Bussing in the USA: Surviving the Greyhound
While trains provide more comfortable means of non-aerial transportation, they are not necessarily faster and are always more expensive than buses. This makes traveling by bus ideal for travelers on a budget. Out of all the bus companies that I researched, I found the Greyhound to have the most extensive network. Having recently embarked on a road trip across 12 states using said fantastic bus system, I now fancy myself an expert and present to you my advice on traveling via the Greyhound.
- Tag your bags! Any luggage that is put under the bus needs to have an official Greyhound tag on it. Their baggage staff will take a bag out if they do not see it properly tagged.
- For northbound buses, sit on the left side of the bus in the morning and sit the right side of the bus in the afternoon to avoid direct sun in the face. Do the opposite for southbound buses.
- Some a/c vents are located by the windows. Bring a long sleeve or a cover to avoid having one freezing arm.
- When booking online, choose the “pick up at station” option instead of “print at home”. This allow the flexibility of changing the ticket date for a fee of $20 (within 1 year of date of ticket). There are self check-in kiosk at the stations for those traveling without checking in luggage. Or course for those traveling without checked luggage on trips under $20, this would not apply.
- Sign up for the reward program. They offer a 10% off coupon on the next trip upon registration.
- Schedule each leg of the trip separately. If the trip passes through a major city (e,g, Detroit), it may be cheaper to book two separate tickets. The bonus is you get more reward points. The downside is Greyhound will less likely take responsibility for missed buses even if it’s caused by the delay of the first bus so make sure there is plenty of time in between bus schedules to account for delays.
- Sit in the front, far from the bathroom. Also in case of ventilation failure, it is cooler in the front of the bus.
Besides the Greyhound, here are some other busing options I have explored:
“Chinatown buses”: Usually found operating between major US cities (e.g. New York to DC, Los Angeles to Las Vegas) These are independent companies but tickets could be booked through websites such as GotoBus. Prices are cheap but don’t expect great service. Drivers are usually yelling. They might yell in Chinese but there should be fellow passengers who can translate and update the status of the trip. Expect multiple stops in random gas stations to pick up/drop off passengers even if the ticket says “direct”
Mega Bus: Their network covers states along, and east of the Mississippi (except South Carolina and Mississippi),Texas, Nebraska, California, and Nevada. Allegedly, there are $1 fares when booked early in advance.
Bolt Bus : Serving Northeast and Northwest regions and Vancouver. They also have a reward program. Buy 8 trips get 1 free.