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8 of the Most Uncomfortable Forms of Travel Transport

After browsing websites like this you’d be forgiven for thinking that travelling is always a fun, rainbow-filled experience devoid of misfortune and discomfort. Obviously that’s not the case, as you’ll find out when taking one of the uncomfortable forms of travel transport listed below!


What could be better than riding a camel at sunset in the Sahara Desert? Walking, that’s what. Someone has sold the world the idea that riding camels is awesome, but I’ll tell you why it isn’t.

1 – Camels are extremely uncomfortable – the metal saddle things that they have make it almost like riding a very slow and lazy mechanical bull.

2 – They’re slow. They go at walking pace! After suffering through about 45 minutes of my recent camel ride in the Sahara, I decided to get off and walk. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Our camel caravan was moving slow, so it wasn’t hard to keep up, and the sun was setting so it wasn’t too hot (it was also winter). The best part though was the fact I could finally take some photos of the place that I’d sat through 2 whole days in a minivan for.

Camel riding: The 3 day Sahara Desert tour from Marrakech, Morocco

Songthaews and Tuk Tuks / Tricycles

Songthaews are big truck things that hold about 20 people on 2 parallel benches. They are almost always too full and there’s never enough legroom. The roads they travel on are usually bumpy so you’d better find something to hold on to. Songthaews are fine if you’re going a short distance, but I’ve been on a couple of rides that lasted over an hour and they were really horrible. Tuk Tuks (and tricycles in the Philippines) are smaller and are actually a cool way to travel, but after an hour or so they do get a bit uncomfortable, especially if they’re overcrowded.

Motorbike taxis

If you’re a solo budget traveller in Southeast Asia you’d better get used to taking motorbike taxis. Again, they are fine for short distances but sitting on the back of a bike weaving through rush hour Saigon traffic gets uncomfortable pretty quickly.

Budget long haul flights

I don’t mind long haul flights on decent airlines – the food is usually pretty good, the seats are comfortable enough and you usually get a good selection of movies to watch. Budget airlines tend to have cramped seats, a complete lack of entertainment (unless you’re willing to pay for it) and substandard food. An exception to this rule is Air Asia – the seats are pretty cramped and there is no included entertainment, but the food is actually really good (even though you have to pay for it). This isn’t an Air Asia ad – I’ve just flown them heaps and have had mostly good experiences (compared with other low cost airlines in Asia). Having said all that, I’d still rather fly on a budget airline than pay twice as much for a little bit of comfort, entertainment and food. That might change when I get older (and richer).

Small boats on big seas

One of my biggest fears is drowning, so being on a small boat struggling to navigate choppy waters isn’t much fun for me. These small boats (particularly prevalent in Asia and Central America) are often physically uncomfortable as well, adding to the lack of enjoyment. On the other hand, if you get a nice calm day there’s nothing better than island hopping on a small boat. You’ll pull up to unspoilt beaches, snorkel in pristine marine environments and see some beautiful island scenery.

Boats on the beach in the 17 Islands Marine Park in Riung, Flores, Indonesia

Sleeper buses

Any vertically challenged people reading this are probably wondering what I’m talking about here, but everyone else will understand.  The beds on these buses are usually tiny, cramped and there’s nowhere to keep your stuff safe. I usually end up putting my bag at the top or end of my bed, meaning I have even less room to get comfortable. The worst part though (in Vietnam anyway) was the fact that they made everyone get off the bus during stops, which was an incredibly annoying thing to do when you’d just finally fallen asleep. They are convenient though, and if you manage to get a bottom floor berth you’ll have somewhere to put your bag – you might even get a good night’s sleep!

Freezing (or boiling) buses

I heard a theory recently that made a lot of sense. Those of us who were born in cold countries feel the cold more, because our lives kinda depend on it. Someone living in perpetual 25-40 degree heat has no evolutionary need to be sensitive to the cold, because freezing to death has never been a problem. Those people from the tropics think nothing of it when they are on a bus with the aircon cranked up to 11. Buses in Southeast Asia are often freezing, so make sure you bring warm clothes and even a blanket.  I can’t decide which is worse, too cold or too hot, but they are both pretty uncomfortable. The cheaper the bus, the less likely it is to have air conditioning, so try and sit by a window! There is one thing worse than sitting on a boiling bus though– standing on a boiling bus.

Crowded Buses

The most uncomfortable travel experience I’ve ever had was a crowded 8 hour bus ride in India. I had to stand up for half of it and sit on half a seat for the other half. I’m not sure which was worse. I was also stuck on heaps of overcrowded chicken buses in Central America, but not for nearly as long. Getting on the bus early so you get a seat is key in these situations – it’s best to get on at a bus station rather than wave it down mid-journey.

Have you been on an uncomfortable journey while travelling? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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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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