Although night trains frequently have sleeper services, until recently, I had never come across sleeper buses. The man in seat61 reports their existence in Laos, and apparently they are used in N-America and Europe to transport bands. It seems Megabus UK has a service between London and Glasgow. According to this question, those are pretty much unique in Europe.

Why are sleeper buses so rare in Europe and North America? They are reportedly quite common in Latin America and parts of Asia.

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    Because they are more expensive to operate and hence will be more expensive to ride. Plus stopping every 2-3 hours anyway.
    – Karlson
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 14:15
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    Germany outlawed sleeper coaches in 2006 following several serious motorway accidents when passengers were thrown from coaches. Lawmakers said sleeping coach occupants could not be restrained adequately with seatbelts. In 2010, a German court rejected an operator’s appeal alleging that the ban contravened EU law. Judges said there was no EU-wide legislation on sleeper coaches, meaning German law took precedence.
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 14:24
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    @JohnZwinck Hmm, do all of those places have in common that there exist little to no passenger train infrastructure? Sleeper trains have a long tradition in Europe, although recently many have been displaced by fast day trains and cheap flights. I believe they're still quite strong in eastern Europe and South Asia. Day trains are and remain very popular in Europe so I don't think car ownership is the issue.
    – gerrit
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 14:31
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    As a passenger, i consider trains to be more comfortable, yet more expensive. In some places, like Latin America there are sleeper buses, simply because trains are very (very!) rare. For instance, in a country as big as Brazil, I'm not aware of any long distance passenger train service, except for Metro/subway or touristic train routes like this one. For long distances all you have is either planes or buses...
    – gmauch
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 16:37
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    I think this question is far too broad to be answered here. The reason there aren't sleeper buses in the US is no doubt influenced by multiple economic and cultural factors. Americans don't like riding the bus. Period. Those who do generally do so because they can't afford anything else. If they could afford a sleeper bus, they'd probably take a flight instead. The economics and cultural "acceptance" of bus travel varies greatly by country, or even region of a country. There's far too much to explore here than is reasonable in a SE post, I believe.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


The usual commercial problem with sleeper trains is that the vehicles carry significantly fewer passengers than a seated vehicle and often either cannot be used at all in daytime, or are stuck at the same capacity as they have overnight.

The standard capacities for a European train carriage (26m long, with a toilet) are 36 for a sleeper, 54 for a couchette (roughly hostel-equivalent accomodation), 57 for a first-class seated carriage and 76 for a second-class seated carriage. The proportions will be similar for buses.

This means that the sleeper cars have to earn enough money from fewer passengers doing one overnight journey to match several daytime journies for a seated car - but the sleeper is generally more expensive to buy and more expensive to run (overnight vs daytime pay for the driver, and usually attendants in addition to the guard/conductor). This means that fares have to be a lot higher for a sleeper to make a profit. Sleeper trains have been run by European railways as a loss-making public service, but are being wound down as railways become more commercial.

Sleeper buses are going to have a similar set of problems - they will cost more to buy than a conventional bus, and will carry fewer passengers, and will have higher running costs (at the very least, the bedding will need to be changed and washed) - and they can't be used for daytime journeys, so they will probably sit idle in the middle of the day.

That means they will need to charge a substantial fare premium over a seated coach to make a profit (at least double and more likely triple the fare). In countries where there are good alternatives like car rental or cheap flights, then this is likely to limit the market. Unless they can offer something distinctive (like an early morning arrival in a city where the airport is not allowed to have night landings), they may struggle to get passengers.

If there isn't an existing regulatory regime for getting sleeper buses approved, then the costs of getting the government to create one are likely to be too great for an operator to be prepared to pay - and note that some countries prohibit them entirely. Germany is a really important one, as many of the likely routes in Europe would run through Germany, but the German government banned sleeper buses in 2006.

  • The sleeper buses can definitely be used during the day. You just need long distance connections. I've done it before and it worked very well
    – msysmilu
    Commented Feb 4, 2023 at 21:51

You'll find few people claiming that buses are more comfortable than trains, all things being equal.

A train network is much more expensive to initiate than a bus network, which works on a road network built, not for the purposes of transferring people or goods by bus, therefore is much more likely to exist, anyway.

Ergo, as mass long distance leisure travel is more recent than train travel, it follows that sleeper buses are more likely to exist in areas where long distance travel is typical yet where trains do not exist.

Latin America has virtually no train connections, while large cities are few and far between. Parts of SE Asia have no train connections with some distances being sizeable. Europe is relatively small and has both good train and cheap air links. (Africa, generalising, has no good long distance public transport of any kind).

My knowledge, in relation to this, of North America is limited. As per @gerrit's comment's below, it is possible that, if relevant laws allow, there is room for a competitor to offer night bus sleepers in North America.

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    That is indeed generalising. My friend in Kenya was quite happy with his overnight bus ride in a modern, airconditioned bus that departed right on time. Not a sleeper bus, though. Not sure if your comment about Africa is necessary.
    – gerrit
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 17:44
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    Everything is a generalisation. And, anyway, following my argument, long distance African sleepers could exist on routes that are relatively popular. Examples could be Mombassa - Nairobi (which also has a train connection), Nairobo - Kampala, several routes in Southern Africa.
    – MastaBaba
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 17:49
  • It doesn't explain the absence from North America, though. Only a very limited number of routes in North America have sleeper trains, so in many ways one might expect a similar situation to South America.
    – gerrit
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 17:51
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    @gerrit Yes, that site indicated as much. I'm assuming that the idea of night bus travel is considered so uncomfortable/cheap that the idea of paying even slightly more to travel in a bit more comfort isn't that appealing while the routes with high volumes of long-distance travel are adequately covered by other affordable options (flights, rental). That said, we'd probably need to see market studies to know for sure. I'm assuming they exist but they're probably not public.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Sep 15, 2015 at 8:53
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    For North America, there is now a new company that's starting to offer sleeper bus service between San Francisco and Los Angles. Leaves at 11pm, arrives around 5-6am, but they'll let you stay on until 9 should you feel the urge to spend more time on a bus. I can't say it makes a ton of economic sense to me: that air route is served by very frequent service with a lot of competition covering several airports in both regions, leaving intercity bus service for highly cost-sensitive customers, but hey, if they want to try to make it work, all the power to them. Commented May 18, 2016 at 20:34

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