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China's Long Distance Buses 中国的长途客车
Buses are more expensive (compared to hard seat train tickets) and more dangerous than trains, but also a bit faster and generally more convenient. Buses leave continuously for most major locations; so unlike the train stations, you can usually show up at your leisure with no ticket and not have to wait more than an hour or so to catch a bus. However, this is not a guarantee! If punctuality is particularly important on your trip, plan ahead, especially in the summer time, during Chinese national holidays (Spring Festival—late Jan. to early Feb., October 1-7, May 1-7), and at the beginning or end of university semesters. At night fewer buses depart, so it may be more difficult to purchase tickets.
Long Journeys: Most people find that buses are suitable enough for 6-8 hour trips. Beyond 6-8 hours however, buses can become quite uncomfortable. For taller persons the legroom is usually insufficient; and unlike the trains, there are very few chances to stand up and stretch your legs. Also, many of the buses don’t have toilets on-board. Buses generally stop every 3-4 hours for a meal break, or at the very least, a bathroom break.

In many parts of Yunnan, Sichuan, Tibet, and Guangxi (just to name a few provinces) the railway network is rather undeveloped making buses the primary form of transport. These provinces along with most rural destinations throughout China tend to be linked by somewhat undeveloped, not well maintained, curvy, and sometimes mountainside roads. Sometimes it is in one’s best interest to take a bus during the day as opposed to night when visibility, and even the driver’s rest, may be limited.

Some bus companies offer “sleeper buses” (卧铺, wo pu) for long-distance journeys. These buses have a line of bunk beds on each side of the bus, and one line in the middle. While it might sound like a good idea, don’t plan on actually sleeping! The beds are simply too small for an average North American man. Moreover the unnecessarily fast driving, constant swerving, braking, horn honking, and bumpy roads can make 14 hours on a sleeper bus a pretty miserable experience. If you plan ahead a day or two, for just a little bit more money you should be able to get a much more comfortable bed on a train.
A sleeper bus to Hai An, Hainan Province
A sleeper bus - pic from Tammy Chow