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How to Get (And Keep) a Comfortable Seat on a Crowded Bus

I love taking local buses. You see a side of the country that you’d never see by flying or hiring a car and you get the chance to interact with a wide range of locals. Even though there are many positives about riding on local buses, there’s always an overbearing thought on the horizon…what if I end up sitting on half a seat/someone’s knee with no leg room while listening to old women throwing up into plastic bags? I can’t help you with the last part, but I can show you how to ensure you get (and keep) a comfortable seat with good leg room while travelling on a crowded bus.

With most local buses (and tourist minivans, bus taxis – pretty much any transport in developing nations) it’s every man for himself. I’m usually quite polite, but after thinking back to all the uncomfortable bus rides in Asia I realised I needed a new plan. What if I could ensure I would get a good seat without everyone on the bus hating me?

I Faked a leg injury

On a recent bus trip in Flores, Indonesia, I put my leg injury theory to use. I had a pretty good seat with plenty of legroom, but the bus continued to let more and more people on until a very short lady boarded and wanted my seat. I explained to her and all those around me that I had just recovered from a broken leg and therefore had to be able to stretch out from time to time, meaning I couldn’t sit by the window.

Everybody was very understanding and made sure I had plenty of room, and even though it was still a slow, bumpy and quite depressing ride, at least I was comfortable.  The woman’s legs were about half the length of mine, so she was fine by the window – everybody was happy!

You could, of course, choose another disability. Larger women could pretend to be pregnant or you could fake a contagious disease, but if you’re an averagely fit man in your late 20’s who hates being uncomfortable, the leg injury is the best one I can think of.

A crowded bus in Madagascar

Hone your craft

Faking a leg injury isn’t easy, and if you’re unconvincing in your delivery you’ll pay the price. You can’t just say you are recovering from a broken leg; you need to lay the ground work. Stretch out your leg every few minutes, each time grimacing slightly from the “pain” that it causes. People won’t know what you’re doing, but it’ll all fall into place for them when you reveal why you can’t sit in that cramped space they are calling a seat.  If you’re waiting at a bus station you should limp around a bit and even tell the driver or bus company man about your debilitating injury.

Use this tip wisely

I’ve only done this once so far and I genuinely felt I had more of a need for the seat than my fellow passengers.  If someone has longer legs than me, is really old or just looks like they could do with some comfort, I’ll (begrudgingly) give them my seat, but if I ever feel like I’m the most deserving (or at least not any less deserving than anyone else) of extra leg room I’ll definitely do it again.

*I didn’t have any shots of buses, so thanks to Margherita  from thecrowdedplanet.com for the photos (they were taken in Madagascar). Here’s another tip, take photos of everyday things while you travel, especially if you write a blog – they’ll come in handy eventually.

Do you have any tips for making travel easier? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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