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Long-distance bus travel in the United States

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Greyhound bus in New York City

Long-distance bus travel can be an interesting, inexpensive, and convenient way to see the United States, especially for travellers who, for one reason or another, do not drive their own car.

Understand[edit]

Buses cover more of the country than trains and have more frequent departures; and unlike air travel, there is not the hassles of security. Although it is not the fastest way, competition between the various operators makes bus travel generally inexpensive. It is even possible to obtain a trip between two cities for as little as $1.

Most intercity bus services use the interstate highway system for the majority of their routes, thereby taking the fastest route they possibly can.

Most long-distance buses are comfortable. Seats are spacious and sometimes have a small flip-down table, like on an airplane. On-board toilets for passengers are also more common than not. Some bus companies show movies on board. Power outlets and Wi-Fi for passengers' use is increasingly the norm. You can also bring food and drink onboard.

Shorter runs, sometimes up to several hours long, may have no intermediate stops. But on longer routes there will be scheduled stops, either in cities where passengers are picked up and offloaded and you can get off the bus for a few moments or at a truck stop where you can get off to eat and drink in a cafe or restaurant. Longer scheduled stops are usually printed on your ticket.

Even for those who fly and drive regularly there are still advantages to include bus travel with your plans. For travel within 300 mi (480 km) or to destinations with limited or no commercial air service, bus travel or driving would usually be most economical way to get there. Anything over 300 mi (480 km) between metropolitan areas or across the country and you will find the cost of air travel to rival or even undercut bus fares. The exceptions for using buses over longer distances is if you plan to travel point to point across the country with the need to hop on and off frequently. To get between places not well served by commercial airlines would be to combine bus with air travel. Take the bus to the nearest city with a major airport, fly to the next city and then take another bus to the final destination. For example, if one is traveling from Arcata, CA to Key West FL the airfare may be $850RT whereas the airfare from San Francisco to Ft Lauderdale may be just $240RT. Therefore, one would take the first bus from Arcata to San Francisco; fly from San Francisco to Ft Lauderdale and transfer to another bus from Ft Lauderdale to Key West. This saves money on the difference in airfare, the cost of airport parking in San Francisco and the extra airport surcharges for renting a car from Ft Lauderdale. In context of this example, if you are planning to stay in Key West you can get around locally WITHOUT a car! But this may not be true in other places especially if you are going to a remote local. Using buses in combination with air travel is more necessary for traveling east and west across Canada as the Canadian domestic airlines are predominantly with Air Canada and Westjet as a duopoly and with higher taxes imposed on them, domestic air travel is more expensive in Canada than in the United States. For example, for a traveler to get from Vancouver to Toronto he/she can takes a bus from Vancouver to Seattle; fly across the US from Seattle to Buffalo and then transfer to another bus going to Toronto. Same thing with travel between the U.S. & Canada and from outside the North American continent to Canada. Travel by bus from Toronto to Buffalo and fly from Buffalo to Florida or continue further south by bus into New York City to catch an international flight out of North America. The downside is that it takes more time and is less convenient, but it can save several $100s in the difference in airfare especially if two or more are traveling together and budget is tight. Most people will still drive to the airport, rent a car from the airport or use Canadian airports because it is quicker and more convenient to get to there.

Companies[edit]

