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The ultimate guide to bus travel in USA

The ultimate guide to bus travel in USA

I don’t think many people appreciate how convenient intercity bus travel is in USA.

A few weeks ago, I was chatting to a new friend at a house party. She mentioned that her family was from a town near Boston, and that she travelled there via Amtrak – the national train network.

Having recently visited Boston myself, I asked my new friend why she doesn’t take a bus, explaining that it was infinitely cheaper and took about the same amount of time as the train.

Her response was “Oh, I don’t know… I’m not sure about buses. I’m used to taking the train so I always take it”.

Now it’s great that USA has intercity trains (unlike Australia, which seems to be living in the stone age) but let’s be honest here – the network isn’t all that fabulous.

There are limited destinations and routes, and every time I check the Amtrak website, I’m flabbergasted by the insane prices which are often way more expensive than flights.

In the past, train travel was often the cheaper and faster option, but nowadays that isn’t the case. Sure, trains might seem more comfortable than flights or buses, but is it really worth the extra cost, and extra travel time?

Buses have come a long way in levels of comfort for long-distance travel, and if there’s anything I’ve learnt from catching intercity buses throughout USA over the past 3 years, it’s that bus travel is often the superior option! Here’s why.


US Pacific Coast, California

benefits of bus travel

  • Free WiFi – This is always my biggest selling point as I take my laptop on long journeys to get work done or edit my photos.
  • Stations are in the city centre – I don’t know about you but I absolutely hate having to make my way to airports!
  • No airport stress – Bus travel means no security lines, no bag drop lines, and no having to arrive 2 hours before you leave.
  • It’s often faster than trains – If you compare trains and buses, and you’ll often find they take less time or a similar amount of time to get you from A to B.
  • It’s the cheapest option – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bus that’s more expensive than a train or flight.
  • They can be booked last minute – You know how flights have that annoying tendency to get stupidly expensive at the last minute? This doesn’t happen with buses!
  • It’s better for the environment than travelling by car or air. See this article for a comparison of carbon emissions for different forms of transport, or this post for more deets on carbon emissions from air travel.

USA Bus Route Map

WHERE CAN YOU GO?

In short – pretty much everywhere, you can even go coast to coast! Here are a few sample itineraries:

  • Los Angeles to Miami
  • New York to Los Angeles
  • San Diego to Seattle
  • Austin to Chicago
  • Miami to Boston

how to search for buses

Wanderu

Wanderu website

Wanderu is a great website to search for buses, as it compares all the bus options for your route and includes details on travel time, price, and number of transfers. Once you’ve entered your route and date into the search, you can also filter the results by departure time or price.

After finding the best option for my trip, I’ll usually head to the bus company’s website to book (a habit I developed as booking directly usually guarantees the best price).

Rome2Rio

Rome to Rio website

Rome to Rio is another great website that compares a range of bus, train, and flight options. What’s great about this site is that it has a pretty map that displays after you search (did I mention that I’m a tad obsessed with maps?) and it’s super easy to scroll through all the results.

Again, I’ll usually head to the bus company’s website to make my booking.

my favourite bus companies in USA

Boltbus USA

Image source – Boltbus

Boltbus operate mainly in the PNW and West Coast. We used them for trips from Portland to Seattle, and then on to Vancouver.

Their website is basically a maze of slow loading pages and broken links, but once you navigate through this to book a ticket, you’ll actually find that Boltbus offers a pretty great service.

They offer one ticket on each ride for $1, which might randomly show up when you’re booking a ticket. On the bus, you’ll get free WiFi (though it might be a little shaky at times), power outlets, and a decent amount of legroom.

Megabus

Image source – Megabus

We took Megabus to both Washington DC and Boston. They’re right up there with Boltbus in terms of service, though they offer a wider range of destinations and their website definitely comes out on top!

Megabus allows you to reserve seats for only $1 extra (though you can expect to have to kick someone out of your reserved seat 50% of the time). They also offer the $1 fares that Boltbus does, one of which I managed to score for our tickets to Boston. Booyah!

The only complaint I have about Megabus is that there is no overhead storage, so your luggage either has to go under the bus or at your feet. If you’re interested in a second opinion, here’s another Megabus review for you.

Greyhound

Image source – Greyhound

Greyhound are probably the most famous bus company in USA. This makes them a tad more expensive than other bus companies, but their route options are fantastic.

Their service could also be considered a little better than Boltbus or Megabus, as they have extra legroom and overhead storage, as well as WiFi, power outlets, and reclining seats.

They also have a bunch of green initiatives, which is a huge bonus for eco-conscious travellers like myself.

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