How To Survive A Head-On Bus Crash

These Two Buses Played Chicken With Each Other. They Both Lost.
These two buses played chicken with each other. They both lost.

Steps On How To Survive A Bus Crash

Catching buses in third world countries can be daunting. In fact, catching any form of transport can be a scary notion. Road rules are barely followed or completely non-existent. The drivers are all in a race with each other. Keeping a safe distance between vehicles is a foreign concept.

Many people fear the worst when trying to get around from place to place. And with good reason. The crash rate is so high that the mere mention of the word “accident” doesn’t even raise an eyebrow. But never fear! We are here to tell you that it doesn’t have to mean doom and gloom! We will let you know the correct ways to make it through a worst-case scenario. Here is the NOMADasaurus guide on how to survive a head-on bus crash in Myanmar!

Step 1 – Freeze

Myanmar - Where Buses Collide! Bus Crash
Myanmar – Where Buses Collide!

You may or may not see it coming. I did. I was looking straight out the front windscreen. I saw the other bus drift onto our side of the road. I even thought to myself, “Hmm, that bus is going to get pretty close to us.” Then there was the horn. The sound of tyres screeching. Then the opposing bus trying to push it’s way to the inside of our bus. I froze. I didn’t even have time to tell Lesh to brace herself. In fact, I barely even braced myself! It happened so fast yet so slow, like the space-time continuum was in a state of confusion. Before I knew it we had come to a very abrupt halt and it was only through a stroke of luck that we didn’t knock our teeth out. So step one, freeze!

Step 2 – Panic…But Calmly

Once the two buses have become one, check that everyone around you is ok. That is common sense. Do a mental run through of your own body. Nothing hurting? No signs of bleeding? I didn’t lose all my teeth and now look like an inbred redneck from the Deep South? All good. Awesome. Now calmly panic. Get the hell out of the bus! I was about to kick our window out when at the last second I realised it could just slide open, so that’s what I did. I looked at Lesh, and trying to maintain a sense of tranquility, I said, “climb out of the fucking window!” She listened and clambered down the side of the bus onto the ground with me following, post-haste. No way were we going to be sitting on that bus like stunned mullets if it decided to spontaneously combust!

Step 3 – Grope People As You Try To Carry Them From The Wreckage

Man In Underwear From The Bus Crash.
If you are really lucky, you may get to carry a guy wearing only his underwear from the bus!

Now that you have looked after number one (yourself) and number two (your girlfriend, but tell her that she’s number one), start helping others off the bus. Everyone will be starting to trip and fall out the windows. It’s a long way to fall to the ground, and chances are they will cause more injury to themselves tumbling from the wreckage than what they did during the bus crash. So reach up and lend a hand. Young, skinny, nimble humans will probably be ok to help themselves, so you’ll have to provide assistance to the overweight, uncoordinated people. As you try to take a good hold of the person, they will decide to simply flop into your arms. This will probably force you to just grab a hold of any body part that comes into contact with your hands. Usually genitals and breasts. Enjoy this opportunity to form a special bond with those you are assisting. But avoid eye contact. Eye contact makes the whole thing awkward.

Step 4 – Take Photos

At this point you have ideally come to the realisation that everyone is more or less all right and the buses aren’t going to explode. So take photos. Everyone else is, so why shouldn’t you? We live in a day and age where if something can’t be proven on YouTube or Facebook, it probably never occurred. Get proof that it happened, or your friends will never believe you.

Step 5 – Stock Up On Karma Points And Provide First Aid

Take a look around. You are the only foreigners within earshot. As you are such a tightass you paid for the cheapest tickets on the dodgiest mode of transport with the company that has the shadiest safety record. Because of this, you get to share this experience with only locals. They are probably blaming you. Maybe they are right. Was it your fault? Who knows? Maybe you’ve done some bad shit in the past and now Mama Karma is coming back to bite you on the ass. But to dispel any ill feelings, grab your backpack, fetch your paramedic-worthy first aid kit and start impressing everyone with your basic first aid skills! Find the guy who is bleeding the most, point at the green cross on your bulging kit, and mime bandaging him up. He’s perplexed. So perplexed from your ludicrous hand signals, that he just submits and lets you do whatever you want. Put your gloves on, because that makes you look professional. Now start bandaging. Take a moment to look around and absorb the hundreds of eyes focused on you. Talk about pressure! You better not fuck this up, or you will be lynched! You don’t speak the native tongue, and no one there speaks yours, so you have to rely on smiling, nodding in assurance and using your improvised skills to get yourself through this. Soon enough, you have patched him up to a standard that your ’emergency first responder’ course instructor would deem satisfactory, and you have stocked up on some bonus positive karma points. Hoorah!

This Man Thinks The Bus Crash Was Your Fault.
The look of disdain from the man in red says it all. This is your fault.

Step 6 – Hitchhike Your Ass Out Of There…On Another Bus!

