11 Ways to Make the Best of a Long-Distance South American Bus Ride

While recently traveling from Loja, Ecuador to the border town of Huaquillo, I realized that I was enduring the longest bus ride I’d experienced since India.  That made me ponder: Since arriving in Medellín about three months ago, I’ve been traveling slowly and avoiding long rides.

But then, after five weeks in Ecuador, I decided that it was time to get down to what appeared to be a vast and exotic Perú.  This bus ride that brought me to the border took about seven hours.

While enduring this long transportation endeavor, my mind flashed back to an early post: 12 Things to do on a Long Distance Amtrak Train. I then thought about some things to take into consideration while being trapped inside this rolling passenger holding contraption:

●  Close your eyes and meditate.  Breathe in and breathe out.  Focus on your breathing.  Mediation is relaxing.  Why not use bus time to gain experience in  this ancient art?

●  Embrace your gadgets.  I don’t have a smart phone yet.  But,  it’s on my to-research and to-buy list.

●  Gaze out the window.  Up until now,  I’ve been fortunate to see spectacular scenery for three months.  While this scenery has become second nature, I still really enjoy reading signs and glancing at people and animals along the way.  As you may be trying to improve your Spanish, reading signs is a great help as visualization helps us to remember.  TIP: When buying your bus ticket, ask for a window seat.  Me gustaria un asiento de la ventana porfa.

 ●  Get off the bus when it stops for a break.  I prefer to get off immediately after stopping.  Use the bathroom and grab a small and healthy bite to eat.  There are often fruit options especially in the fresh juice variety.  If you prefer a meal then by all means eat.  I typically prefer something light like a soup and/or salad since my body doesn’t need a lot of energy to sit in the same position for a long period of time.    I also use this time to stretch my body.  I do as many stretching exercises as possible while standing.

Thanks to the stretching/makeshift yoga action during a pit stop in southern Ecuador last week, my mood became elevated.  After getting back on the bus, I had the energy I needed to write this post.

●  Limit water and food intake.  Have a couple of bananas for hydration.  Most long distant buses tend to stop for a food and bathroom break.  Still, because I’ve got to endure a few hours without a bathroom, bananas in lieu of water tends to save the day.  I carry one cannister full and sip from it to avoid being parched.  I try to eat only fruits and veggies.  I’m a big fan of raisins, almonds and walnuts as they tend to hold me over for quite some time while not making me feel overly full.  Feeling stuffed while crammed into a spot on a bus contributes to an unpleasant ride.

●  Listen to Music.  More often than not  there’s music with Spanish lyrics playing.  Whether you understand the words or not, it can only help you improve your Spanish skills.  Music is a great mood enhancer too.

●  Read a novel.  This is one of the best ways to utilize time on a bus.  If you’re like me and you still don’t have a kindle or Iphone, old-fashioned novels will do the trick.  Also, if you pull an electronic device out in the wrong place, you could be a potential target for a robber, hypothetically speaking anyway.

●  Strike up conversations.  They can pass the time well.  On my five hour van ride from Medellín to Manizales, I was talking to a Luxembourgian traveler and a local from Manizales for most of the ride.  This made the five hour ride feel like only two hours.

●  Study your to-do list.  If you don’t have a to-do list, create one. I find that this time is great for looking at my current to do list.  I cross out anything I’ve already accomplished.  I place a check mark next to something I’ve partly accomplished, and I add anything that I feel I need to do in the near future.

●  Take cat naps.  Bus rides are a great place to take a snooze.  When your eyes close you have the freedom to drift off.  This bonus rest passes time and can act as a physical and mental rejuvenator.

Write a blog post as I did this one while on the way to the border.  If you don’t write a blog, write something.  Absolutely anything will suffice. Writing is therapeutic.

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 Can you think of any other efficient ways to use your time on a long distance bus ride?  Feel free to comment below.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mamma on April 13, 2012 at 23:27

    Thanks for another blog post. Where are you now?


  2. Great tips! I am notoriously fidgety on bus rides, and avoid long ones as much as possible, but agree that it is a good time for reflection and meditation. Thanks for the banana tip, I didn’t realize that they were hydrating. Enjoy Peru, look forward to reading about your drifts…


    • SARAH: Thanks! Bus rides are just necessary. I say: Why fly when I can take a bus for a fraction of the cost? Now that I’ve arrived in Perú, the quality of these buses has been enhanced. I’ve been on a couple of comfy double deckers, one even had wifi. As for the banana, yeah it’s pretty much a super food that’s so easy to find and chow down anywhere.


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