Nope, not the column in a British National newspaper, but the scheduled arrival time of far too many bus and train services throughout the world. Arriving at 3am is not a pleasant thought, and in a foreign land it can be a daunting prospect. Apart from being dark and fairly cold, finding a hotel where you can wake up the night staff is an exercise in futility. Plus you will have to pay for the full night in that said hotel, so you are getting ripped off by quite a few hours.
I have doen the ‘3am Ritual’ far too many times, so here are some tips to help you get through the prospect of a 3am arrival time in a new and strange town:
1) Break the journey.
Tricky if arriving on the one scheduled flight of the day. But if coming in by land transport, try breaking up the journey by stopping in a town beforehand, and continuing the journey the following day. While direct buses and trains are criminal in their scheduling, local services in between towns usually traverse during the day. Also, you will probably get to spend some time in a backwater that few tourists visit, due to their mad rush to arrive at their destination at 3am…
(I avoided 3am arrival time during my exit from Tripura state by breaking up the journey into three stages)
2) Eat and Drink.
If you are going to arrive at 3am, then do not do so on an empty stomach. There is nothing worse than arriving in a new place and having a severe attack of the munchies. Not only does a bite to eat keep you focused, you also have a little bit of confidence with which to face your new location. While your bus or tran will drop you in the most godforsaken part of a new town at 3am, there is a good chance that there is a stall serving something nearby. Of course, you canalways take your own food…
(Usually I carry some fruit and a bottle of water in my pack for all but the shortest of journeys)
3) Stick it out at the station.
A toss up in terms of comfort and safety, but depending on the country and town you are in, it might be a good idea to rough it for a few hours at the said rail or bus station. In the developing world, this is actually a viable option, with plenty of locals doing the same. Doss down and have a kip, you will feel better when the sun comes up. There might even be a waiting room if you are lucky. In the ‘developed’ world, you have to look out for the rampaging youths.
(Basically, do not sleep rough in England. You will get your head kicked in by scum. Every other part of the world is civilised enough to make sleeping rough a safe option)
4) Go for a wander.
Do you have good bearings? I so, then go for a wander. You might even be lucky enough to witness a sunrise. I have done that a couple of times in places that are known tourist sopts, and a sunrise can be quite nice here.
(Rotorua in NZ, my favourite 3am wander)
5) Phone a friend.
Due to the time difference between many parts of the world and your home country, this could be a good time to make those catch-up phone calls.
So there you are, my five top tips for keeping yourself happy during the dreaded 3am appointment time with your destination. Handy tips for the road…