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Transforming Passenger Buses into Touring Buses

Touring buses are something you would recognise from music bio-films where the band uses it to comfortably cross the country between gigs. Touring buses are not dissimilar from a RV (recreational vehicle) or camper van in that they act as a mobile home normally complete with limited kitchen and bathroom facilities.

How elaborate a touring bus is depends on the wealth and popularity of the band using it, but they are typically rented out for the touring period to minimise costs. Higher-profile bands will often purchase their own touring buses outright and customise them with their signature iconography and/or band logo. Some are even adorned with promotional artwork for the specific tour the bus is being utilised for.

Touring buses obviously have a lot of utility to them since they act as a means of transporting and providing accommodation for the band while they travel long distances. They also work to keep the band together and add to the sense of comradery that is often a defining characteristic of a music groups’ appeal.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of a touring bus but can’t afford to rent or buy one, then you might consider converting a passenger bus that you can buy relatively cheaply second-hand. Based on our follow up conversation with Thomas Lopez from Slope Records, the following will examine a few of the ways you can go about converting passenger buses into touring buses.

1. Rip out the seats and install bunks + wardrobe/storage

Rip out the seats and install bunks
Photo: Baloncici, BS

First and foremost, a touring bus needs to act as a place that band members can comfortably sleep so they don’t need to solely rely on commercial accommodation. While it’s normal for bands to use hotels in conjunction with touring buses, the bus itself needs to be adequate when no hotel is available.

Pull out the default seating and either build or invest in bedframes that can be supported from the bus walls. Typically, you want both sides of the bus to have beds with a walkway in the middle. It’s normal to put storage compartments above the beds like on a passenger plane.

Some kind of wardrobe compartment will also be useful, especially for bands that may have elaborate and/or decorate costuming. The same goals for the safe storage of instruments, props and any other paraphernalia the band might want to take with them.

2. Add in a kitchen and toilet/shower

bus kitchen
Photo: Michael Zech Fotografie, BS

The next thing a touring bus needs is kitchen and bathroom facilities, and these are both necessary for obvious reasons. A small kitchenette is more modular than you might think and there are lots of options for including a basic sink, gas stove and microwave. As for bathrooms, there are also options you can invest in for a toilet and even a small shower.

Of course, a kitchen and bathroom on a bus will need special plumbing connections set up so that you can have pressurised water and waste storage capacity. You want to be the most careful when installing this part of your touring bus as a mistake here could mean a very messy and unpleasant problem later on.

3. Provide entertainment

Provide entertainment
Photo: Urbanlight, BS

Of course, a touring bus for a band is going to be somewhere they want to pass the long hours on the road with revelry as they enjoy the ‘tour lifestyle’. It’s common to have small flat-screen television sets, gaming consoles and (obviously) some added music capacity beyond the default system the bus came with. Of course, there’s only so much entertainment you can generate with technology, so perhaps bringing along some books and board games isn’t a bad idea.

There you have it, 3 things you can do to transform a passenger bus into a touring bus.