What is a Sleeper Bus?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

In the US and UK, the idea of the sleeper bus is frequently associated with tour buses that get celebrities (often band members) from one location to the next. This often takes place during long tours where locations are close together and where flying to each location would be prohibitively expensive. Bands may own or rent a bus or a fleet of buses. Although narrow, a sleeper bus still offers comfortable accommodations. These include seats, kitchen/refrigeration facilities, plumbing and showering, beds that are usually bunks, and other amenities. The degree of luxury may depend on the wealth of the band, and many sleeper buses have multiple televisions, access to computers and more.

Sleeper busses are used to transport bands on tour.
Sleeper busses are used to transport bands on tour.

Arrangement of beds on the sleeper bus could depend on bus design. There are companies that make new buses, but other people might buy more cheaply by purchasing used vehicles from either downsizing or bankrupt companies. One type of the sleeper bus can have all beds upstairs, fully separating the sleep area from seating area. Other types of these buses could have seats that convert to beds, or a small section in the back of the bus that is the sleeping area. Dividers might be used for greater privacy, though this isn’t always the case.

A sleeper bus has comfortable accommodations.
A sleeper bus has comfortable accommodations.

Sometimes the sleeper bus is instead chartered or used as a feature of certain vacations with others. In lots of countries there are tours that are lengthy and providing beds gives people the option to sleep part of the journey. Seat arrangement in these vacation or adventure buses often differs from traditional forward seating and may be more like lounge seating.

A large group may be able to charter a sleeper bus of this type or some people sign up to go an adventure tour with others they don’t know. These tend to be cozy experiences, where people are likely to get to know their companions fairly well, given the closeness of the bus environment. Those who prefer privacy or are naturally shy could find this experience a little overwhelming.

It isn’t necessarily the case that a sleeper bus will have a certain expectation of luxury. In poorer countries, these buses are alternatives to air or train travel, and may be the cheapest way to travel. That doesn’t mean they are the cleanest or most restful, and there are many stories, especially arising from Asia of white-knuckled journeys on these buses, which were followed by intense cleaning rituals.

In much of places like the US, journeys over great distances don’t include sleeper buses. Instead, people might get a pillow, and the opportunity to stop and eat from time to time on long trips. They’re not likely to have any form of sleeping compartment, even if a trip is over 24 hours in length. Some people prefer trains instead because they do have the option of a booking a sleep compartment, but these are generally more expensive than bus travel.

In the UK, sleeper buses are uncommon too, except for use among celebrities. On the other hand, they reentered popular consciousness with J.K. Rowling’s third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Rowling created the Knight Bus, which picks up stray or wandering witches and wizards. Her descriptions do not make the coach sound particularly comfortable, and more often than not, beds sliding all over the bus, which is not likely to occur in a true sleeper bus, seemed to make its passengers ill.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I saw a TV show recently about sleeper buses used by celebrities and they're so impressive. They have everything from bedroom areas, to living room areas, bathrooms and kitchen. They also have wifi internet, widescreen TVs and microwave. I could probably live in one indefinitely!


@burcinc-- Those three could refer to the same type of luxurious travel bus, they don't have to.

When I think of a sleeper bus, I think of the sleeper buses used in China, India and other parts of Asia, and there is nothing luxurious about them. These are just regular buses with "beds" instead of seats. But when I say beds, don't think that they are comfortable. They are fairly short and there are two lines of beds and two layers on both sides. They're very crowded and the bus often does not have a bathroom.

So "sleeper bus" can be a fairly flexible term.


So what is the difference between a sleeper bus, a charter bus and a campaign bus? They all sound like the same thing.

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