Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Busing it on the Road: Tips and Must-packs

It’s crowded. It’s bustling. It’s hot. You’re about to undertake your very first Indian adventure on a bus, and you’ve heard tales about chaotic bus driving that have left you unsettled. Yet, you already made the smart choice of booking in advance and you knew that you were getting a good deal for your redBus ticket that would make the journey more budget-friendly – at least, I assume that you’ve done ample research to ensure that you’ve found a bargain. You’ve even made a reservation for a seat, despite hearing that you might have to make a run for it both ways if you want to secure your spot. You hope for the best, but is there anything else you can do to prepare for your journey?

It’s my opinion that things never usually go as planned, so I’m not here to tell you how exactly to organize your vacation because a small part of us knows that itineraries don’t always unfold the way we want them to. It is my opinion though that one should at least have a backpack prepared with items that will come in handy on the way to your destination. Some of these things are so obvious that you’re probably wondering why I’m even noting them. Well, it’s usually the obvious that we don’t see staring us in the face until we need it the most.

1) Pack yourself a bottle or two of water to keep yourself hydrated
Depending on how long your trip is and whether or not the bus you’re in is air-conditioned (not very likely as this is hardly economical), you may end up needing more water than you originally expected. One of the biggest challenges here, I find, is finding the right balance between hydration and not needing to rush to the bathroom every hour. It’s probably a good idea to check whether or not the bus you’ll be taking is equipped with a bathroom to begin with (not all buses have been updated to accommodate this need). Most people don’t expect it, but I’ve been put in situations where there hasn’t been an accessible bathroom on hand – the price you pay for opting a cheap ride.

2) Speaking of bus toilets, pack tissues and hand sanitizers
Do you know how many people on average use the same bus toilet a day? I’m guessing you don’t and that’s exactly the thought that scares me. Don’t always expect to find tissues and sanitizer at your disposal, so pack some to make sure that you’re not caught in an icky situation.

3) Pack snacks
Even if it’s just an 11 hour journey through the night, and you plan on sleeping through 8 of those hours (or so you wish), you will get hungry and there’s nothing worse than a sleep and food deprived person. Buses stop at stations and various check points that offer a limited range of snacks, but you ought not to rely on these as they can be expensive and probably won’t be offering what you prefer. Instead, take advantage of those short stops to stretch your legs and catch some air.

4) Pack some entertainment
Some people like to read on long journeys because it helps them kill the time and transport them to another world, which is a nice break from the realization that you’re sardine-packed on a bumpy vehicle. Others prefer to listen to music or surf the web using their tablets or laptops (enjoy free Wi-Fi or 3G services where they’re offered!). Just make sure to be considerate and wear headphones so as not to disturb your fellow passengers. It’ll also serve you well to double check whether or not the bus you’re on has Wi-Fi or power outlets to charge your electronics in case you prefer to reserve a seat that has a power outlet. If you’re carrying expensive electronics, but don’t plan on using them, make sure they’re not in plain sight of potential pickpockets. Don’t underestimate the prevalence of petty theft on buses.

5) Optional: Pack a neck pillow and necessary medication
The number one tip to uphold is packing light, but if you have extra luggage space, then there’s no harm in including a few optional items that will also make your trip more bearable. I’m not so sure what they’re actually called, but you can usually find portable travel pillows at most airports that are designed for upright comfort when lying down isn’t an option. This is a luxury item indeed, but if you already have one and have the extra space for it in your luggage, it’ll be a shame not to bring it along to make what little sleep you have the chance of catching more comfortable. I definitely recommend this piece of article for those who suffer from neck and back aches. Some people (like me) also suffer from motion sickness when on the road. Bus rides are the epitome of where motion sickness can strike the most because of the particularly bumpy nature of most trips, so you’d want to dose yourself with enough antiemetic medication or remedies to last the trip.

About the Author: Joanna Jaoudie is a content editor, blogger and country manager at Flipit. She graduated with an MSc in Cognitive Psychology from Leiden University in the Netherlands before joining the Flipit team in Amsterdam. She has a deep passion for understanding how human behaviour interacts with various technological interfaces and is also a freelance writer and translator. You can connect with Joanna by sending her an email:

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