The over-night bus - Worth the trouble?

A quick guide

The night bus is nothing short of a brilliant option for budget travelers. The fares are, broadly speaking, cheaper than daytime tickets. On top of that you save a night's accommodation. For an average Airbnb in Berlin that'll add up to €20-€30 a night. But something so wonderful wouldn't come without some cons, would it? Of course not. Let's take a closer look.

The positives

There are some great opportunities with the night bus
The biggest upside to the night bus is saving money. As mentioned, the fares are usually cheaper than daytime, and it also works as your accommodation for the night, so you won't have to whip out whatever amount you normally pay for hotels, hostels or Airbnb.

There's also something nice about waking up to a in new country and scenery, with the sun rising over it. It's stunning!

In my experience, overnight connections are sometimes also direct. I'm not sure if this is always the case or if I just happened to stumble upon such sitautions.

Hostel compatibility required

The night bus requires at least the same level of tolerance as a hostel
If hostels aren't your thing, just forget about the night bus. Imagine a hostel where you sleep with upwards of 50 other people. Only none of them are sleeping comfortably. That's the night bus.

There's noise and distractions all the time. The engine of the bus, phone's binging, screens lighting up, people walking around, people dropping things, people moving in their seats, the seat in front of you being adjusted up/down several times, snoring, mumbling, chatting and eating.

If you can't handle noise - and lots of it - the night bus is not for you.

The question you should be asking yourself: Can you sleep despite the random noise from other passengers?

My personal solution: Listening to music through headphones while I sleep. It's not silence, but it's better than all the random and sudden outbreaks in the bus. Earplugs are also an option.

Comfort is no man's land

This cat sleeps more comfortably than you will
You won't sleep well in a night bus. You probably won't have much deep sleep at all.

For me, it's mostly falling in and out of sleep hundreds of times.

Fortunately, for me, I can still function on little sleep. But I know a lot of people whose days would simply be ruined. And then it's not really worth it, is it? However, it's not something you should do way too often. Lack of sleep is dangerous and dissatisfying.

If you can fall into deep sleep despite lack of comfort, you will become a night bus king!

The question you should be asking yourself: Can you function well without much sleep, or do you easily fall into deep sleep even though you're not sitting comfortably?

Padding transit hours

You will more often than not invest many hours to make a night bus trip
The (potential) problem starts the day you're leaving. Most hotels will have you checked out by noon - and this goes for many hostels and Airbnbs too, although they might occasionally be more lax about it.

So you will often need to kill 8 to 12 hours to make the connection. And what do you do in those hours? If you go to cafés you've suddenly spent the money you saved in the first place. But sit by a lake and read a book? Well, that's free. And good for you.

Another thing to remember, is that you'll be carrying all the stuff you're travelling with. So you're only as mobile as how lightly you packed.

The next day, when you arrive at your destination, there's usually some hours until you can check in. For hotels and many Airbnb's check-ins cannot start until mid-afternoon. So once again, you're stuck killing time.

Add to it that you might need some hours to actually rest on top of whatever little and uncomfortable sleep you might've gotten on the bus.

The question you should be asking yourself: Is all this time doing nothing worth the money you're saving? Or are you able to kill time with books/work/similar? This is a case-to-case judgment call.

My personal solution: If I can't focus on reading, I try to get some work done. Maybe I stay at Regus from noon until 5PM or 6PM.

In conclusion

I've been bashing night busses hard in this post. Not because I hate them, or that you should. I still frequently use the night bus myself. The purpose of this post was not to discourage you, but make you aware of the downsides to night bus, so you can prepare better for the trip. In review:

Save money
Good chance of seeing beautiful sunrise landscapes
Chance of direct or uninterrupted connection
High level of noise from bus and passengers
Not exactly quality sleep
Often requires padding many transit hours

To summarize, the questions you ought to be asking yourself are: