When you are a budget friendly backpacker, you will find yourself taking buses a LOT. There is a reason for this. Buses are not only the cheapest form of transport when you are backpacking, but you can get to most places on a bus. However, there is often a debate amongst well-travelled backpackers about whether or not night buses are worth it. Some will tell you that they exclusively travel by night bus whilst others will say they avoid it where possible. So, which one is the right answer?

There are definitely some serious benefits to a night bus. The most obvious is that it will save you the cost of accommodation for a night. If your budget is starting to get a little stretched by the end of a trip, or if you are travelling on a tight budget from the start, then night buses are a great way of maximising your budget and allowing you to travel for as long as possible.

A second big benefit of a night bus is the fact that you don’t waste a day travelling somewhere. If your bus ride takes 10 hours, then that wastes a whole day that you could be doing something more exciting. If you take that overnight bus then not only are you able to get more full days to do the more exciting activities that backpacking brings, but you are also likely to be asleep for a lot of the bus ride meaning that it will certainly go by much faster.

So, with these obvious benefits, what are the drawbacks? The first is a very personal one. How well can you sleep on a moving bus whilst there are dozens of other people going about doing their own thing? If, like me, you don’t have too much trouble with sleeping in public places on a moving bus the night buses shouldn’t be a problem for you. However, if you struggle to sleep in these situations then the positives that the night bus might potentially bring are outweighed by the lack of sleep that you will get on it.

Secondly, you have to think about security. Whilst anything could happen at any time when you are backpacking and you have to have your wits about you, this is definitely the case on a night bus. If you are travelling solo, then you have to think about your belongings whilst you are on the buses. Your bigger bags are usually stowed away until you get off the bus, but your smaller personal items are left for you to take care of. If you are asleep on the bus, then you have to be careful with such items and think of ways to keep them safe. I personally not only use padlocks on all of my bags, but if I am sleeping then I will always use a bike lock to secure my bag and prevent anyone from swiping it.

Finally, you need to make sure that you pick a bus that you will be comfortable spending the night on. There is a real range of buses that you find when you are travelling and if you are planning on spending a long stretch on a bus then you want to make sure that it is comfortable for you. The longest single bus that I ever took was 21 hours in South America, but the bus provided snacks, toilets, air conditioning and reclining seats, all of which made the journey more comfortable. If the buses that are available to you are not going to be comfortable to spend an overnight journey on, then the night bus is probably not the best idea for you.

Overall, then, what is my opinion on overnight buses. I think that it very much depends on the individual. If you are someone who is able to sleep on public transport without too much hassle and are not too worried about being asleep with all of your belongings, then night buses are certainly worth it. However, if sleeping on moving objects is not one of your strengths then many of the benefits that a night bus offers are going to be missed out on and it might be wiser to just stick to the day buses.