You’ve all heard the horror stories in the past about taking an overnight bus in Latin America. Whether it be in Murderous Mexico, Cut-Throat Colombia or Gruesome Guatemala. Back home your country’s travel advice warns against even visiting these countries, let alone get on a bus in the middle of the night. Stories of kidnappings, robberies and crashes play havoc on your mind.
But is there anything to really be scared of? Media beat up is prominent around the world, but nevertheless there are still some precautions to take. Taking over night buses on a budget not only saves you on a nights accommodation, but it also means you get to see more during the day. Plus they can be a lot of fun. Where else would you get to watch poorly dubbed and ridiculously inappropriate movies shown to young children, like Crank 2 or Machete?
After countless overnight buses in the last few years I can tell you it doesn’t get less worrisome. But it’s not about being paranoid, it’s just about being prepared. While I can’t guarantee you won’t be robbed, take note of these tips to best prepare yourself for the ride.
- Bring on extra clothes to rug up. While it has nothing to do with being robbed, it’s probably the most useful thing you’ll need to know. No matter what the climate, bus drivers will find a way to tap into subterranean temperatures at night that make you beg for the suffocating hot air of the day.
- Carry the important stuff with you on board. It might feel safer underneath, but at least up top you can keep a constant eye on it. Stops in the middle of the night can be the perfect opportunity for someone to slip in and grab your bag, or ruffle through it. If you’re awake always pop your head out the window at stops to to have a quick peek.
- Avoid putting anything resembling valuable luggage in the designated space above your head. This is an easy way to loose your things. Additionally, be careful with your luggage on the ground. In some places people have been known to slide under your seat from behind, slice open your bag with a razor and take anything they can. It’s a long shot, but be aware. I usually sleep spooning my bag, zippers facing inwards.
- Pre-pack some food. Some companies feed you on the bus, but don’t expect anything too delicious. Especially if you’re a vegetarian, there isn’t much choice. Stale ham and cheese sandwiches with a sickly sweet dessert are the usual go to. If the bus is lucky enough to stop along the way, you still won’t find much. Pack some bread rolls and fruit as a last resort.
- Don’t be judgemental. You don’t have to suspect every shady looking person as a potential thief, but always keep yourself alert. If someone is eyeing you off they might not be interested in your luggage, they might just be interested in you.
- If you make a stop for the bathroom or food always take your stuff with you. Never leave anything on a bus, no matter how long you’re off it.
- If you’re paranoid about losing your travel photos you should separate the memory card. A camera can always be replaced, but the photos on your card can’t. Stick your memory card into your undies and you’ll be fine.
Travel safe amigos!