Well it’s pretty obvious by now that your original mode of transport is going to be sitting there on the road for quite a while. It’s getting late, and you don’t really want to spend the night on the side of the road in an isolated Burmese village with no power (which means no cold beer). Because you are lazy and never bothered to learn the language of this country before you arrived, you don’t know how to ask for a ride. But lucky for you, the universal sign for “I’m broke, give me a ride!” is still recognised in this part of the world. So stick that thumb out! And even though you do a pretty decent job of butchering the name of the city you want to go to, people generally understand your poor pronunciation of “Yangon” and can nod if they are heading that far. Of course they’re not, and the only vehicle that is going as far as your final destination is, you guessed it, ANOTHER BUS! So after all you have experienced up until this point, do you take the chance and jump on the death vessel? You bet your ass you do! I mean, what are the odds that you will be involved in two head-on collisions between two buses in one day. Zero!

Bus Crash Man
Picture of Alesha and Jarryd

Alesha and Jarryd

Hey! We are Alesha and Jarryd, the award-winning writers and professional photographers behind this blog. We have been travelling the world together since 2008, with a passion for adventure travel and sustainable tourism. Through our stories and images we promote exciting off-the-beaten-path destinations and fascinating cultures as we go. As one of the world's leading travel journalists, our content and adventures have been featured by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, CNN, BBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Washington Post, Yahoo!, BuzzFeed, Channel 7, Channel 10, ABC, The Guardian, and plenty other publications. Follow our journey in real time on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

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15 thoughts on “How To Survive A Head-On Bus Crash”

  1. This is one of the funniest serious blog posts I’ve read – I love it….but I’m kinda scared. My family and I are heading to Myanmar next year and we will be travelling the country on buses. Oh god…

  2. Hey man,

    I’m glad you guys got out relatively unscathed!
    I would say it’s an informative, funny and interesting read.

    The fact I bought a sim card with data on my 5 day trip to Myanmar, started googling ‘how to survive in Myanmar’, then happening to click on this link and reading this article while on an overnight bus trip from yangon to bagan means I’m not getting any sleep now… Haha! *nervous laughter*

    I’d love to check out more of your articles… Once in safe back home in Singapore! Lol


    • Haha, sorry that you found our article while you were sitting on a bus! Hope you made it back to Singapore safely 🙂

  3. This is one of my fears during our Indochina travel a year ago. Fortunately nothing bad happened. Our travel was smooth albeit really slow.

    • Glad that you had smooth sailing during your Indochina trip. It definitely isn’t a fun experience. Thanks for reading Shie! 🙂

  4. Ahh this is crazy! At least you maintained a sense of humor about it. 😉 One time I was on a terrifying bus ride as the driver drove like a bat out of hell through windy mountainous roads in Argentina. I was trying to convince myself that we wouldn’t die, these bus drivers know what they’re doing, when I looked out the window and saw a bus overturned down the hill. People were still digging through the wreckage and pulling out luggage. So I tried to comfort myself with the logic that it couldn’t possibly happen again in one day, right…?

    • Geez, pretty crazy story there in Argentina! Glad you survived that one.

      I don’t want to mention the high number of bus accidents we’ve seen. One scary one in particular was on the road out of Myanmar back to Thailand. One lane wide, steep cliff on one side, our driver passed a burnt out shell of a bus. We asked what happened and he said the day before the bus driver had taken a corner too fast and drove off the edge of the cliff. 25 people died. Then he put his foot down, spun the rear wheels out going around a corner, laughed and said, “It was this corner.” Death has a different meaning in these countries. Any more crazy bus stories?

  5. Love the way you told this story. We had two head ons – China and Hanoi. Fortunately someone had the good sense to put his arm out to stop my young son going through the windscreen. Fun and games in Asia 😀

    • Thanks for the comment Di. Two head-on crashes! That is crazy. Very happy to hear that your son was ok. Yep, Asia never ceases to amaze and frighten at the same time.

  6. What a crazy and terrifying experience! So glad everyone was ok! I couldn’t help but run home and check out the post myself. It’s so well written!

    So glad to have met you guys tonight. Hope to see you again soon 😉

    • Thanks Brittany. It turned out pretty well in the end, all things considering. Definitely made for an interesting story!

      Was awesome meeting you guys as well. I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other. 🙂

  7. Wow, we have had some close calls but never anything like this. Love the way you told the story! Sure looks like the drivers would have been badly injured, glad to hear it wasn’t too bad.

    • It turned out pretty well in the end, all things considered. The drivers were very lucky, that’s for sure! Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading. Safe travels. =)

  8. What a crazy story – I always thought I was being paranoid about the drivers around here. Guess not. So glad you, and all the other passengers, made it out in one piece.

    • It was definitely a fairly hectic experience! But everyone was more or less OK, and we can have a good laugh about it now. Wishing you guys safe travels on your epic bike trip! Hopefully you don’t have to witness anything like this.

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