  • Greyhound Lines, +1 214 849-8966, toll-free: +1-800-231-2222. Greyhound is the largest bus company serving over 2,700 locations in 46 states in the U.S. and over the border into Canada and Mexico. They also operate subsidiary brands to compete in different markets such as:
  • Bolt Bus is a co-brand between Greyhound Lines & Peter Pan serving the Northeast to emulate the 'Chinatown' buses while Bolt Bus in the west coast is solely operated by Greyhound. They pick-up & drop off at separate curbside stops instead of the Greyhound stations in the cities where they serve and are listed separately in the relevant city articles.
  • Autobus Americanos Co-brand with the Mexican bus company, Grupo Estrella Blanca to operate cross border bus services between the U.S. and Mexico from Colorado, New Mexico, Texas and Utah from the US/Mexican border. In some cities they call at the Greyhound stations while in other places they have their own separate depots or stops. Greyhound also go further south from Laredo, Tx to Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey in Mexico as Greyhound Mexico.
  • Cruceros USA Operates cross border services between Los Angeles and Tijuana via Santa Ana, San Diego & San Ysidro.
  • Lucky Streak Goes to the casinos of Atlantic City from Baltimore, New York City (including Brooklyn), Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. and to Mohegan Suns & Foxwood Casinos in Connecticut from Boston, Bridgeport, New Haven, New York City, Providence, and Stamford.
  • Greyhound Canada Their counterpart for bus travel to 1,100 additional locations within Canada.
  • NeOn Co-brand between Greyhound Lines, Greyhound Canada and Trailways of New York for travel between New York & Toronto via Binghamton, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo; and New York to Montreal via Albany & Plattsburg.
  • Quick Link Shorter daily & frequent commuter routes between Mt Laurel, NJ & New York; and Baton Rouge & New Orleans. Plans are underway to include routes out of Wilmington, DE and other places
  • Valley Transit Co Valley Transit is a full-service bus company serving South Central, Southeastern Texas and Northern Mexico.
  • Jefferson Lines, toll-free: +1-800-451-5333. Second largest bus company after Greyhound serving the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, Nebraska North Dakota, South Dakota, northern Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming where Greyhound services are limited or unavailable.
  • Coach USA. A subsidiary of the Scottish Stagecoach Group operating commuter routes, university express, airport shuttles, casino shuttles and intercity services under different brands such as:
  • Megabus operates mainly in the midwest and the eastern half of the country to rival Greyhound and the Chinatown buses. They operate between the hub cities of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans, Orlando, New York and Washington DC with other cities between and surrounding the hubs in 30 states as well as connections to Montreal and Toronto in Canada. They also have a separate set of routes in California and to Nevada that are not connected to their other routes in the eastern half the country.
  • Community Coach scheduled commuter service from Morris and Essex Counties in New Jersey to New York City.
  • Dillons offers bus charter and commuter services between Baltimore, Washington DC, Annapolis, and Bethesda in Maryland.
  • Kerrville university express service between Texas A&M in College Station, Dallas, Grand Prairie, Houston, Katy & Texas State University in San Marcos in Texas
  • Olympia Trails operates commuter services across the Hudson between Manhattan and northern New Jersey. They also operate local services in/around Hudson County, NJ (Jersey City) under the Red & Tan Brand (may of been discontinued); in/around Essex County, NJ as the Orange Newark Elizabeth Bus (ONE Bus); between mid-town Manhattan and Plainfield, NJ as the Westfield Commuter; and the Newark Airport Express between Manhattan and the Newark Airport. They also operate select Megabus routes out of New York to Boston, Washington, Baltimore, Albany, Ridgewood NJ and Toronto.
  • Rockland Coaches operates commuter bus service between New York City and points in Bergen County, NJ and Rockland County, NY. They also provide local bus service within both locales.
  • Shortline scheduled services from New York City to Woodbury Common, Upstate NY points, Colleges, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, Bergen and Pike Counties in New York state
  • Suburban Trails offers commuter, casino, and charter services in Mercer, Middlesex, and Somerset Counties, NJ.
  • Van Galder Madison, Janesville, South Beloit and Rockford in Wisconsin to Chicago O'Hare along the I-39/90 corridor.
  • Wisconsin Coach Lines operates 15 times daily to O'Hare Airport (ORD), and Mitchell Airport (MKE) from Waukesha, Milwaukee, Racine, and Kenosha.
  • Coach Canada Their Canadian affiliate for travel in Canada which also includes the Megabus brand operating in Canada.

A number of the Coach USA brands had been independent companies that were bought out by or had merged with Coach USA but kept the same name they had before the merger. The Megabus brand is a brand already operating in the UK by Stagecoach Group that was imported to compete in the American & Canadian markets.

