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7 Things I Recently Learned About Long Distance Bus Travel

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My mother and I recently decided to take a semi-spontaneous trip to Toronto for three days to see The Phantom of the Opera. I’d never been to Toronto—Canada’s biggest city—before so I jumped at the opportunity. We got an Air BNB, theatre tickets and booked our flights.

And because my mother is the unluckiest person I know, she had to have emergency eye surgery before the trip. Because of the cabin pressure of an aircraft, Mom was forbidden to fly.

Neither of us drive and the trains schedules didn’t work for us so we decided to take a bus all the way from Moncton, New Brunswick to Toronto, Ontario and back. I’d never taken a bus such a distance before.

The trip from Moncton to Toronto involved:

  • 2 different bus lines (Maritime Bus and then Greyhound)
  • 4 transfers
  • about 1600 km/994 miles
  • approximately 25 hours on a bus in total

Here are a few of the lessons I learned during that very long bus trip to Toronto, and a few things I picked up on the return trip.

  1. No matter what season, everyone on the bus, except you, has the plague. If this trip doesn’t kill you dead, nothing will.
  2. Guessing what kind of temperature the bus is utterly futile. Be prepared for an arctic-like climate, a muggy tropical environment and nothing in between.
  3. You need to sleep when you have the chance. Do you hear me? YOU. NEED. TO. SLEEP. WHEN. YOU. CAN. Invest in a really good donut-style travel pillow and some Gravol or sleep aids. Whatever will do the trick. Even if you only have an hour between bus transfers, that hour of sleep is worth it. Even if the bus doesn’t seem comfortable, it’s a lot better than the sad surroundings of a bus station.
  4. Not all bus stations are made equal. The best bus station we stopped at was Montreal. It was laid-out really well and had several stores and food options within it. Toronto was kind of small and limited by comparison. Ottawa was okay but they it was the only station that had any kind of security check before we boarded which seemed odd to me.
  5. Don’t depend on the bus having Wifi or outlets. Do all your downloading and charging before boarding. Even the buses that boasted having Wifi didn’t really have Wifi. It was limited to in-browser use, so no streaming or downloading was possible. That trip killed my data usage for the month.
  6. Your bus may not take the most obvious route. We ended up going through the middle of heckin’ nowhere between Ottawa and Toronto in order to avoid the 401. The uninhabited, swampy areas we drove through were almost creepy they were so empty. I found it strange that there could be so much nothing within shouting distance of the Greater Toronto Area.
  7. At one point you’ll be so tired that you’ll write a poem, even though you don’t write poetry, like, ever. It’s just not your thing. But that’s how tired you are. Thing is, this poem isn’t even that bad.

Do you have any tips for long-distance bus travellers?

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Jilly

Jillianne Hamilton is the author of Molly Miranda: Thief for Hire, its two action/comedy sequels, and The Lazy Historian's Guide to the Wives of Henry VIII. She is also a graphic designer, a hoarder of podcasts and a history enthusiast. Learn more.

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