Your own little glass capsule vs a bunk with a sheet.
Here I am comparing a standard AC sleeper bus and an AC class 2 sleeper train, which are the more common means of long distance travel in India. I know this take is where a lot of travelers are divided. I have had a few female travelers say they feel more secure on the sleeper bus and I can see why. You have a bunk with a sliding glass door all to your self. I think the solidity gives extra comfort, and the knowledge that sliding the door will be more noticeable than the shifting of the privacy curtain on sleeper trains. You do have a privacy curtain as well in the bus, inside the glass door. An additional benefit of the bus is that you also have a window on the other side that is the same size as your bunk, also with curtains, so while in your bunk you also have an amazing view.
On the sleeper trains the bottom bunks are seats until that person decides to make their bed. The huge disadvantage is that you can be kicked out of a seat and into your bunk if someone decides to make their bed. The upper bunks on trains do not have windows.
The sleeper bus is a much tighter squeeze than the sleeper train. For smaller folk this isn’t much of a problem, but I am of the height where it begins to be so. Space was not a problem for me (just shy of six 6 feet tall) on the sleeper train. I could both sit on the bunk and just stretch out fully while lying down. In contrast the sleeper bus was a few inches shyer than I of six feet. This left me with either slightly bent legs (just enough to be uncomfortable) or a tilted neck when on my back. Whenever I woke up I more often found myself with the tilted neck. There was also not enough height for sitting up. I am usually a side sleeper, but the bus definitely encourages back sleeping because of the…
Low-frequency spectral contribution to mass-spring-damper systems from inconsistent terrain and driver behavior increasing the variance of body position in the y and z axis. (Bumpy ride, part of me misses grad school and high nerddom.)
Depending on which bunk is yours it can be better or worse, but the conditions of the road and the cultural attitudes of driving make for a lot of motion, and being on one’s back seems much more stable. I did spend some of the night on my side, but the higher center of gravity increases the chance of rolling which can cause collisions with the horizontal metal bars on the inside of the outside window. Plus, if there is a big bump I found it much more comfortable to land with the back of my neck on the pillow rather with my head swinging from side to side.
The rails on the other hand are smooth. While some curves may be noticeable sleeper trains are a much smoother ride.
You see a lot of vendors on trains, from peanut men, to fried snacks, whole meals, and chai wallahs. There was one point where a guy selling cold drinks and bottled drinks did come on the bus, but it is a bit harder to see what is going on and interact from the glass cubicle.
Sleeper busses stop every 3 or 4 hour somewhere that has pay bathrooms of greater or lesser quality. It is really hit or miss.
Sleeper trains usually have at least one western toilet onboard per carriage.
In neither case will you find toilet paper.
Here is where busses have much more convenience. Trains are usually booked full up to two weeks in advance, so you better have well laid plans if you want to go. In addition there are usually fewer destinations reachable by train.
It is likely that you can get a berth on a sleeper bus on the same day and the destinations are not limited by rail geography.
In my (limited) experience AC sleeper busses cost about half as much as AC class 2 sleeper berths.
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