It’s never fun when a bus drops you off in the middle of nowhere, and even worse when it’s in the middle of the night. I’ve had some pretty wild experiences with this, including not having internet, getting dropped off in the wrong location, etc. Here are some of the adventures (or misadventures) I had, and how I’ve coped in each situation.
Warsaw to Kaunas
The first time this happened (and possibly the wildest time) was the bus ride from Warsaw, Poland to Kaunas, Lithuania back in 2015. I’d already had a nightmare getting onto the right bus after I accidentally booked the bus in the wrong direction and didn’t catch my mistake until just before the last bus of the day to Kaunas was scheduled to leave.
It’s a 6-hour bus ride from Warsaw to Kaunas, and I didn’t arrive until after 9 p.m. at night, long after sunset. In Kaunas, the central bus station was under construction (as was much of the city center back then). It was almost as if the bus driver was going to skip the city entirely, as he only stopped the bus on the highway just before leaving the city limits. I got off the bus with one other passenger. The only sign of civilization was a closed restaurant nearby. Otherwise, we were surrounded by wilderness.
My fellow passenger spoke a bit of English and asked if I knew where we were, but I was as lost as she was, which was unsettling considering how she was a local and didn’t recognize the area! Back then, I didn’t have a SIM card, relying instead on WiFi to get internet. Thankfully, Google Maps still worked in a rudimentary fashion by using GPS to put a dot in your general location, but without any information on the map.
Impossibly enough, although I was miles away from the city center, I was only about half a mile from my Couchsurfing host! With the other passenger, we walked through empty land in the first stages of development for new homes (all of which I see on Google Maps have long since been built). She ended up living not far from my Couchsurfing host, and it was nice to be able to walk with someone else in the darkness through an unfamiliar country.
Rabat to Marrakech
In November 2019, I visited Morocco for the first time. To save a lot of money, I flew from London to Rabat and then got a bus down to Marrakech, instead of flying direct. I would have liked to take a train from Rabat to Marrakech instead, but my flight was arriving after the last train departed for the day and I had a tour first thing the next morning.
Finding the bus to Marrakech was the first adventure. The shuttle from the airport dropped me off almost across the street from the central bus and train station, but apparently the buses to Marrakech all left from a different bus station on the outskirts of town. I had to get a taxi down to that station, which ate into the savings I had made flying into Rabat. I was aiming to get on one of the buses I’d heard about which would take me straight to Marrakech in about 3 hours and had lots of amenities like a toilet, air conditioning and WiFi.
I didn’t get that bus. Instead, I was sold a ticket for a bus which was overcrowded, had no amenities (not even a toilet) and stopped at every village on the way. What was supposed to be a 3-hour journey turned into 6 hours of sweating and bouncing on uneven roads.
Sometime around 3 a.m., the guy next to me said we were in Marrakech and I jumped off the bus…into a deserted dirt lot. It certainly didn’t look like I was anywhere close to a city with over a million people. I wandered in and out of the empty buildings and was just about to venture back toward the highway when the driver gesticulated for me to get back on the bus. Apparently, there were two bus stations in Marrakech and the second was much closer to the center of town. So, in the end, the bus did take me to where I needed to go, but I had a bit of a fright getting there.
Read the full story about how I made my way down to Morocco for the first time.
Luxembourg City to Cologne
My most recent adventure with a bus dropping me off in the middle of nowhere was in southwestern Germany when I was on my way to Cologne from Luxembourg. I found a really cheap Flixbus which didn’t bother to disclose that the route had a transfer midway. Not only that, the transfer was in the middle of the night in an unknown city (I later found it was called Koblenz).
I was dropped off in a small parking lot with a single stance for Flixbus. The city was empty; not a single car was driving down the street. What’s worse, it was a couple degrees below freezing. The next bus wasn’t scheduled to pick us up for nearly five hours, so I made my way to the only establishment we could find that was open – McDonald’s.
Now, I’ve boycotted McDonald’s for over two decades, and I had no intention of eating their food. But they were warm inside, and it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve gone in one to use their internet or the toilet. I was too tired to do either, so instead I laid down on the bench and immediately fell asleep. There were only a couple other people waiting inside, perhaps for the same bus.
About 3 a.m., the manager came in and didn’t want me sleeping on the bench. I tried to stay awake but didn’t succeed and she had to come by to wake me up more than once. Eventually, I got on the connecting bus and made it to my final destination where I spent a fantastic day exploring the Christmas markets of Cologne.
Vang Vieng to Vientiane
This next one wasn’t exactly a bus dropping me off in the middle of nowhere, but rather in a really inconvenient location. This is a pretty prevalent scam in SE Asia and certainly happened to me more than once, either getting dropped off far from the city center or having to catch a bus from a location far from the main bus station (like the bus from Krabi to Bangkok).
In 2017, the sleeper bus I took from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, Laos dropped me off right in the center of town. The same didn’t happen on my bus from Vang Vieng to Vientiane in 2019. That one dropped me off at the Northern Bus Station, located on the very edge of town over five miles from the city center. It then required paying for a taxi to take me the rest of the way, which was nearly the same price as the 4-hour bus from Vang Vieng!
