Throughout the world, bus travel is one of the cheapest ways to get around. Taking a bus from country to country or in between cities can be a very budget-friendly way to travel, but there's a reason that bus travel is not popular. Unlike flying, bus travel is quite slow, and unlike train travel or renting a car and driving, buses can be uncomfortable. The uncomfortable aspect of bus travel is a reason that many people cite for not taking buses more often.
When Nature Calls
Those who have traveled long distances by bus will know, that while on a bus, passengers are largely at the mercy of the bus driver or drivers. Airplanes are equipped with beverages and clean, usable restrooms, but bus travelers often don't have access to these luxuries. Yes, most coach buses have bathrooms on board, but in many cases they are not exactly pristine, and you wouldn't want to use them if you could avoid it. So, when nature calls, or if you run out of water and food or need to stretch your legs, you have to wait for the drivers to decide it's time for a break. Although the drivers probably wouldn't mind stopping more often than they do, they are usually bound by tight schedule to arrive at the destination as soon as possible.
The infrequent nature of stops on long bus trips brings us to the most important thing to keep in mind when traveling by bus: think ahead and be prepared. Bring plenty of food and water on the bus with you, and restock your supplies each time the bus stops, even if you don't think you need to. On long bus rides, it's much better to have too much food than not enough. In the unlikely event that you find yourself badly overstocked, you can always share with a less savvy passenger.
Watch Where You Sit
Another common problem with bus travel is that buses can be quite crowded and uncomfortable. If you're traveling alone, you may find yourself in a situation where you are elbow to elbow (or worse) with a total stranger. There's no telling whether this stranger will be quiet or talkative, well-groomed or strong smelling, courteous with elbow room or a space-hog. Sometimes, it's possible to take measures to ensure that you end up next to someone tolerable. If you're lucky enough to join the bus at a relatively uncrowded point on its route (usually towards the beginning of the route), you may be able to sit in an empty row. Of course, empty rows are nice while they're empty, but as the bus fills up you won't have any control over who sits next to you. If you see that the bus is getting more populated, consider switching seats to sit next to someone who seems friendly or innocuous.
Travel Comfortably With Inflatable Pillows
Many people bring pillows and blankets along on bus journeys, and this is really a good idea. The more small items you can pack to make your bus trip more comfortable, the better. You'll want to pack light though, since there isn't a lot of room to store luggage inside many coach buses. Luckily, many products are made specifically for traveler comfort. Inflatable pillows are a great item, because they take up hardly any room in a carry-on bag when deflated, but can make your bus ride much more luxurious once you blow them up. As far as blankets go, smaller is better, but warmth and comfort can also be issues. Consider packing a few travel towels to use as blankets. They're small and portable, and work well as blankets when you're not using them to dry off.
Choose Top-Quality Coaches
Of course, not all bus journeys are created equal. In many countries where bus travel is more common, buses come in different levels of luxury. Sometimes, if you're traveling in a foreign country, it's a good policy to get on the more 'elite' bus lines for safety reasons as well as for comfort. Buses that are higher up on the ranks are usually a bit more expensive, but the cost still doesn't even approach that of an airline ticket. Best of all, the more luxury bus lines will often offer free beverages, make more frequent stops, and have cleaner facilities and more comfortable seats that allow you to stretch out.
This proves that you don't have to break the bank to travel comfortably, but you should shop around and plan ahead to make your bus trip as pleasant as it can be.