between Croatia and Hungary during the summer as I arrived in Budapest, to travelling huge distances up the East Coast of Australia and deep into the outback. And don't let me forget those overnight journeys between Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia - up to 24 hours at a time but easily one of the best ways to travel so you don't miss a single second of adventure time. In Europe and Australia I was taken aback by the quality of the bus journeys available, not only were the buses comfier than most hostels but they had great wifi so I could spend the hours catching up on work uninterrupted. The highest ranked coach, bus and train service in the UK, NationalExpress.com, offers the best of the best when it comes to bus journeys - with coaches that are fitted with leather seats, toilets, power sockets and air conditioning. They asked me to write about what makes a good bus journey and what to take with you when you set off, so here is:
My top 10 things to pack for a long bus journey:
- My number one will always be an iPod or MP3 player - music makes the journey and I can't stand any long journey without a great new playlist. Take some time beforehand to download a few new albums, then sit back and enjoy.
- Snacks can make or break a journey - always take more than you think you will need, boredom brings out the hunger in us. I personally always eat ALL the unhealthy food on travelling days, calories don't count when you're between places. Chocolate, crisps, fruit and sandwiches always make good travelling food.
- Plenty of water, some buses stop every few hours, others not for 5-6 hours at a time depending on where you are in the world - don't get dehydrated or the journey will feel like hell.
- A scarf or pashmina - air conditioned buses can seem draughty when you're tired so it's always a good idea to have something to wrap around you or use as a blanket if you want to sleep.
- A change of clothes can be a lifesaver, particularly if it is very hot or cold outside and the heating or air conditioning inside will feel like a dramatic contrast. These journeys are all about being comfortable.
- Any travel documents you might need - if you're crossing borders be sure to have your passport and all visa information to hand, don't leave it in the luggage hold of the bus.
- A good book can be a lifesaver in case you end up on a bus that is having problems with the wi-fi or is travelling out of range, or perhaps if you just don't fancy looking at a screen.
- A laptop or iPad - if you work online it can be a great opportunity to catch up on work, I use the time to write blog posts/articles or edit photos. If you don't have any work to do, why not watch a movie or Netflix? If you pre-download you can be sure it won't be interrupted or slow.
- Any charging cables you need for your phone/laptop, you should have plug sockets available so make the most of them.
- Anything else you need to keep you comfortable/entertained - things like neck pillows and sleeping masks for those who want to chill, packs of cards and sweets for those who need something fun to do.
The more you pre-plan your journey, the better it will be! We've all had those trips where we spent the entire time thinking "oh man this would have been so much better with (insert item here)". I'm all for spontaneous and adventurous travel, but when it comes to actual movements, a bit of pre-planning can be the difference between the journey from hell and a peaceful cruise to your next destination. Be smart and prepare, you'll be giving yourself the opportunity to turn the journey into part of the adventure. If you're planning to travel across the UK whether to the airport, a festival or gig, or even into Europe - look no further than National Express for the best in coach travel. Head to nationalexpress.com to book, or for more information.
Have you travelled by coach in the UK - how did it compare to other forms of travel? What is your favourite way to travel on a budget?