10 Bus Travel Tips: Enjoy Your Long Ride More (Notes from 33 Hours on a Bus)

I just finished a 33 hour bus ride and learned 10 Bus Travel Tips that can help you enjoy your next long bus ride. 

Here is a travelogue of my trip from Missoula, Montana to Banff, Canada.

Bus Ride Statistics:

Total miles traveled: 1,143 miles

Actual distance as the crow flies from Missoula, Montana to Banff, Canada: 419 miles

Total coffees drank: 3

Number of bus drivers: 5

Hours slept: 8

Hours of REM sleep (the really restful kind): 0

Times we broke down: 1

Missoula, Montana: 9:30pm, Tuesday

Grab a cup of coffee and a McDouble from McDonald’s before my bus leaves.

Leaving Missoula, Montana: 10pm

Bus leaves on time… hmmm…. something doesn’t feel right here.

I sit right up front, so I can watch the action until I fall into a blissful sleep (and only partially curse the light and announcements that occur every 45 minutes).

Spokane, Washington: 1:30 am, Wednesday

Kicked off the bus for cleaning, so I check out the knick-knacks for sale in the Spokane bus station. I decide I can’t fit a stone Buddha in my pack, but I could use some cheap headphones.

After opening my headphones, I realize the soft squishy piece that goes in your ear, easily disconnects from the hard part that sticks out of your ear. Bummed… I try to get my money back.

More bummed, when I am rejected, I climb back on the bus and vow to take good care of the headphones (***They broke 47 hours later).

I put the headphones right to use and listen to 3 chapters of Gustave Flaumbert’s classic novel, Madame Bovary. I like to “read” a classic novel now and again to keep my vocabulary sharp.

***If you are looking for free audiobooks, check Librivox. They have most books that are in the public domain (aka old and usually boring, but not all the time) and the books are read by volunteers (mostly proper English folk too, so the accent really sets the mood).

I make a mental note to volunteer to read a book for Librivox and I wonder if I could pull off an English accent.

Seattle, Washington: 7:30am

I have an hour layover at the Seattle bus station. I am happy I remembered to grab my backpack from under the bus and wish I could explore the rain-soaked streets of Seattle.

Instead, I watch a 6-foot tall man flirt with a girl wearing a Seattle Supersonics sweatshirt. She seems relatively interested, until he starts dancing around after he received some positive message from his Iphone. He is then scolded by the guy wearing a yellow reflective vest behind the counter, which the flirter seems pretty proud of. He walks back to his seat holding up his pants that are just below his butt and is doing a dance move I haven’t seen before.

Heading to Canada: 9:00am

The bus ride to Canada is a little tense. I am going to attempt to smuggle in half a sack of pecans. I tried to eat them all and it just wasn’t happening.

I listen to 2 more chapters of Madame Bovary and start to work editing a time lapse video I made in Idaho. Yet the Greyhound doesn’t have Wi-Fi or electrical outlets as their website had suggested, so give up after my laptop battery gets low.

In Canada & Back on the Bus: 12pm

I am happy to still have my pecans (a little bummed there was no strip search) and sit back to relax as we drive to Vancouver.

Vancouver, Canada: 1pm

It is tough to tell I am in another country and am not impressed with the parts of Vancouver that I see. I had heard great things about the city… maybe I am just seeing the suburbs.

Feeling hunger again, a man with a braided leather tie, 1/8th inch thinning gray hair, and a dingy orange suitcase watches my backpack as I rustle up another McDouble with french fries and two fruit pies. As I munch, I wonder what $4.67 converts to in US Dollars… the last time I was in Canada every US dollar was worth $1.50 Canadian dollars, but I hear those days are over.

Bus Breaks Down somewhere after Hope and before Merritt: 4:30pm-ish

After I had figured out how to “Never Be Lied To Again,” –an audiobook by Jason Lieberman, Ph.D, that suggests a number of questions to ask and signs to look for, so you can be certain no one is lying to you– I hear a loud pop as the man ahead of me with the embroidered “marijuana” hat sits down. Then my friend with the orange suitcase and Texas tie, who is sitting right behind the driver exclaims, “Well that is all she wrote… heh heh heh.”

As we sit by the side of the road, the bus driver forbids anyone to leave the bus because it is too dangerous. This doesn’t stop 3 nicotine addicts, who proclaim “F*ck it” and go out anyway to smoke the cheap cigars with flavored papers that most people make marijuana blunts from.

