International jetsetters travelling far and wide often turn to buses and coaches to get around their destination country. After all, coach travel is generally easy, affordable and offers visitors a convenient form of transport. But coach standards can vary wildly from country to country, from luxurious vehicles with leather seats and onboard internet access to travelling on cramped conditions with local livestock.
Firstly let’s take a look at the country where car and coach is King: the USA. The famous Greyhound Line has been shipping travellers across the States for close to 100 years and is a national institution for travellers. Founded in 1914 in Minnesota by a Swedish immigrant to America, Greyhound first started business by transporting iron ore miners from the home to the workplace. Now, Greyhound Lines are the largest inter-city carrier of passengers in the US and serve some 2000 destinations across North America. Their buses, though not luxurious, do feature air conditioning, footrests and tinted windows as standard.
Coach travel in the Far East tends to conjure up images of buses covered in people hanging off the roof and out of windows, clutching goats, chickens and other livestock, and in certain rural areas of Asia this is still the case. However, countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Japan have extremely sophisticated and modern coach systems that would put many of those in the West to shame.
For example, Japan runs several sleeper coach lines that offer almost fully reclining seats and have three rows of single seats rather than two rows of double ones. Malaysian buses boast spacious couch-like seats with large armrests, plenty of leg room and onboard video. China is a little more variable, offering a number of choices for long distance coach travel, which can range from reasonably comfortable to fairly unpleasant. More expensive sleeper coaches provide bunks in which travellers can lie down, but in the more rural provinces, coach staff and fellow passengers can make the journey somewhat different to what people in the West might expect. For example, smoking and drinking is a popular way to pass time on long journeys, and spitting on the floor of the bus seems to be a socially acceptable practice.
Comparatively, UK coach travel is often a more sedate affair. There are a number of coach companies in operation cross-country, the most well known being National Express. Though coach distances in the UK are generally less than that in countries like China and the US, coaches are relatively lavish, with some lines introducing leather seats on all new coaches, offering panoramic window views from all seats and even Wi-Fi internet access on certain lines.
Until we invent teleportation, bus and coach travel is likely to remain the most widely used form of public transport, and the future is likely to bring new levels of luxury and sophistication to coaches around the world.