In our increasingly fast-paced lives, it is hardly ideal to take long-haul bus rides, which require umpteen hours to go from point A to point B. Unlike the romanticized slow train rides, long bus routes are mainly portrayed as cheap – options for backpackers and budget travelers.
Regardless, most of us would agree that life isn’t meant to be lived in a hurry.
What’s the difference between long-haul buses and excursion (tour) buses?
Long-haul buses are different from excursion buses offered by package tour companies. The term “long-haul bus” refers to a means of transportation from one destination to another. Excursion buses cater to sightseers and tour groups.
Why choose long-haul bus travel?
Trippy user Mark Saraceni asked:
Do you still travel by bus these days?
Where are you using buses? For long trips? Short trips? I’m just curious if anyone still travels by bus these days, and if not, what’s your most used mode of transport when traveling?
Tony Wright from Seattle answered:
There are plenty of countries where buses are fabulous and cheap – they serve as a budget alternative for any countries that didn’t build rail infrastructure. In fact, we found train costs to be high enough to avoid unless it’s a short run.
Before you head for your journey of a lifetime, here are some pros and cons of traveling on long-haul buses:
- Cheaper than air and train travel
- Multiple options
- Different classes to choose from
- Overnight buses help you save on hotel costs
- Free wifi on some buses
- Free to check-in luggage
- Luggage storage/locker for a nominal fee (some free)
- Views along the way
- Opportunity to mingle with locals
- Drop off points are usually in the city center
- Many bus terminals are located in dodgy areas
- Dirty toilets
- The occasional inconsiderate seat mates
- Inconsistent arrival times
- Stops at gas stations and occasional long waits along the way
- Longer than flying
15 routes to know before you book your next trip:
These bus routes are smart alternatives to flights and train rides.
Trippy user Stef Poessel from Germany commented:
In South America as well traveling by bus is the best way. Even though the distances are quite huge, buses are usually quite comfortable. And flights are really expensive in South America.
I agree with Stef Poessel. There are few trains connecting the continent’s big cities. Air travel isn’t much better – it’s expensive and options are limited. Long-haul buses are the best way to go from place to place in South America. These buses offer different classes of service. The more expensive seats usually have more leg room and personal TV screens for movies and games. Meals are usually provided on board.
1. Lima to Guayaquil
I recommend Cruz del Sur’s double decker long-haul bus. Buses depart every day except for Tuesdays and Saturdays. Choose either first class or VIP class. The VIP class compartment is at the bottom level, separated by a glass door.
The VIP seats were larger and had more leg room than the normal seats. They could recline up to 160 degrees, allowing you to sleep almost flat. The seats also had personal entertainment systems, and the general area was quiet. Headphones, blankets, and pillows were provided. All meals were included in the ticket price. In total, the VIP section had 12 seats and one toilet, although the toilet did not work a few hours into the journey.
The Guayaquil bound bus departs from Javiar Prado station in Lima at 2:45 p.m. and arrives at the destination the next day at 6:30 p.m., a 28-hour journey.
Since this was an international trip (from Peru to Ecuador) check-in procedures at Javiar Prado were similar to an airport’s – checked bags were tagged, and an attendant went through our carry-on bags and did a brief pat-down. You must have your passport in hand when checking in.
2. Montevideo to Florianopolis and Sao Paulo
Montevideo’s Tres Cruces bus terminal is one of the best in South America. It is clean, safe and peaceful.
The trip from Montevideo, Uruguay to Florianopolis, Brazil is 18 hours long, departing from Montevideo at 4 p.m. and arriving in Florianopolis at 10 a.m. the next day. This same bus also makes its run from Florianopolis to Sao Paulo after stopping in Florianopolis. So you could potentially take the 32-hour bus ride from Montevideo to Sao Paulo. When we took this bus ride, we got off in Florianopolis, but more than half of the passengers were heading to Sao Paulo.
I recommend choosing EGA, a Uruguay-based bus company. The bus only runs this route on Sundays. There are two seat options – first class (only nine seats) and tourist class (20 seats).