New Bus: 5:30pm

I read about a man who records every aspect of his life in Good.is magazine. Nicholas Felton records every meal he eats, page he turns, and hayrides he has taken. I wonder if I have the discipline to do the same… it would be interesting to know how many gas station chili dogs I have eaten, how many times I have washed my underwear, and other vital statistics.

Another Bus: 7:30pm

At the last gas station, I bought the Canadian adventure magazine, Explore and am reading about Will Stanhope. A cocky and young, yet talented mountain climber, he has already scaled some challenging peaks. A lot of them he has done without a rope or will “trad” climb, meaning stick his gear into the rock wall as he climbs. He was known as one of the boldest climbers today before his gear didn’t hold him one time and he fell. He broke some bones, pissed blood, and his philosophy has changed. His sister says his near-death experience changed him for the better.

I wonder when death will come that close to me.

Kamloops Bus Station: 8pm-10pm

Eat a horrible, diced turkey sandwich with mayonnaise, jalapeno kettle chips, and orange juice. It is way too expensive and the clerk is rude. I contemplate opening a healthy, fast food restaurant for travelers, but quickly abandon the idea as unprofitable to stare at the brick floor.

Between Kamloops and Revelstoke: 2:30am, Thursday

I admire the bus driver’s well-trimmed mustache and full denim suit. He has some pins on his right shirt pocket that I’m hoping mean he is a good driver.

We drive through avalanche zones, 2 hours of snow, and windy mountain roads. I hope we don’t meet up with any of the elk, moose, or big-horned sheep the signs are warning us about.

Revelstoke: 3am

Accident on the road ahead. 30 minute delay.

I head to Denny’s for Strawberry Pancake Balls.

Banff: 7am

I ask the bus driver to open the underside of the bus so I can get my backpack. He looks at his list and replies, “I didn’t think anyone was getting off here.”

“I changed my mind,” I reply, “this place looks awesome.” Really, it was 30$ cheaper to get a bus ticket to Calgary, even though Banff is 80 miles closer. When I asked the clerk back in Vancouver if I could change, she said it was against the rules. Banff is a tourist destination, so they price it more.

I don’t feel guilty at all and stride 0.5 kilometers towards the downtown in the chilly morning air. No snow on the ground.

It is a great feeling to walk into a new town, especially a town as beautiful as this. It reminds me of what I have seen of ski towns in Colorado. Pricey boutiques, bars, and fancy restaurants line the streets.

I see only one or two people walking around as I try to find my hostel.

10 Bus Travel Tips To Help You Enjoy Your Long Bus Ride

1. Bring ear plugs.

2. Download 3 audiobooks (if you want them for free, go to Librivox.org or pay for newer ones on Audible.com)

3. Take your own snacks (anything with protein works well)

4. Bring a cushy pillow (a sweatshirt is what I have)

5. Take 2 magazines or buy them on the road

6. Bring a journal

7. Take off your shoes (make sure your feet don’t stink)

8. Don’t give a sh*t how you look. Rock your funky, greasy look!

9. Talk to someone who looks nice (avoid the troublesome or needy crowd)

10. Sit up front to watch the action (or avoid the front, if you can’t take it)


What is your longest ride ever on a Greyhound or similar bus service?

Please share in the comments and if you have any tips for other riders.


3 Responses to 10 Bus Travel Tips: Enjoy Your Long Ride More (Notes from 33 Hours on a Bus)
  1. [...] Greyhounded from Missoula to Banff. [...]

  2. Nicole
    March 28, 2013 |

    I took a bus trip from Sacramento to Sumter, South Carolina with a 9 month old baby. I will never do it again. I had help from other travelers but making formula and changing diapers is not the business on the highway. The good thing is that he was a good baby, he didn’t cry alot or make a lot of noises. My biggest issue was we had a layover in Jackson, Ms. and got snowed in for 4 hours. And of course I had to keep an eye on my baby so I got very little sleep. We got there safely. On the way back I packed a little different; meaning I bought powdered milk, changed his pajamas and other things that made things easier, as I had not travelled with a baby before. I would tell anyone, do your homework before you decide to go by bus with a child, period. :-)

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    August 15, 2013 |

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