How to Survive a 24 Hour Bus Ride: Best Tips & Our Experience

How to Survive a 24 Hour Bus Ride

I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would anyone willingly take a 24 hour bus ride? Well I can assure you it’s not for the scenic views. It really comes down to one thing… Money!

Staying on budget has long compelled travelers to take long bus rides, and it’s hard to see that changing any time soon. It doesn’t matter where you go in the world, the bus will almost always be your cheapest long distance travel option.

So once you make that decision you’re faced with the glaring reality. What is there to do on an absurdly long bus ride that takes you across country? Well we had the unfortunate pleasure of traveling from San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso Chile by bus for 24 hours. So let’s get right into it!

Essential Backpacking Tips

Experiencing Chile by Bus

First off, you might be wondering how we even ended up in this predicament. How could we possibly put ourselves in a situation where we would need to take a bus that spans the entire length of a day? Well it all started as we were trying to get from San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso.

Fresh off our Salt Flat Tour in Bolivia we were feeling pretty gross and tired. Three days traveling in the desert, and the only form of a shower we had was in thermal baths. So needless to say, we were looking forward to some luxury. A stay at a nice hotel was in our immediate future!

That was until we saw the prices. $80 USD may not sound like much, but when you’re traveling for one year that’s pretty damn expensive! On top of that, we weren’t really feeling the town of San Pedro de Atacama at all. Maybe it was the dusty desert vibes after roughing it in Bolivia, or the extremely high prices we were seeing for South America. Whatever the case, it was clearly time to move on with our journey. Even if that included some long bus rides!

Things to do on a Long Bus Ride

Getting from San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso

So let’s go over what our options were besides a mind-numbingly long bus ride…

  • Flight: $200 – Out of the question.
  • Hotel: $80 – Getting warmer…
  • Bus: $35 – CRAP! 24 Hour Bus Ride it is!

Not only would this get us from San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso, but it saved us some serious dough on a nights stay. These factors (combined with extreme exhaustion and temporary lack of brainpower) all contributed to us deciding to head straight from San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso, Chile. So with that, we headed off to experience Chile by Bus. Yet before we tell you some things to do on a long bus ride there are a few serious no no’s to learn!

San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso

What NOT to do on a 24 Hour Bus Ride

Eat anything questionable: If you even have to think “Will this make me sick?” PLEASE don’t eat it! The bathroom (assuming it has one) is definitely a place you don’t want to be on a 24 hour bus ride.

Seating: Don’t sit near ANY doors including the bathroom for obvious reasons! Frequent usage will be irritating.

Sleeping pills: This might seem like a good idea at the time, but it can often lead to drowsiness and the occasional robbery on long bus rides.

Leave your stuff: While we’re on the topic… I can’t tell you how many backpackers we’ve met who have had personal items stolen on long bus rides. Don’t EVER leave your stuff when you get off to get some food or fresh air, and always keep a close eye on it. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s always safer to just sit with your bag rather than put it in the overhead or underneath. 

Hangover: Don’t go out the night before. If there is one thing you don’t want to be on a 24 hour bus ride, it’s hungover.

24 Hour Bus Ride
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How to Survive a 24 Hour Bus Ride

Now that you know what NOT to do, here’s some helpful tips get you through these unfortunate circumstances. 

GPS: Download an offline app like Maps.Me and play this fun little game where you see if the bus is going the right way. You’ll be surprised how many times the driver goes off the main road, makes unscheduled stops, picks up his friends, and does basically ANYTHING in his power to make long bus ride more hours than anticipated.

Attempt to connect to Wi-fi: When exploring Chile by bus you’ll notice almost all of the companies advertise “Free Wi-Fi.” This might come as a surprise to first time backpackers, but it rarely ever works. Honestly, what is this some sort of sick joke??

Food: Take any and all opportunities to get off the bus and grab a snack. Scheduled stops rarely exist so you never know when your next chance to eat will come.

24 Hour Bus ride
18 hours in…. How do we look?

More Things to Do on a Long Bus Ride

Movies: Ok that last one was cruel, but we promise our things to do on a long bus ride are getting better! Our next tip is to simply make them play movies. From experience traveling Chile by bus they usually won’t even put the TV’s on unless you ask. This will also help you brush up on whatever language they’re playing it in!

Podcasts: We used to listen to music on long bus rides, but it’s just way too entertaining. A podcast will either be so informative you will learn something, or so boring you’ll fall asleep. That’s a win-win in our book.

Sleep: The last of our tips and things to do on a long bus ride is to get as much sleep as possible. The more time you’re asleep, the less time you have to be awake on the 24 hour bus ride. The less time you’re awake on the bus, the less time it seems like you’re actually on the bus. Get the point?

Bus from San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso
Better times. On a much shorter bus ride!

Avoid Long Bus Rides At All Costs

I think we’ve made it clear by now. If there is anyway to avoid a 24 hour bus ride, by all means stay away!! We’re not trying to seem ungrateful, but we’d be lying if we said it wasn’t one of the worst days of our entire year long backpacking trip… And that includes food poisoning! Nonetheless, if you are forced to do it at least you know we survived. Good luck!

Chile by Bus San Pedro de Atacama to Valparaiso
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Have you ever experienced Chile by bus, or have your own tips for things to do on a long bus ride? Let us know in the comments! 

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar
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Where To Stay In Valparaiso Chile

Ultra Luxury (High End) – Hotel Casa Higueras – Featuring a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the city, you’ll find everything you need at Hotel Casa Higueras! This luxury hotel is just a short walk away from all the attractions and best restaurants in Valparaiso Chile.

Fun Vacation (Mid Range) – Hotel Winebox Valparaiso – This unique property perfectly encapsulates the incredible Valparaiso street art and vibe of the city! Amazingly, these remodeled cargo containers have epic views above the city. There’s even a roof deck to hang out on, too!

Hostel Life (Budget) – Hostal Po – We grabbed a private room in this nice little backpacker haven on our trip to Valparaiso. Located right on graffiti hill, Hostal Po puts you in a prime position between the port and the upper part of the city. The roof deck is a nice bonus, too!

For more places to stay in Valparaiso you can explore the latest prices here!

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Travel Planning 

 Information: Explore dozens of amazing destinations around the world, travel planning tips, itineraries, street food guides, and so much more.

 Flights: We always find our cheap flight deals using Skyscanner. That’s how we flew from Norway to Poland for under $20 USD, and Thailand to Vietnam for less than $50! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also,  Hostelworld can be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget. 

Rental Car: We use Discover Cars for renting vehicles. A quick travel tip is to ask for a discounted weekly rate rather than booking 2-3 days.

Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for thousands of activities around the world. From food tours to skip the line entry passes! 

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Travel Planning Guide

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2 Comments

  1. August 11, 2020 / 9:59 am

    Thank you for giving me the idea to listen to podcasts while I go on a long bus ride. My friends and I are planning to travel to a distant destination and buses might be our only option since one of our friends is afraid of flights. I’ll try to look around and see if we can rent minibuses for our group travel.

    • Brigitte & Jake
      August 11, 2020 / 5:04 pm

      Great to hear!! Hope these tips were helpful ( :

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