Trains are the king of overnight travel. Spend the couple of extra dollars (literally) and make sure you get yourself a bed. We took the overnight train between Belgrade, Serbia and Sofia, Bulgaria. It was bliss. We were given a shared berth with 6 beds. We lucked out and ended up with 4 English speaking teachers. We stayed up late drinking wine (which you are allowed to bring on the train with you),comparing travel tales and talking about the differences and similarities between the North American and European educational systems. Ashley was a high school math teacher before we left home, so she was right at home with the topic.
The beds were actually quite comfortable. Surprisingly they were even long enough for me to stretch out on, and I'm 6' 1". That's more than I can say for half the dorm beds I slept in in Spain. The room was well ventilated, and the train was way smoother starting, stopping, and switching cars than I could have imagined. I slept like a baby and didn't get up until 6:00 AM when we went through the Bulgarian border crossing. We didn't even have to leave our room, the border guard came right to our door, stamped our passports, and wished us a good night's sleep. A few hours later we arrived in Sofia well rested and in good spirits.
Some nice scenery before falling asleep.
About to arrive in Sofia
In Central America, overnight buses were always 1st class buses. The seats reclined slightly, but were still uncomfortable. The A/C was blasted so high that despite the fact that the ambient temperature outside was almost 30°C, wearing long pants, a sweater, and a fleece jacket was a requirement. The good news is that once we left the bus terminal, the lights went out and the bus didn't stop again until morning. So we had a chance to try and sleep.
In Eastern Europe, the buses are a bit fancier. There's usually a TV in the back of every seat, and most of them have wi-fi on board. Surprisingly, night time tea and coffee service seems to be the norm. The bathrooms onboard don't seem to work, so the bus stops every couple of hours to let people out at a rest station where they can pay for the privilege of relieving that midnight coffee. It seems the idea is not to sleep on these overnight buses. I don't really understand that.
Either way, all the overnight buses we've taken have one thing in common. They are incredibly uncomfortable, you don't sleep, and you arrive worn out and exhausted. If you are debating between the two, trains win every time.
This post is about long distance overland travel; part of our healthy, road weary diet. Sure, we could always hop on a plane, but that's just not cost effective. After 500 and some days on the road, we've come to realize that when it takes 9 hours or more to get from point A to point B night travel is the way to go. Our rational should be obvious. We save on a nigh'ts accommodation,and, as an added bonus, we arrive at our destination in the morning. Always preferable to arriving somewhere unfamiliar late in the evening.