  • Trailways. A franchise group of 70 independent franchisees with bases across the country. Most only offer chartered services (for hire) while others offer casino trips and/or bus tours for sightseeing or to scheduled events. The below are the few Trailways franchisees that sell individual tickets for scheduled transportation from 'A' to 'Z':
  • Arrow Trailways of Texas (Southwestern Stagelines), +1 254 634-3843. From Killeen to Temple, Waco, Round Rock, Austin and Houston in Texas.
  • Burlington Trailways, toll-free: 1 800 992-4618. Connects several cities in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska on multiple routes.
  • Capital Trailways & Colonial Trailways, +1 334 832-4166, +1 256 464-6566, toll-free: +1-800-553-9000. Travels along the US Hwy 43 corridor between Mobile & Tuscaloosa, AL. They also serve Mt. Vernon, Jackson, Grove Hill, Thomasville, Pine Hill, Camden, Selma, Marion and Brent, AL along the way.
  • Fullington Trailways. Daily scheduled departures from Central Pennsylvania to end points in Pittsburgh, PA; Buffalo, NY; Wilkes-Barre, PA; and Harrisburg, PA.
  • Martz Group, +1 570 821-3838. Martz Trailways offer commuter & intercity routes between New York City, Hackettstown, Panther Valley Mall, Atlantic City, Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Stroudsburg, Poconos & Philadelphia (NJ, NY& PA). They also have affiliate brands operating scheduled services from Washington DC to surrounding areas in Maryland & Virginia as Martz Gold Line & Martz Group Virgina.
  • Trailways of New York, +1 716 855-7533, toll-free: +1-800-858-8555. Trailways of New York also include Adirondack Trailways, Pine Hill Trailways, and New York Trailways across New York state and to Toronto & Montreal in Canada on multiple routes. They also co-brand the NeOn brand with Greyhound Lines and Greyhound Canada for travel between New York City and Canada.
  • Northwestern Trailways, toll-free: +1-800-366-3830. Travels across Washington state & northern Idaho from their base in Spokane WA to Seattle, Boise (via Lewiston) and Coeur d'Alene in several directions on multiple routes. Another route travels between Ellensburg, WA and Omak, WA; along US Hwy 97, on contract with the state DOT as the Apple Line.
  • Orange Belt Stages (Trailways), +1 559 733-4408, toll-free: 1 800-266-7433. Regular scheduled service between Las Vegas and Visalia had been discontinued as of Sept 1, 2017. They only offer day trips to different places for sightseeing and to scheduled events throughout California.
  • Susquehannas Trailways. Travels across Pennsylvania from their base in Williamsport PA to Elmira NY; Harrisburg PA; Lock Haven University and Hazelton in several directions on multiple routes. Another route travels between Sunbury and Lehighton. From Hazelton and from Lehighton some of the routes continue to New York and another to Philadelphia.
  • Chinatown Buses. A series of small independent discount bus companies operated by Chinese American entrepreneurs since 1998 to provide cheap transportation for the Chinese communities in Boston & New York. They have since expanded to provide bus services from New York to Atlantic City, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond and a number of other cities on the East Coast to as far south as Orlando and to as far west as Cleveland by various small, loosely 'affiliated', independent companies transporting other travelers in addition to the Chinese populace. There are additional companies marketing as a "Chinatown bus" in the West Coast and in Canada as well. Because they're cheap, a number of them have questionable standards of safety and do not provide great service. Some had even gone out of business or have been being shut down by regulators as a result while others crop up to take their places. See GoToBus.com and ILikeBus.com to look them up and buy tickets.

In addition to the above there are other independent, non-affiliated bus lines. Some of which offer cross border transportation between U.S. and Mexico going to as far north as Chicago and to as far south as Mexico City from the U.S./Mexico border areas. Some of the cross border buses are subsidiaries of a larger Mexican bus company while others are a smaller American and/or Mexican owned company serving the regions near the border on one or both sides. Others are American owned companies and travel only within the U.S. and nowhere near the US/Mexican border :

