Travelling by bus can be the easiest thing in the world or can become hell on Earth. Here are some basic rules, before we continue with more advanced advice and our extended list of reliable bus companies all around the world.
How to prepare for a long distance bus travel
- Pack light – you never know if there will be enough space in the storage of the bus and worst case the won’t take you.
- Be prepared for either hot or cold temperatures. You never know what kind of bus you will travel by and there is generally just two types. Incredibly hot (no AC) or freezing cold (with AC). Pro Tip: bring an ultra lightweight sleeping bag or a blanket on board and wear more layers to stay comfortable in all conditions.
- Avoid travelling across borders. Waiting time at checkpoints can often be minimized, by just taking a little walk and hopping on another bus, once you are on the other side.
- Plan your bus trip in advance. Always take the time to do some research online on places and companies to buy tickets from. Read customer reviews. Talk with locals or fellow travellers about their experiences or get information at tourism office.
- Schedule your trip. In most countries bus routes are operated by multiple companies, with various destinations, time schedules and fares. Be prepared to spend some time with checking several websites run by the bus companies to find the options that fit the best with your plans.
- Be prepared, because local bus companies websites tend to be not very user friendly and sometimes it’s quite challenging to find information about prices and routes and time tables. It is always a good idea to personally go to the bus station and ask
- Make plan-B. Especially in more remote areas, it can happen that your arrival will be delayed and you might miss the connection and be stuck somewhere away from your goal destination for a few hours, even a day. Research the transition town or village. Check for emergency accommodation options (in case you have to stay over night) or plan a short sightseeing trip during your layover.
Bus search engines
Booking bus trips can be overwhelming and sometimes chaotic. Luckily there is a growing number of websites trying to make searching for buses a lot easier.
Bus search engines like:
- CheckMyBus (International)
- BusBud (International)
- Omio (International)
- Google Transit (International)
- GotoBus (USA & bigger EU cities)
- Busradar (Europe)
- Comparabus (Europe)
- Kombo (UK & EU)
- Trip8080 (China)
will save a lot of time and energy for you. Keep in mind that bus service is usually less frequent on holidays and weekends. Night buses are generally cheaper and you also save the cost of the accommodation.
Bus stations and tickets
Big cities usually have a number of smaller bus stations, rather than one big central terminal. Different bus operators serve different regions. But bus station often means just a regular bus stop and you can buy your ticket directly from the driver or sometimes at the grocery store or bar nearby. While big stations have their own information desk, in smaller stations, check schedules posted on the ticket office walls. People working at the bus station are less likely to speak English, so it’s always help if you can speak a couple of words in their language. Our tip: If you have a mobile device connected to the internet, translate your question in Google Translate and show your device to the person you need information from.
If it’s applicable, always book your tickets online, because it’s the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get them hassle free. If you can’t get your tickets online, try to buy them (ideally a couple of days or hours) before your departure. The earlier you buy your ticket the better seat you’ll get.
The bus ride
Before you get on a bus, ask the ticket seller or the driver if you’ll need to transfer. In case you do, make sure you won’t miss the change.
Choose your seat wisely you can prevent yourself from a nightmarish trip. Some seat on most buses have more room for legs than others. The seats just after the stairwells, the middle seat in the last row and occasionally the seats above the wheels have the most room. On long distance routes you might be assigned to a seat. Book early to get the better seats.
Bring some entertainment or work on board. Books, tablets, music can prevent you from getting too bored and help preserve your sanity.
If the bus is lacking toilet on board, drivers usually stop in every 2-3 hours for a short break. Make sure you know how long the bus is stopping for, in doubt ask the driver.
Travelling by bus is one of the most environmentally friendly way of transportation. In his research, Sustainable Transport And Public Policy, noted sustainability researcher David Banister measures how energy-efficient a particular vehicle is as it carries a person a particular distance. While cycling and walking are the absolute winners in energy efficiency with consumption of 0.06 and 0.16 megajoules per passenger kilometer travelled respectively. Tram light rail is the next most efficient (0.91), with the bus coming in just behind (0.92)! It outplays heavy rail (1.69), and rail electric and diesel (1.65) or airplane (2.42). This means bus travels, especially with the growing number of electric buses on the road, can be a cost-effective and green way of transportation.
Travel around the world by bus
There is a countless number of bus operators in the world and our list is by far not complete. We try to look up and select the best and cheapest options for each region we cover.
Meanwhile the bus search engines are able to find routes all around the world, but they might not have smaller bus companies listed or sometimes show inaccurate data, especially regarding the numbers and names of bus routes. In more remote areas, look out for the signs of the local operators. They usually have websites where schedules are announced and the buses are actually in time. So be there or be square!
Bus travel in Asia, Africa and South America
While many countries are taking big steps towards a better infrastructure, bus travel in remote places or developing countries can still be an adventure. Schedules are not always reliable and often time the best option is to simply be at the right spot and wait for the next bus to arrive. There is a good chance an unscheduled bus or another company or private transport will come your way and take you quicker and easier than the buses on the schedule. Especially in regions with only basic infrastructure travelling by bus is often the only way of transport. The good thing is, once you are at the right place, it is only a matter of time until you will find a ride.
Pro advice: To also find reasonable prices, register for the newsletter of bus companies you are about to use. Often times they will send you weekly offers and vouchers.
Bus companies around the world
Sources to find bus connections and companies worldwide:
- Citylink (UK & Ireland)
- DeinBus (Germany)
- Rede Expressos & Rodoviaria de Oeste (Portugal)
- ALSA (Spain)
- Wanderio (Italy)
- Oibus (France)
- PKS (Poland)
- Idos (Czech)
- Balkanviator (Balkan)
- Matkahuolto (Finland)
- Connexxion (Netherlands)
- Menetrendek (Hungary)
- Straeto (Iceland)
- Egged (Israel)
- STB (Romania)
- ZET (Croatia)
- De Lijn (Belgium)
- Nor-Way (Norway)
- Nobina (Nordic region)
- Postbus (Austria)
- Postbus CH (Switzerland)
- Luxexpress (Estonia)
- Trip8080 (Chinese)
Latin & South America
Australia & NZ
- BOT (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam)
- KD (South Korea)
- ExpressBusMalaysia (Malaysia)
- Ceres Bus (Philippines)
- Japanbuslines (Japan)
- VRL (India)
- Citybus (Hong Kong)
- BRTC (Bangladesh)
- SLTB (Sri Lanka)
- SBSTransit (Singapore)
*This list will be updated regularly.
Please share your best advice in the comments!