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How to Choose the Best Seat on a Bus

There's strategy in learning how to choose the best seat on a bus in Mexico
Buses in Mexico (photo: Dave Lee)

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 choosing the best seat.

Everyone has their 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 three hours in length in Mexico, but can easily be applied to other countries.

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Things to consider before selecting a seat

  • Do the windows open and close?
  • Are there blinds?
  • Do the seats recline?
  • Is there a bathroom onboard?
  • Are there movie screens, and where are they located?
  • Are there assigned seats?
  • Is there air conditioning?

See also: 7 Safety Tips for Riding Buses in Ecuador

Bust station in Mexico
A bus station in Mexico (photo: Dave Lee)

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 legroom 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 and don't mind limited space, the window seat is for you.

For me, it's the aisle.

View of Movie Screen

If you know there are TVs onboard, 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 will work fine, reducing the smell but keeping you within a moment's reach.

Electronic Seat Selection

If you can choose your seat ahead of time, selecting the aisle seat on a vacant row is the best bet.

No one wants to have to squeeze past a stranger to get to the window seat, leaving you with a good chance of having two places to yourself.

If it's a full bus, your aisle seat may come in handy anyways if the person next to you is oversized.

Time of Day

After making this mistake a couple of times, I finally learned.

Figure out where the sun is 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 place.

If I were 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?

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Steve

Friday 26th of May 2017

I always choose a seat in the middle and yeah I am not a fan of the window side so getting a seat in that area is quite easy.

marlena owens

Friday 12th of August 2016

This article is super helpful. I am a young woman and I am taking my first bus trip ever in a couple of weeks and I am going alone AND it will be 24hr ride. I am soo nervous! I also have an anxiety disorder too, so it makes me even more nervous to be alone for so long. This article and all of these comments have been very helpful. Do you have any other tips for a first time rider? Thanks

Srikanth Bhattad

Tuesday 12th of April 2016

I have travelled extensively throughout India, in day and in Night, In Air Conditioned & Non Air-conditioned Buses. I just love the Window Seat because of the scenic view it gives of the country side, and for the cool night breeze (Non Air-conditioned Bus) which can calm down any disturbed soul.

Guest

Thursday 9th of June 2011

Thanx, helpful

Good Old Paranoia

Friday 28th of January 2011

Hey, that's a great list of things to have in mind, I would like to think of myself as a "backpacker in progress" and your blog is giving me a lot of information and travel tips that have been really useful so far. I'm planning a trip to Spain on July and I'm looking for accommodation advice. I'll be staying in Madrid and studying Spanish for as long as it takes :) I'm traveling on a budget so I'm looking for cheap apartments in Madrid, any advice on that matter? I've found tons of options at http://www.clickbed.com/general-information/cheap-apartments-in-madrid-1058lp.html but maybe you have better options for me. Thanks a lot!

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