How to survive a 48 hours bus ride in Mongolia
Public transport in Mongolia is not really good and some nice spots are only accessible by car. But there are a few routes where you can take the bus. So the title is not a typo, there is an actual bus ride from the city Ölgii in the very western part of Mongolia to the capital Ulaanbaatar (UB) which takes 48 hours (+/- 12 hours) strait! If you're really considering taking this bus ride or any other long distance bus trip, here are some tips to make your journey a (little) bit more comfortable.
The right seat
The buses are pretty crappy because they are really, really old. If you have long legs, you will have a bad time. The space between the rows is even tinier than the worst economy seats of cheap airlines. So if you are tall, make sure that you sit at least at the aisle or in the middle of the very last row. When you book your seat, ask the cashier for the best seats - depending on the season: in the summer, close to the door and in the shade or in winter close to the heater and not at the door etc.
48 hours is a long time so wear the most comfortable clothes you have. If you go on this trip in autumn or spring make sure to bring your jacket. It is getting cold in the night and it sometimes happens that the heaters are not working. So you will see nice ice flowers on the windows of the bus.
Snacks & food
The bus does stops three times on the drive for about one hour in a rudimental restaurant. It stops once for dinner, once for breakfast and again for dinner. The restaurants have simple food like dumplings or noodle soup. But it is still a good idea to bring some snacks on the drive. Not just to ease the hunger in between the meals but also just to kill some time.
If you have to go to the toilet just shout to the bus driver and he will stop. There will be no toilets so you just have to go to the bush. Women go to one side, men to the other side. So make sure to bring enough toilet paper and wet towels.
To be as comfortable as you can, bring your sleeping bag in the bus. You can either way use it as a pillow or if it is cold as a blanket.
Book or movie
Bring something for entertainment. If you have your laptop with you put some movies or shows on to watch them on the ride or just bring a book or your E-reader. At least just something to make this long trip a bit shorter.
Don’t be claustrophobic
The bus has seats for about 40 people. Because theses buses don’t drive so often to UB it is likely that there are a couple of more people on the bus than there are seats. And it is for sure that there will be lot of additional luggage and goods everywhere. So be prepared that the aisle will be packed with stuff. If you want to exit the bus you have to climb over stuff or even people. Try to stay calm and take it easy.
Bus rides are always a good opportunity to meet some local people. Even if you don’t speak their language there are always possibilities to communicate. Share your snacks. They love to music and singing, so if you are a good singer or even if not, sing them a song from your country and they will love you.
There will be times when you just want to scream and rather walk than ride another minute on the bus!!! Try to stay positive and just keep going. At the end stepping out of the bus will be a big relief and the shower in the hotel will be one of the best you’ve ever had.