In the interest of increasing overland travel, I’ve done some finger-breaking internet research to find the best sites on bus travel. These are excellent resources for planning and price comparison, but sometimes it’s more economical to show up at the local bus station (at least an hour before bus departure!) and get your tickets there. If you like to have your ducks in a row, go ahead and book online- if you’re more easygoing, take a chance and show up at the station.
Also, apologies for only having completed Europe and USA. I am presently in SE Asia, and will be coming out with the best bus sites for this area as soon as I can. Do you have the downlow on buses anywhere else in the world? Drop it in the comments, and I will be sure to do a write up on them, giving you all the internet glory.
Note: Many major cities have more than one bus station. Double, and triple check which station your bus leaves from. Nothing worse than buying a ticket online and showing up at the wrong terminal, missing your bus and not getting your money back. Take it from me.
Go To Bus offers several discount packages from top destinations,round trip fares, and lush buses. I’d recommend checking the prices on Greyhound first, and then coming here to buy after comparing. Sometimes you’re only paying about $5 more, and for what can be a multiple day journey, you’re going to love every penny you spent on the difference.
The bus line we all know and hate. To be fair, I’ve not ridden the Greyhound in a long time, but the last time I did, it was not pleasant. Imagine scraping the lower echelon of the scariest places in the USA, and putting them in a metal box on wheels. Having said that, you really meet interesting characters and might have some excellent stories to tell at the end of your journey. Worth a shot, as long as you have your rabies shots. Usually the cheapest for bus travel in the USA.
Eurolines is great as they book directly through the major European Bus Lines, but you probably gleaned that from the name, didn’t you? They prove to be an accurate search engine for showing you which line to use. From there, to save yourself a few bucks, it’s also worth googling that particular company to see if they have any online coupon codes or promotions that aren’t listed on their site. Now you’re getting the hang of this!
Busabout has got me excited about Bus Travel. A cool group of people who get what it means to be a traveler with a small budget and big dreams. They cover trips such as Oktoberfest and La Tomatina,offer multi-destination flexi-passes, and one way legs as well. Founded by a group of travelers, they’ve got your back(pack). Check out the site if you’re looking for an easy booking option and fun atmosphere.
I was going to recommend this site, now I am leaving this link here to point out how crappy this service is. They appear to offer great rates for all the early comers, only problem? Bookings need to be handled by phone. At 60p per minute from landlines, and “varying rates” from mobile phones, I say no thank you to this site. Still a good resource for those who wish to check out fares and buy elsewhere.
God bless the man in Seat 61. Do you want to know anything about how to travel by train or boat, almost anywhere in the world? Mark has got you covered, just don’t sit in his seat! This site is stacked with information. To be fair to my readers, it’s a bit confusing to navigate, so I recommend using it once you have your ideas solid. Once you see how easy Mark has made it to travel overland, you may never want to take a plane again! Hands down, the most useful resource in overland travel.
The sharing economy is taking over the world, and it’s also moving into how we get from point A to point B.
My favorite and go-to site is BlaBlaCar, which I’ve used tons of times to get around in Europe! Can’t recommend it enough although you should always have a back up plan in mind, just in case!
This site is a little brighter and flashier, and according to the internet gods, the most frequently used / largest ride sharing website out there. Used for everything from a daily carpool, to one off cross continent trips. Check it out!
Compartir means share in Spanish, and we all know that sharing is caring. Available in nine languages and covering several continents, Compartir will help you plan your hitching route, give it a shot!
Also known as thumbing, tramping, hitching, autostop or thumbing up a ride, depending on where in this world you live.
Now, mothers of the world are gasping, covering their children’s eyes and crossing themselves. Don’t worry. Like spiders, snakes, and any other thing most people greet with terror- odds are, it’s more afraid of you than you are of it. How often do you pull over your nice vehicle to pick up someone thumbing it on the side of the road? Exactly.
Hitchhiking alone as a female the first time is a bit terrifying- I won’t lie. You stick out your thumb, or forefinger, and keep walking, hoping someone will honk or pull over. Then someone pulls over, great! I take a second to pretend I am adjusting my bag to size the person up and let my instincts do the work. If I get even the slightest uh-oh feeling, I decline the ride stating I just left something back at my hostel and turn the other way.
Fortunately this is the exception and not the rule. Most of the time people are going out of their way to do a kindness, and are usually curious about what brings you to their area. Don’t be scared- but don’t be stupid. Read these tips, and then give it a shot!
So you’re sold, and you’re ready to take the jump. Follow these tips to ensure you and your host driver both have an enjoyable experience.
Be a good car guest
This might come as common sense, but haven’t we talked about how uncommon that is? You are a good car guest if you come prepared. Do not be smelly. Do not be rude. Do not be a human sponge. In case those are confusing terms, let’s take it out of the negative.
Be clean. Be kind. Be generous.
You’re not just representing yourself, you’re representing the rest of the hitching community. By being a good car guest you ensure that you will get a nice long ride, and that the driver will have every reason to pick up another hitcher in the future. Make sure you bring enough food and water for a few hours trip, just in case your hitch is on a deadline. No one wants to have to make an unscheduled stop for the person they are donating a ride to. On the other hand, they’re going to be very grateful for your awesome food and beverage provisions.
Be intelligent, or at least interesting.
Knowing a bit about the area you are traveling in is simple good manners and what a real traveler is about. If you are in an area unplanned, try to be interested in the local culture, or at least your car host. Are you a terrible conversationalist? Try this simple formula: ask questions, listen. Works like a charm! There is no better language teacher than a local, have a pen and paper handy and ask how to say a few key phrases in the language. People usually love food, ask your host their favorite national dish.
Have a map that covers the country in a detailed fashion. This saves your host from having to explain where you are, where you’re going, where he’s going, etc. It also puts you in the useful category: a good co-pilot knows their way around a map.
Trust your gut.
If the driver seems rapey, murdery, creepy, or sketchy, ask to be dropped off at the next well connected location. You might worry about being rude, but better safe than sorry. Don’t hesitate to turn down rides. Simple rule, if they make you feel uh oh in your no-no just say “nevermind” and walk away!
Don’t be a packhorse.
First of all, if you’re carrying a ton of luggage, stop. This is bad for your back, your travel style, and your chances of getting picked up. If your driver has to worry about where they’re going to fit your oversized backpack, 20 liter daypack, plastic bags and hammock, the odds are that he is going to drive on by. If you happen to have way too much stuff, stand in front of it so that they don’t see how much useless junk you have. Be prepared to sit with all of this on your lap until your legs go numb.
Location, Location, Timing.
Tricked ya there, didn’t I? You need to be placed where a driver can spot you with enough time to pull over, and a safe place to do so. Placed right after a curve on a two lane, windy road? Bad. Placed in the median of a four lane highway? Worse. Approaching people in a petrol station? Great! I think you get the hint.
Timing. No one is going to stop for you when they’re rushing to work. No one is going to stop for you during lunch hour traffic. Take these into consideration, and hit the streets during the time when you’re most likely to get picked up.
Plan B aka The Key Shank.
Just because you’re trusting in the goodness of humanity, and accepting the hospitality of strangers does not mean you’re defenseless. Always have a plan in case something goes wrong. A cell phone (always make sure you know the local emergency number!) ready to call for help. A canister of pepper spray in your daypack. Or maybe you don’t have these items at your disposal, never forget the house key shank.
The house key shank? Yes. Take your key ring, and hold a key between each finger, until your hand looks like wolverine. Excellent for punching and causing more damage than normal. Go for the eyes if it’s a real emergency!
HitchWiki is downright awesome. They’ve got first time guides and all kinds of tips on how to safely navigate the world of thumbing. Tips on how to make awesome signs, and a guide for those who pick up hitchers… In fact, it’s infinitely more useful than this section of my site, but there’s no sarcasm, so I know you’ll be back here. Go ahead and explore Hitchwiki, you’re going to love it.
This is perfect if you have a set route in mind. Departure cities, dates, and destinations all in one place. You can get a feel for the person before messaging them and work out any details you might have questions about. Thoroughly awesome and highly recommended.