Traveling across a country via a bus can be a lot of fun, and can also be very painful. You can make or break a 12 hour bus ride by simply choosing the best seat. Everyone has their own preferences, but I will break down several factors to consider when boarding your next long distance bus ride.
These insider tips on how to choose the best seat on a bus are geared towards bus rides over 3 hours in length, and in Mexico, but can easily be applied to other countries.
Planning a trip around the world? Book your hostels here!
Things to consider before strategically selecting a seat:
* Do the windows open and close?
* Are there blinds?
* Do the seats recline?
* Is there a bathroom on board?
* Are there movie screens and where are they located?
* Are there assigned seats?
* Is there air conditioning?
How to choose your seat on the bus?
- Aisle or Window Seat: Some people love the view, gazing out the window on a scenic mountain drive. Unfortunately, if someone sits down in the aisle seat next to you, every time you need to get up you will need to have them move. Your leg room is also limited in the window seat. In the aisle seat, you get the space but not the view. Access to the bathroom is easy, but you also get bumped by every person walking by. If you are a person who can stay seated for extended periods of time, and don't mind limited space, the window seat is for you. For me, definitely the Aisle.
- View of Movie Screen: If you know there are TVs on board, be sure to pick a seat that has a direct view. Killing time has never been easier than watching three movies straight… in a different language.
- Distance to Restroom: You never want to be directly next to the restroom because of the foul smell, but being somewhat close can be helpful. If you know you will need to use it a few times during the ride, a front row seat isn't great because you are bumping into people every time you need to run to the toilet. About 5-6 rows from the back works fine, reducing the smell but keeping you within moments reach.
- Electronic Seat Selection: If you can choose your seat ahead of time, choosing the aisle seat on a vacant row is the best bet. No one wants to have to squeeze pass a stranger to get to the window seat, leaving you with a good chance of having two seats to yourself. If its a full bus, your aisle seat may come in handy anyways if the person next to you is over sized.
- Time of Day: After making this mistake a couple times, I finally learned. Figure out where the sun is at during your passage! If you are hot already, the sun beating down on you will make the trip miserable. If you are heading north in the morning, sit on the left side of the bus. If you are heading south, sit on the right side. Remember, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West.
- Last Minute Adjustments: Is the bus looking like it will fill up? If not, jump over to a vacant row before someone else takes advantage of it. The worst that can happen is the person whose seat you stole jumps on board last minute and you head back to your own seat.
If I was boarding an 8-10 hour bus in the morning heading south that had TVs, AC, seat selection, and a bathroom, I would sit 5-6 rows from the back in a right hand side aisle seat… praying no one sits next to me. When the crying baby and Mom or sumo wrestler plops down next to you, at least you have the movies to stare at, right?
My long term bus experiences were mostly in Mexico and I would love to hear from you about how it differs around the world.