3. Santiago to Buenos Aires
Kevin Berry from North Hampton, New Hampshire asked:
Traveling by bus from Santiago to Buenos Aires – Which cities to visit?
I am traveling alone across Argentina to get to Buenos Aires from Santiago.
I am looking for a few cities to stop at to check out for a night or two in each one. I like architecture, and am looking for a place with a good/lively atmosphere, nice people. Interesting places if possible.
Will probably want to stay in a hostel or a homestay or something. I am fluent in Spanish.
Laura Weber from Buenos Aires answered:
Hi Kevin, you should stop in Mendoza. It’s a beautiful city and there are lots of places to visit nearby like the Andes, Uspallata, Atuel River, San Rafael (Argentina), for example.
And if you like wine you could visit the wineries that are really wonderful.
4. Bariloche to Mendoza
Bariloche to Mendoza was our first long-haul bus trip in South America. The route is 764 miles long. There are daily departures from San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina leaving at 1 p.m. and arriving in Mendoza at 8:50 a.m. – a 19 and a half-hour trip. But if you’re like me, you’d go for the 17-hour trip, which is only available on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
I recommend Andesmar Bus for this route. All meals including snacks, coffee, tea, and wine are provided. Our luggage was checked and tagged without any issues. The only downside about this trip was Mendoza’s dodgy bus terminal.
5. Santiago to Puerto Montt
Trippy user Loreto Fernández Pérez from Santiago, Chile said:
Here in Chile we are used to travel by bus. We don’t have a train that connects the entire country and plane tickets are so expensive. Chile is a long country so if you want to travel from the capital Santiago to the north or south and you’re not up to driving for hours the best option is use the bus.
I met travelers taking long distance buses from Santiago to Puerto Montt, the gateway to the Lake District of Chile.
Besides those routes mentioned above, my family and I took a six-hour bus ride from Puerto Varas to Bariloche and a four-hour ride from Guayaquil to Cuenca.
6. Belize City to Cancun
Trippy user Mary Beth Johnson asked:
Claus Andersen shared:
I took the trip once and it was fine.
It required a change of bus in Chetumal just across the mexican border but that was very easy and straight forward.
The bus was fine and comfortable.
Personally I actually had one of the most fun bus rides in my life, but that had not so much to do with the quality of the bus so I better not start rambling about that, but the bus quality was actually quite ok and something I would happily do again.
With Air Asia, Tiger Airways, Jetstar Asia, Vietjet Air, Spice Jet and Lion Air, you are better off flying than taking buses when in South East Asia, China, and India. The only long-haul bus travels I did in Asia were from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
7. Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
Odyssey and Luxury Coach Service are two luxury bus companies with daily services between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Odyssey leaves from Balestier Plaza, Singapore and arrives at eCurve Shopping Center in Mutiara Damansara, a suburb outside of Kuala Lumpur. Luxury Coach Service leaves from Concorde Hotel, Orchard Road with several drop-off points in Kuala Lumpur (Hotel Istana, Federal Hotel, and Dorsett Regency Hotel).
You can find cheaper buses leaving from Golden Mile Complex, City Plaza Singapore, and Park Royal Hotel.
It takes around six hours to travel between both cities. Traffic jams and long lines at the immigration during public holidays may prolong travel time.
The last time I took a long-haul bus from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur was over 15 years ago. I have friends who recommend only using Odyssey. Odyssey won’t drop you off at Kuala Lumpur’s city center. The drop off point, Mutiara Damansara is one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Kuala Lumpur.
You can fly cheaply in Australia with Virgin Australia and Jetstar Airways. But if you prefer traveling by bus and want to save on hotel bills, here are two common routes.
8. Sydney to Brisbane
The trip takes 17 hours and the bus fare can be more expensive than a Virgin Australia or Jetstar Airways air ticket. You do save on hotel costs for a night if you depart in the evening. Greyhound Australia is one of the options for long-haul bus travels throughout Australia.
