A few weeks before we left for Vietnam we a took a very last minute (i.e. booking the night before) trip to London to say goodbye to some friends and family we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see. With our trip being booked at such short notice, and us trying to save money wherever possible, we opted to try the megabus night service from Edinburgh to London. Risky, right? *insert grimacing face* But it cost less for both of us than it would for one of us to fly or get the train, and we didn’t lose any daytime hours!
Everyone we’ve told that we took the night bus has looked upon us with pity, which is only to be expected with the prospect of switching from a comfy mattress to a standard bus seat. However we’ve been surprised at how many people want to know more about it with the possibility of using it in the future! So we thought we’d do a quick review of our experience on the megabus night service from Edinburgh to London. You never know, you might even be swayed to try it!
We booked the regular megabus service, which is basic but comes with a cheaper price tag than the fancier megabus Gold service. The Gold megabuses come with free wifi, plug sockets and seats which recline further so we would have preferred one of these (especially as it is only ~£10 more per trip) but unfortunately there were no seats left at such short notice.
We planned for a night of evasive sleep on the bus by forcing ourselves to get up super early (6:30am!) the morning we were travelling, so that we would be exhausted when we got the bus. This was an effective tactic and we were able to sleep on and off for the majority of the journey. Likewise on the return, we were so worn out by our hectic two days cramming tourist sights, seeing family and reuniting with old friends that sleep came relatively easy!
Unfortunately on the first leg of the trip we ended up in the front row of the bus, right behind the entrance, (don’t nip to the bathroom just before boarding) and as a result we were plagued by the bright headlights of oncoming traffic. However we took this in our stride using eye masks!
The route is on backroads for the first third at least, so expect lots of windy twisty roads. However with the extremely tight seat-belts (which you are legally required to wear) keeping us in place, this didn’t cause us much discomfort.
It was mainly the hard and upright seats which caused discomfort and broke our sleep (the main reason we would opt for the Gold service if possible). We only brought one neck pillow between the two of us as we were trying to travel light, a silly choice as one of us had to suffer neck cramp throughout the journey. However this could easily have been avoided by bringing one each! Even better I would recommend bringing an extra pillow (or a camping pillow which can be folded smaller if you are short on luggage space) for under your bum! The base of your back definitely suffers the most when sleeping on hard/upright seats so try your best to save the pain and avoid waking to re-adjust position! On the return journey we struggled with the passengers behind us cramming luggage (and themselves) into the space behind our seat making it impossible to properly recline. So it was mainly discomfort from the seats which woke us during the journey however this could be avoided by bringing a couple of small pillows – one for your neck and one for sitting on.
Another suggestion would be to bring some ear plugs or download a podcast or similar to listen to with headphones. As we were sat near the drivers on the way down we were very aware of their chatting (quite crudely too). When we stopped at the service station we even heard them (we thought jokingly) discuss the time some passengers were taking to return saying they would have to leave them behind.
Well…they weren’t joking and we soon left with two empty seats! They left a couple of potentially non-English speaking tourists at a service station, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, with no luggage! Not to mention that they had PAID for the service. I know they have a schedule to stick to and they did warn passengers when we stopped not to take longer than 15 minutes but that is just cruel! This was definitely the lowest point of our travel with megabus. However I feel like the attitude and language of this pair of drivers would definitely not be the norm (and it certainly wasn’t a similar experience on the way home) so we’re putting it down to a one off. Our best advice to avoid this situation would be to not take more than the 15 minute break allocated!
However we made it to London, on time and not too groggy from sleeping on the bus. Victoria bus station, where the megabus services terminates, does not have shower facilities – though you could catch the tube to Paddington train station which has showers you can use for £5. We showered just before we getting the bus and found we were okay just washing our faces and fixing our hair when we arrived. The toilets at Victoria station were not pleasant and did not have private sinks to wash in so we would recommend heading to a coffeeshop to use their facilities.
We quickly left the bus station and went in search of breakfast. However as our bus service arrived at around 7 am there were limited options. There are a number of chain coffee shops near Victoria bus station, but we opted to take a wander into Chelsea to search for an independent coffee shop where we could get a proper breakfast. We would recommend having a look online at the area around Victoria bus station and plan a route towards your destination in advance so that you aren’t standing around/outside the station with GoogleMaps out (aka screaming I’M A TOURIST) trying to figure out where to go. The station is super busy and it would be all to easy for someone to take advantage of the chaos and pinch your phone.
So, overall our trip was a success! We did have a few issues but with some planning and careful packing it could be a relatively comfortable way of travelling to London! We would recommend it for those looking to save some pennies and those with limited time!
While this review was specifically regarding the Megabus service there are other companies which provide similar in the UK and we imagine most of the points regarding comfort are transferable to these services too – and even to night buses around the world!
So we created a very quick 5 tips for surviving an overnight bus – feel free to pin it for easy reach when you take the plunge and try an overnight bus!
Since arriving in Vietnam we have seen a large number of luxurious looking overnight buses – with seats which fully recline!! We’ve been investigating taking a trip with one so watch this space and you might see a review of night buses in Vietnam popping up soon!
Have you ever taken an overnight bus? Did you have a similar experience? Do you think you might be tempted to try one now?