Tips for Travel on a Greyhound Bus

Sometimes, in one’s attempt to live the easier life, one doesn’t quite have the money that one would like to. When on a tight budget, traveling by Greyhound bus makes a lot of sense. That’s truly when traveling by Greyhound bus becomes your best option. Before, however, you take that option, you might like to know some tips about travel on a Greyhound bus. Here's what you need to know

Half the Price Three Weeks Early
When reserving your ticket, reserve it three weeks early as you get it at half the price. Any later than that and it’s double the price. It stills comes in at half the price of an airline ticket if you don’t reserve your seat three weeks earlier, but if you reserve it three weeks earlier, you get to travel at a quarter the price of the airfare.

When you reserve your ticket, also pay $5 extra to get priority seating. This means that you don’t have to stand in line when you get to the station. Greyhound has a first come, first serve policy, and that means you generally have to arrive three hours ahead of time and stand in a yukky line in order to get first choice of seats. Generally, you buy priority seating when you buy your ticket – not afterwards!

Incidentally, it’s better to travel on an empty bus than on a full bus, and if you select a journey that starts at an unearthly hour like 1.30 in the morning, you’re more likely to get two seats to yourself and then you have space to sleep more comfortably – especially if it’s a long journey!  Also, there’s more likely to be empty bus during the week than on the weekends. 

Make Sure It’s a GreyHound Bus
Other bus companies subcontract their buses to Greyhound, and some of those companies should not be in the bus business. Avoid the independent bus operators in the same manner that you would avoid arsenic. Generally, the driver will speak in Spanish, which is fine if you speak Spanish, but it can be frustrating if you don’t. You will never know if he’s cracking a joke or giving the passengers some relevant information that you need to know for your journey. These sub-contracted buses can also be in horrific condition. Like I said, avoid them the way you would avoid the best friend of your worst enemy. You can determine when you’re reserving your seat on line whether the bus is run by Greyhound or an independent contractor by the code that is next to the schedule.

Wifi and Recharging Your Phone on New Greyhound Buses
Yes, you CAN! There I was, seated quite uncomfortably (depends on the bus and the seat) emailing my sister in Cape Town, South Africa, while traveling by bus in the middle of the Texas flatland. We were having quite a conversation!

The Best Seats on a Greyhound Bus
These are near the front - away from the restroom area. Not only do you have the fresh air from the door coming in when the bus stops, but you have more legroom. Don’t take the first seat behind the driver because, sometimes, the driver keeps his luggage there, and if you take it, by the time he arrives, there won’t be any other good seats available as everybody else will have taken the best seats, and the bus driver will tell you to move!

The seats, incidentally,  are an ergonomic disaster. Generally designed for a dwarf with a hunchback, they make the journey uncomfortable for anyone human. I have never quite figured out why seat designers for trains, planes and long distance buses think that human beings all come in the same size and that they have hunch backs.

Incidentally, there is one good thing about taking a seat next to the restroom – if the bus is reasonably empty. That’s the fact that there are three consecutive seats next to each other, and if you want to sleep, you can stretch yourself across those three seats – and sleep. That’s a luxury on a Greyhound bus.

Food on the Bus
There is no food on the bus. Technically speaking, there is no food at the Greyhound stops either, but then it depends on what you call food. I would say that you should bring along your own but have given up on that. You’re limited in what you can carry on board and you have to take your laptop on board because they don’t permit it to travel in the baggage compartments. By the time, you’ve got your blanket (yes, you need one) and your pillow, plus a few extras like your water bottle, your phone, your ipod, etc., it’s probably better just to be prepared to buy food along the road. Those that are gluten intolerant will suffer because everything at Greyhound bus stops seems to be made of wheat. Prices can be a joke. Joke is a less offensive word than unreasonable.

Lilliputian Baggage Rack
The baggage rack above the seat was made for luggage designed in Lilliputia. You can bring your laptop in a laptop case onboard, plus one other piece of small – yes, small – luggage. Figure on about six inches high by eighteen inches by another eighteen inches. Carry your blanket and your pillow in your arm – wrapped tightly so that they look small. Small does sell in Greyhound buses.

Mylar Blankets
If you’ve never had a use for Mylar space age blankets, this is an excellent time to use them. Firstly, they wrap up to a 2.5’x 1” x 1” size and this is about as small as any blanket can get. Next, they’re warm! Greyhound buses are very draughty – especially if you sit next to the window. All their windows seem to leak cold air in your direction – just where you want to put your head. Granted all the other passengers will think you’re from outer space but you will be more comfortable and sleep more soundly!

Smoking, Drinking and Partying
You can smoke when you get off the bus. You cannot drink at all. You cannot have alcohol on your breath. And it’s best to keep the partying for the celebration after you get off the bus. At that point, you may have as many drinks as you like. However, if you have any alcohol on you or if you are ‘indisposed,’ the bus driver will remove you from the bus.

The Air Conditioning – When AC Freezes Your Bones
It might be Sahara Hot outside but inside a Greyhound bus they’ve set the AC to cold, cold, and cold. You will freeze. Even if you’ve just come from hotter than hell, bring something warm. You will be glad you did. One tip, because the engine is at the back of the bus, if you sit at the back, it will be very hot. This is great in cold climates but a misery in hot ones.

Rest Stops and Rest Rooms on a GreyHound Bus
Rest stops are plentiful. Most of them are clean so there’s no issue on that score. The restroom on the bus is small. You need to be the size of a dwarf (not hunchbacked, though, that you need to be to sit in the seats comfortably) in order to fit in the restroom. Did I ever tell you the story about the silver sandal (my FAVORITE silver sandal) I lost down the loo of a greyhound bus? No? I’ll tell you in the blog I write one day about the things I’ve lost  in bizarre circumstances during my life of travels.

Rest stops are for your smoke breaks, buying the junk food that is starch and sugar infested, and stretching your legs.

Short Journeys vs Long Journeys
Short Journeys are probably better than long journeys on Greyhound buses. If you do have to make a west coast to east coast journey, it takes about three days. If you reserve your seat three weeks ahead of the journey, it will be 50% of the price of your plane flight. In the circumstances, I would say that you break the journey and spend the night at a hostel. Hostels will set you back about $20 per night. Trust me, you do not want to spend three nights sleeping in a contorted position on a Greyhound bus. Nor do you want to infect your system with the ‘food’ that is available at the various stops. Not for three days, you don’t.

Border Patrols
If you speak with an accent, have a ‘look about you,’ or anything else that signals you out as ‘not American,’ do bring two forms of identity, one of which must be for legal permission to be in the country. So it’s either your Green Card or your Passport, plus another means of identity. This is especially so if you’re traveling through Louisiana, Texas, or Arizona. The Border Patrol will remove you if you cannot prove that you have a legal right to be on that bus! They tend to ask everyone directly if they are an American citizen. If you nod, they will keep asking you until you open your mouth and speak. I guess they do this to check if you have an American accent. To date, I have not known of anyone who has claimed being an American citizen been asked to prove it.

The Train Alternative - Amtrak
Although America is not train country, it does have a few. Sometimes taking the train is a far better option than taking the bus. You can buys season tickets that last a week or three, and make a dozen journeys during that time. The total cost will be about the same as the full Greyhound bus price. Check out that option before taking the Greyhound. Even if you pay a few dollars more, it’s probably worth it in terms of comfort.

Benefit of Traveling by Greyhound Bus
Truly, there is only one benefit to traveling by Greyhound bus, and that’s the price of travel. For the rest, everything else beats it!