10 Bus Travel Tips
Travelling by bus is economic and eco-friendly. It shows the real and raw side of life when traveling in a new country. It might be uncomfortable for some, but I think it’s something we should all experience in life.
We do own a car in Zambia but not one that is good for road travel, due to the uncertainty and roughness of many roads. Gas prices are also so high that it is just not worth it in most cases.
I have been from Ndola to Kapiri, Ndola to Lusaka, Ndola to Livingstone, Ndola to Samfya, Ndola to Nakonde…and then back from all those places…by bus. I’ve also now travelled 17 hours on a bus through Tanzania. Before moving to Zambia, I travelled by bus through Ecuador and Peru. I think we actually experienced more delay and trouble travelling by bus in South America than I've experienced in Africa! But overall, all these experiences have allowed me to see and experience countries in a way that no flight could ever compare.
Many of my friends in Ndola think it’s crazy, but I’d call it adventurous, and simply realistic, too. Or my reality, anyway. Some people would just choose to not travel if they can’t go by car, I don’t mind either way, and I’m grateful for my parents who raised me that way!
When I was travelling from Samfya to Ndola (about 10 hours by 2 buses) I wrote down 7 Zambian bus travel tips. I've kept most of them the same and just added little bits, so now there are 10 bus travel tips! In light of my recent bus adventure from Ndola (where I live) to Dar es salaam (final destination: Zanzibar)…I thought I would share this! I’d love to hear if you have some bus travel tips that you would add!!!
1. The smells of bus rides are inevitable. If you’re in a hot climate, it will be worse. Bring essential oil or something that smells good to help with all the crazy smells you’ll be exposed to. You can rub a little under your nose or on your neck (depending on the severity) and it will make the journey much more pleasant. Don't forget to use your window, too!
2. Bring your larger bag onto the bus rather than putting it in the under bus storage. For example, if it is is a duffle bag, it will fit under the seats. This also has to do with packing: pack light if possible! If you do have a big back that doesn't fit on the bus, don't fret, it should be safe. But I prefer to keep it with me for convenience and peace of mind.
3. Find that unique spot. Try to find a seat that is a little broken to where it is partially reclined and wouldn’t be able to go up anyway because of its broken state. You will sleep great and no need to feel bad about it! Or maybe the seat next to a broken one so that no one will sit next to you and you have more space for your luggage.
4. Bring your own snacks and avoid drinking coffee or too many liquids. Chances are you won’t stop much and there aren’t bathrooms on the coaches. If you don’t want to pack your own snacks, bring small change with you and buy bananas, groundnuts or other fruit from the women who rush to the bus at every quick stop. Slow down on the diuretic liquids!
5. Bring an extra chitenge or cloth or towel with you. The chitenge will come in handy if you want to sit somewhere dusty or wet while waiting for the bus. You can also put it on the bus seat before sitting down and for your ride. I've also used a towel as a blanket if you're on a bus early in the morning and it's cold.
6. Bring TP and any other cosmetics on the go. If you do get a short stop at a toilet, 100% there will be no toilet paper so I always have my own ready!
7. Be patience and expect to wait. Even though you will inevitably wait and become impatient, you still need to go at least 15min early because sometimes they will leave early or right on time! But expect 30 min to hour delay. Just bring something to do!
8. This also reminds me: buy your ticket in advance, especially if you are on a tight schedule. They do fill up!
9. Enjoy the scenery. Soak up the experience. Listen to people talking in Bemba or other local languages and try to imagine what they’re talking about and all the juicy stories they’re telling!
10. Along with just enjoying the ride...If you so desire, bring your favorite alcoholic beverage along. No open bottle policy here, folks, so pour yourself a mixed drink, bring a cooler full of cold beer, or pop a bottle of champagne! Just be ready for judgement looks and talk from judgemental and strict people and also…every one else asking you to share!