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In Defence of the Tour Bus Tour

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Three reasons not to turn your nose up at the path well trodden.

I am not a fan of buses. They cost too much just for the privilege of being caught up in traffic and having some total stranger sneeze on you all while you’re trying not to think about how hot it actually is. I am the kind of person that would much rather walk than try to figure out how to take buses, and being abroad is no exception to that.

That being said, I recently went to Belfast for a week, and was forced to radically rethink what I thought of buses. 

While I am still not a fan, I have to admit that tour buses are incredibly useful for getting around abroad—especially if you don’t have much time to travel around and renting a car is unfeasible. Also, with how daunting climate change has become, there are worse ways to travel than buses.

Ease of access

I can’t stress this enough—if you are planning to travel outside of a major city, there is almost nothing as needlessly difficult as trying to rent a car. Maybe you didn’t think about it a month ago and now there aren’t any rentals available at all (thank you Faroe Islands), or maybe you are too young to rent a car in that country, or maybe you would have to drive on the other side of the road than you are used to.

So much can go wrong with trying to drive yourself around an unfamiliar place; it is just not worth it when you can just take a tour bus. These day trips or multi-day trips provide all of the transportation for you between each stop on the itinerary, with the multi-day trips often ending in another major city (ex. Belfast to Dublin). 

Sunglasses at 9am

Early mornings happen. Late nights also happen. Which means on occasion when a late night is paired with an early morning, you are going to be thankful that you booked this bus tour. For one, it saves you the trouble of thinking at a time when you can hear colours; it doesn’t particularly matter where you are going, or how long it will take to get you there, but you are going to get there and you can sleep all you want along the route.

The people

On a regular city bus, headphones in are the universal symbol for a relatively silent experience. People will cling to their window seat, and stare you down until you decide to sit anywhere else that is not in the seat beside them.

When a late night is paired with an early morning, you are going to be thankful that you booked this bus tour. 

That’s just the way it is, but not on a tour bus. Oh sorry, did you want your own personal space, well too bad, because Sylvia from Waterloo (who apparently knows your second cousin) wants to get caught up on your life. For better or for worse, the entire tour bus becomes one weird extended family and it’s kind of amazing: You don’t need to worry about having to take a selfie while holding a replica Game of Thrones claymore; you always have someone ready to tighten your cloak; and it makes for one heck of a group photo. And let’s be honest, if you’re travelling alone, it’s always nice to be able to have lunch with people from time-to-time.

From Frozen sing-alongs to a toddler in the back repeatedly asking “or Elsa what”, a tour bus is definitely an experience. But it is the kind of wholesome experience that makes a series of day trips much more enjoyable. It’s as easy as it is unique, and while I certainly didn’t expect this to be my position a few weeks ago, it is an experience well worth it.

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Published in Study Abroad Blogs
Spencer Kalan

Spencer Kalan is a Canadian MLitt. candidate at the University of Glasgow’s Crichton Campus. He is an aspiring writer, avid photographer, and occasional gym goer that is making the best of this experience every step of the way.

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