Honestly? Charter buses have got a bit of a *uncool*, *inconvenient*, *expensive* reputation… Especially amongst young people, families, backpackers, and generally travelers on a budget.
When you think about fun, spontaneous, cheap travel, you have images of piling precariously into a rickshaw, luggage and all.
When you think about needing a safe vehicle for your kids to travel in overseas, you pretty much come up with inconveniently lugging your own child seat half way across the world and then hiring a car.
When you think about surfing, snowboarding or other outdoor activities, you imagine fights with a taxi driver in your non-native language as they hang your precious sporting equipment out the rear-end of their slightly-too-short vehicle.
And nowhere along the line do we (those of us falling into one or all of these traveling groups) commonly think about renting our own bus.
I mean, a couple of years ago, I would have had the same first impression. Hiring a bus was something that my gran might do. You know, a group tour, a driver in a suit and a smart hat, slightly inflexible and VERY expensive. But me? Nah, I think I’d have taken a pass…
Which begs the question… Why have we started a bus company?
And why *in-the-world* would I recommend you seriously thinking about renting a charter bus?
Well, as someone who is *cough* reasonably young, a soon-to-be Mum, a lover of backpackers hostels and a traveler on a budget, let me invite you to my list of 6 WHYs, and specifically why choosing Social Bus might just be the thing that tips your next Hokkaido adventure from good to out-of-this-world-AMAZING.
1. Flexible & Fun!
Yes, I know that goes against the image, but hear me out. Nothing brings together a group of people quite like traveling together. Traveling with others is an amazing way to meet new people, connect with old friends and spend quality time together. On a Social Bus you can eat, drink, chat and relax. Our drivers are local AND flexible. They are happy to go off the beaten track, give personal recommendations about their favourite cafes and restaurants, and take you door to door. There’s no waiting about, but instead, total freedom to make the most of every moment you have. It certainly beats reading the train timetable wrong and being stuck in the middle of nowhere – or ending up with seats that are miles apart from the rest of your group. Been there, done that, not the best.
2. Safe Travel is the Best Travel!
Charter buses are actually one of the safest forms of travel, because the licensing and safety requirements for drivers and the wider team are SO comprehensive (especially in Japan). Believe me, we’ve just been through the testing and registration and we take safety really seriously. Our drivers are the best. They are used to driving in Hokkaido weather (including the snow) and all types of conditions. They are used to Japanese roads, local guidance and road signs. Driving yourself in a foreign country can be difficult and sometimes downright scary. Add in language barriers, and it’s not always the safest option. (Honestly, if I could, I’d have a permanent driver to get me from A to B for the 5 months of snow we have every year.)
Also, for those of you traveling with babies and kids… Please, please, please find a company that meets international rather than local standards. We provide baby seats and child restraints for under 7s. It’s really one of those things not to take risks with, but the provision is less common than you think. We’re soon-to-be-parents, so we’re REALLY committed to this part of our service.
3. Eliminating all Kinds of Stress!
Leading on, driving yourself and public transport in a foreign country can be stressful. As can coordinating group travel in general. As can trying to communicate with public transport staff who only speak Japanese. As can Hokkaido weather being unexpected and crazy. As can crazy-local drivers, Japanese-only bus timetables, and a whole host of other transportation problems that come up. Our drivers know the roads better than the backs of their hands, can help you to relax, and can give you a more authentic experience of Hokkaido. We will help with translation when needed, ensure that your journey is filled with laughter, and packed to the brim with local experiences. It’s stress-free travel at it’s best.
I should also mention that we scrapped the suits and hats for our drivers – although they will meet you in their more casual, comfortable attire and make sure to pick you up and drop you off door-to-door just the same.
4. Storage/Luggage/Bringing-that-extra-suitcase is No Problem!
I’ve always been a light-packer, but I do remember fighting to get my surfboard about Europe using either taxis or public transport… It frankly wasn’t the most fun experience of my life. Hokkaido is famous for it’s outdoor sports. People come here to ski, snowboard, surf, kayak and a whole host of other activities, but it’s not always easy to get you and your equipment from A to B. Now I’m about to be a Mum, my mind is already thinking about the practicalities of having baby items, pushchairs and generally needing more luggage space that previously. A charter bus means your luggage doesn’t need to be packed in with you. Each bus has plenty of dedicated storage space, and again… the whole door-to-door thing!
5. Way, Way Cheaper Than You Think.
I know, I know… You read the full bus rental price and your eyes popped out of your head. BUT, when you divide the cost of the charter bus by the number of people traveling in your group, you will see that the cost per passenger is far less than you first thought, and often less than other kinds of transportation.
I get it – if you’re traveling by yourself or as a couple, it might not make sense. But, if you’re with a bunch of friends, using a local meet up site, traveling as a family or getting a group together from a local guesthouse or hostel, I promise it’s worth talking to us. We’re backpackers and we run hostels, so we know about budget travel. But we also know there’s a way to have the best of both worlds and we’re committed to making it happen.
6. Surpisingly Eco-Friendly.
Yep. Not the first thing that comes to mind, and definitely not quite up there with an electric car or a bicycle. BUT, when chartering a bus you are actually using way less fuel per person than you do in a regular car. In fact, I did some research and the stats say that a full chater bus will get between 5 and 6 times the amount of fuel efficiency compared to fully loaded cars for the same number of people. That significantly reduces the amount of carbon emissions if you are considering rental cars for your group. Our buses are new vehicles and maintained well to improve our eco-impact wherever possible.
AND… That’s a wrap.
Food for thought at least, right? Flexible, fun, safe, stress-free, storage-full, reasonably priced, eco-okay travel. Not sure how you can say no to an offer like that, or why you’d want to… 😉
But seriously, if you are coming to Hokkaido soon or not-so-soon, then give us a shout.