Guide to a Long Southeast Asian Bus Ride

I’ve been on my share of long bus rides in Southeast Asia, sometimes over 10 hours, and my preparation has become somewhat of a routine. Yes, I could just throw my backpack in the storage below and jump on board, but very likely that could lead to a long, miserable trip and could also end in disaster. Here’s what I carry on:

Water – Duh. Just don’t drink too much or you’ll be praying for a bathroom stop that’s not coming for a few hours.

Long sleeve shirt – It’s 80 humid degrees outside, but your bus promises A/C. Wonderful, right? Not so fast. Sometimes the A/C works wonderfully, sometimes not at all (drink that water so you can sweat it out) and sometimes its working overtime. And by overtime, I mean you’d think you were headed straight to Siberia. So hopefully you thought ahead and along with the tank top, shorts and sandals you’re wearing, you have something a little more substantial.

Toilet paper – Yes, they stop to let you use the bathroom occasionally, but that doesn’t mean the bathroom will be nice, or that toilet paper will be anywhere in site. Better safe than…well you get it.

Fully charged phone – You gotta have your beats (don’t forget the headphones) and if you use your phone as a wannabe kindle like me, you’ll be glad when it doesn’t die a half hour into your journey.

A non-electronic book – For when your phone inevitably does die.

Glasses/contacts – For those of you contact wearers like myself, you know that waking up with your contacts in can be worse than a hangover on a Saturday morning. So do yourself a favor and bring your glasses so you can toss your contacts in your bag and take a nap as you head to Siberia.

Nail clippers – Whats more annoying than a hangnail that you can’t clip for the next 8 hours?

Your valuables! – I met a Dutch girl who had her passport stolen out of her bag, which was supposedly safe below in the storage area. Two weeks later she finally had a replacement along with a huge fine for overstaying her visa. While I wouldn’t care much for an 11 hour bus ride in the storage below a bus, some people are up to the challenge. Better keep that passport in the pocket you’re sitting on.

Finally, just before a long bus ride is not the time for experimentation food-wise. Sometimes its unavoidable, but its best to keep your food intake simple and stick to things you’re familar with, or you might find yourself on the worst ride of you life.