9. Adelaide to Melbourne
Fire Fly Express, a low-cost bus company, offers Adelaide to Melbourne and Melbourne to Sydney routes. The 12-hour Adelaide to Melbourne bus doesn’t take you through the scenic coastal route but you’ll still get to see Southern Australia and Victoria’s countryside.
I’ve traveled extensively in New Zealand, a country I resided for three and half years many years ago. On my recent trip, my husband and two kids did something we had never done before. We each bought a Naked Bus 10-trip bus pass for our eight-destination South Island vacation. I would highly recommend taking the bus if you like saving money, aren’t comfortable with driving on the ‘wrong side’ of the road, and want to see New Zealand at your own pace.
10. Greymouth to Christchurch
The Greymouth to Christchurch scenic route is best done with the TranzAlpine Express train. That was our original plan while in Greymouth. Unfortunately, the train trip was canceled due to several earthquakes around the Arthur’s Pass area, including one with a 6.8-magnitude a few hours before our departure.
We ended up using Atomic Travel bus, a budget bus company with extensive bus routes in South Island. If you’re on a budget and need to travel from Greymouth to Christchurch or vice versa, you should check out West Coast Shuttle and Atomic Travel.
This is a short trip, lasting only three hours 45 minutes.
Note: Naked Bus does not serve this route.
11. Wellington to Auckland
We used eight trips of our 10-trip Naked Bus pass in South Island, leaving us with extras for our trip back to Auckland. We saved a ton of money and had a lot of fun along the way.
To get from South Island to North Island you’ll have to purchase a ferry ticket either with Interislander Ferry or BlueBridge Cook Strait Ferry. The ferries travel across Cook Strait from Picton to Wellington.
The bus left Wellington (in front of Wellington Railway Station) at 9:45 p.m. and arrived in Auckland’s Quay Street at 9 a.m. the next day – a 12-hour trip.
Check out Naked Bus and Inter City for long-haul bus services between Wellington and Auckland.
Kathryn Hunter from London wrote:
In the US, I use Mega Bus for point to point travel. It’s much less expensive than flying and faster than the trains we have in Texas. Because it’s point to point, travel time is like I was driving myself, only I don’t have to do the driving.
12. Washington D.C. to New York City
Polly Beam from Washington D.C. said:
I started taking the bus between the two cities when I was in college, and it’s gotten so much easier to do as more people catch on! Union Station has a dedicated floor of their parking garage for bus lines, complete with a waiting room and bathrooms (that are nicer than the ones in the actual station, in my opinion). Some bus lines also have loyalty programs – I’ve gotten a number of free rides over the years.
I would not recommend Greyhound, however. Had a truly horrific experience with them once.
Check out Wanderu and Megabus.
13. Toronto to New York City
Wanderu, Trailways, and Megabus are some of the bus companies offering daily bus services between Toronto and New York City. The trip is usually about 12 hours long but can take slightly longer due to traffic and long immigration lines at the Canada/USA border.
Christene Main from Kansas City wrote:
I took a bus for part of my trip from Salzburg to Venice. It was lovely, comfortable, and cheap. I will also be using buses extensively in Morocco and Spain. I have heard they are the way to go.
These days with low-cost airlines and the ever increasing number of bus companies offering extensive schedules and routes, trains are no longer the only sought-after option for travelers. Bus travel is often cheaper and in some parts of Europe buses are the only transportation option besides flying.
14. Munich to Prague
Took a coach bus from Munich to Prague and it was fabulous. On time (German efficiency), clean seats, and they even reclined a bit. It was a way better way to take in the countryside than the train. Bus station in Prague was a bit sketchy but just a short walk to a taxi and all good.
15. Capetown to Johannesburg
According to the company’s website:
Simply buy one ticket to your final destination and hop on and off as often as you like along the route. You get picked up and dropped off at the door of your hostel. There are over 180 hostels to choose from and more than 40 cities, towns or villages to visit. You can travel in one direction until you reach your final destination. There is no time limit on your ticket!
See you there!
Article by Claudia Looi