Bus rides are terrible. They lack the speed of flight and the comfort of the rails. But when you’re on a budget or traveling in a more remote region, bus is sometimes a must.
Minimize the torture with this seat choice guide.
Awesome seats: First row window opposite the driver is pretty solid for easy on/off, extra leg room (because no jackass can recline onto your lap), and the best view. Possible risks/drawbacks: definite plate glass facial if there’s an accident and you’re not wearing your seat belt; it’s a hike to the bathroom; surly drivers are within shouting distance and texting ones are within view, for maximum driver-related anxiety.
Also excellent are the seats that overlook the stairs on buses with a second door. It’s not as sweet a view, but you’re closer to the bathroom, farther from any annoying driver or unforgiving windshield, and still get the easy on/off situation and relief from reclining jackasses.
Seats from hell: In back next to the restroom. You are trapped. It’s dark. The bathroom stinks and the door keeps swinging open and shut, wafting human waste odors toward you. A man with a sorry dental hygiene situation and no respect for personal space very badly wants to discuss 9/11 conspiracy theories and you will never get away.
Also terrible are the seats in the last row on buses with the restroom situated at the bottom of the stairs. This row stretches across the width of the bus, and attracts bigger groups and people who think it’s their God-given right to treat the whole thing like a bed, even if you’re on it.
You do not want to be next to, behind, or in front of a small child (or even worse, an infant) on a bus unless you love getting kicked, being asked for favors, plugging your ears, or smelling full diapers. With my respect to traveling parents, I suggest non-parents board the bus after any shrieking young’uns, so that they can see where they end up and make sure they keep some distance.
If you’re alone, and you’re not huge on fifteen-hour chats with self-absorbed strangers, have earphones in and don’t remove them for anything, even if your battery dies and you’re listening to dead air. Take it from someone who knows.
Many buses have outlets now, but some don’t equip every seat and they don’t always work, so try to check it out before you sit down.
Beware of leaky air conditioners, grease-covered windows and headrests, and people who look like they normally travel via private jet but are slumming it for the day.