Bonus: Bristol to Aberystwyth
One other story worth including goes back to my very first week of traveling back in February 2015. I honestly have no idea why I chose to visit Aberystwyth, Wales, but I managed to find a Couchsurfing host there and a really cheap bus ticket (which is probably why I picked it).
Aberystwyth is a tiny village on the coast of Wales, mostly populated with university students. There are ruins of a castle along the shore…and not much else to do in the town. I don’t think I knew that before I booked my ticket, and I was still completely euphoric to be traveling the world. Thus, when my bus arrived just after midnight and my host was nowhere to be found, I still had a huge smile on my face.
I called and texted my host, and even messaged her on Couchsurfing even though she said she didn’t have access to it often, all with no response. Again the temperatures were below freezing and I needed a place to sleep. Aberystwyth didn’t have any hostels, and I only managed to find a single hotel on the beach. They told me a night would be about $80, which was way out of my budget back then.
Eventually, just before I was ready to fork out the money for a room, my host returned the hotel’s call to her. She had been underground at a party without reception and was sincerely sorry for forgetting about me. What’s more, it was an uphill walk over three miles to get to her small university student-shared house. There was snow on the ground, and I loved every moment. Even when things seem to go bad in one’s travels, there’s no reason not to make the best of it and just look for a solution. Things almost always end up working out right.
7 Things to Do When a Bus Drops You Off In the Middle of Nowhere
Pay Attention to Your Ticket
Make sure you really study your ticket to see if you’re going to have a layover in the middle of the night and pay particular attention to which station or location the bus plans to drop you off at. Budget companies like Megabus and Flixbus often save money by avoiding bus stations and dropping you off in the middle of nowhere – thus the reason I’m writing this article.
It’s almost impossible to tell someone who’s freaking out to stay calm. It’s a skill that really must be practiced before you get into a bad situation in the first place. On the other hand, there are few tricks you can try. My favorite is to just look around the environment and put your attention on different things. You can also touch a few things around you. You’d be surprised at how calming this simple exercise can be. Another trick you can try is to count from one to ten, or even from ten to one.
If you’re traveling with someone else who does well under stress, you can always leave it to them to sort things out. As long as one of you can stay level-headed, you can usually find the solution.
Talk to the Driver
Sometimes the easiest solution is to just talk to the driver, but this will probably only work if the driver speaks English. In all the above situations I ran into, not one of the drivers spoke English. You can also ask other passengers if they speak English and can help or translate. Often I’ll find which passengers around me speak English for just this eventuality whenever I’m traveling through a foreign country.
Access Your Options
Once the bus has dropped you off in the middle of nowhere, it’s time to take stock of what your options are. Hopefully there’s some kind of establishment you can go to until you can work things out (like my McDonald’s in Koblenz). This might be the time to try hitchhiking. Maybe an Uber can reach you. Sometimes there’s another passenger getting dropped off at the same location, and you can travel with them into civilization. Many times I’ve done just that – getting a ride from the bus or train station toward my final destination with a fellow passenger getting picked up. Don’t forget that the world is generally a very friendly and kind place, and most people (about 97.5%) are more than willing to help out.
See Who You Can Call
If you have internet or reception, see who you can contact in the area that might be able to help you out or give advice. There are plenty of Facebook forums you can join, many of which will give you an answer very quickly. You can use websites like Couchsurfing or even Tinder to find a local who can give you advice. I recently heard about a new website called Jetzy on which you can connect up with locals and fellow travelers, but I haven’t used it myself to see how quickly you can find someone.
Try to Have a Backup Plan
It’s never a bad idea to have a Plan B. Have someone you’ve already contacted in your destination who can help out if things go south. Do a little research on train and bus stations along your route, and even what car rental companies are in the area. If you’re going into an area where you won’t have internet, this step is almost vital. The more eventualities you plan for, the less likely they are to occur.
Use Trusted Bus Companies
I’m throwing this one in, but it’s not the easiest step to follow. My bus from Warsaw to Kaunas was the only option to choose from. The bus in Morocco was purchased with absolutely no help from the locals and in a foreign language, and my bus to Cologne was with Flixbus – a decent company to use in Europe but not always reliable. One way to find the best bus company is to read blogs like this one. I’ll always make my recommendations of which buses to use when I find them, or which ones to avoid.
Click to Pin It
The safety of my fellow travelers is always a concern of mine. Here are some more articles about how to stay safe when you’re traveling in different parts of the world.
- 5 Ways to Stay Safe When You’re Traveling the World
- 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Rent a Motorcycle in Thailand
- An Honest Review of Mobike Rentals in Chiang Mai, Thailand
- 5 Reasons Why Workaway Reviews Are Inaccurate and Could Be Improved
- Just How Bad Can a Bad Hostel Get, And How to Avoid Them
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.
- 5 Steps to Book Cheap Flights
- Hostels: To Book or Not to Book
- Is Workaway Worth it for the Traveler?
- Click here to claim your $25 credit with AirB&B
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