  • Academy Bus, +1 201 420-7000, toll-free: +1 800 442-7272. Operates commuter services from New York to Burlington, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties in New Jersey; Casino Express from New York to Atlantic City. They also operate the:
  • Go Bus, toll-free: +1 855 888-7160. Regularly scheduled bus services by Academy Bus Lines for travel from Manhattan to Cambridge (in the Boston area), Providence, Hartford, Newton, New Haven and Brown University on multiple routes; south to Manassas and Fairfax/Vienna, VA from New York; and to Washington DC on a another route from New York. They also offer regularly scheduled services from Ft Lauderdale Airport and from Miami & Miami Beach to Key West. The Go brand also include door to door shuttles (operated by franchisees) to/from the airport(s) in multiple cities across the country.
  • Concord Coach Lines, +1 603 228-3300, toll-free: +1-800-639-3317. Goes up from Boston to several cities & towns in Maine and New Hampshire on multiple routes and an express route from New York to Portland, ME in New England.
  • Express Arrow (Black Hills Stage Lines), +1 402 371-3850, toll-free: +1-877-779-2999. Travels between several cities & towns in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska & Wyoming on multiple routes.
  • El Expreso, (company office) 812 Delano St, Houston, TX 77003, toll-free: 1 800 601-6559. They operate buses to Illinois, Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North and South Carolina and Alabama and within Texas from Houston. At the US/Mexican border they serve Laredo/Nuevo Laredo; Matamoros/Brownsville; Reynosa/McAllen and more along the Rio Grande (where Texas borders Mexico). El Expreso partners with Grupo Estrella Blanca, ADO and other Mexican bus companies for onward services south of the border. They also operate the Tornado Bus brand to compliment El Expreso.
  • El Paso Los Angeles Limousine Express, +1 213 623-2323, +1 915 532-4061. Travels across the southwest, along I-10 from El Paso to Los Angeles via Phoenix; I-10/I-25 to Denver via Las Cruces and Albuquerque; and from El Paso towards Torreon via Cd Juarez, Chihuahua (City) and Delicias along Mex Fed Hwy 45 as Los Limousines. They also have additional routes to Las Vegas from Los Angeles & Phoenix.
  • GOGO Charters charter bus rental and reservations services for every major city across the US
  • Indian Trails and Michigan Flyer, toll-free: +1 800 292-3831. Connects Michigan to Chicago, Gary and Milwaukee and intrastate bus services within Michigan and Wisconsin. The Michigan Flyer Line connects Detroit Metropolitan Airport to East Lansing and Ann Harbor 12-13x daily.
  • Omnibus la Cubana, +1 212 740-6870, toll-free: +1-800-365-8001. Comes up from Miami to New York through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Washington, DC; Elkton, MD; Philadelphia and New Jersey.
  • Omnibus Express, toll-free: 01 800 765-66-36 (MX), +1-800-923-1799 (US). A subsidiary of the Mexican bus company, Omnibus Mexicanos to provide transportation from Texas towards Florida, Kentucky, Georgia, Louisiana and to Aguascaliente, Colima, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, DF, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michocoan, Nuevo Leon, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas states in Mexico. They also offer intrastate travel within Texas.
  • Peter Pan & Bonanza, toll-free: +1-800-349-9999. Operates buses between multiple cities & towns in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, Philadelphia, PA; New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Washington DC, in the northeastern part of the country. They also operate the Bolt Bus brand with Greyhound Lines to emulate the Chinatown buses in the northeast.
  • Salt Lake Express, +1 208 656-8824. Travels mainly along I-15 Corridor between Las Vegas, St George, Salt Lake City, Pocatello, Butte and Great Falls, MT in the Northern Rockies. They also have additional routes across Idaho between Boise, Mountain Home, Twin Falls, Burley and Pocatello. From Idaho Falls they go to West Yellowstone, MT via Rexburg; to Jackson, WY on another route; and towards Pocatello in the opposite direction. From St George there is another route to Zion NP and to Marble Canyon & Page in northern Arizona.
  • Shofur offers bus charter and rental services for group travel in over 250 cities within the United States.
  • Southeastern Stages, +1 404 591-2750, toll-free: +1-877-837-9709, fax: +1 404 591-2745. Southeastern Stages operates daily scheduled service between cities in the Southeast including: Atlanta, GA; Asheville, NC; Charleston, SC; Columbia, SC; Myrtle Beach, SC; Savannah, GA; Fayetteville, NC and other cities and towns surrounding and between those cities in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. They also have interline agreements with Greyhound & other bus companies to offer service to additional places in the Southeast.
  • Tufesa, +1 213 489-8079. Connects Los Angeles to Sacramento (via Bakersfield, Fresno, etc); to Salt Lake City (via Barstow, Las Vegas, St George, etc); to Hermosillo (via Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales); San Francisco Bay Area; to Salt Lake City via (Las Vegas, St George, etc) and to Tijuana (via Santa Ana, San Diego/San Ysidro). From Hermosillo it travels north towards the US state of Arizona and south towards Mazatlan along the Hwy 15 corridor in Sinaloa & Sonora states. Prices vary depending on your destination.
  • Turimex Internacional, toll-free: +1-800-733-7330 (US), 01 800 890-90-90 (MX). A subsidiary of the Mexican bus company Grupo Senda to provide transportation from Texas to Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia in the U.S. and to Aguascaliente, Colima, Coahuila, Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Jalisco,Michocoan, Nuevo Leon, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Zacatecas states in Mexico.
  • Vamoose, +1 212 695-6766, +1 301 718-0036. Connects Midtown Manhattan in New York to Bethesda, MD; Arlington, VA & Lorton, VA.

The above list is not complete as there are numerous other publicly operated (city) buses as public transportation (in urban and rural areas) and privately owned & operated (for profit) companies across the nation. Some cross state lines (or international lines to Canada or Mexico) while others operate within a single state. See By bus under Get in, in a city or town article and under Get around and/or Get in, in a state article for a list of additional bus companies traveling to or through that location. A number of the Trailways and the non-affiliated bus lines have interline agreements with Greyhound Lines & each other to allow travelers to buy another bus company's ticket on Greyhound.com (or their respective websites) or at the Greyhound station for contiguous or onward travel. Under such agreements they usually use shared bus station facilities but not always the case in other locales either.

Tickets[edit]

Tickets can often be purchased online with many of the bus companies, some offering discounts for buying online while others require the tickets can only be bought online. Others with established stations and stops at hotels and convenience stores may sell the tickets at the station or through the store or hotel front desk on a contract basis. The companies with only a curbside stop may require tickets be purchased online, printed and presented to the driver prior to boarding as the drivers cannot accept payment or carry any cash. See their websites as to what the policy may be.

Station amenities[edit]

Inside a Greyhound Lines station in Nashville, Tennessee

Layovers are a part of longer bus journeys. Some last only 10 minutes, but they can be several hours long. If you have the energy, longer layovers can be used to explore the city.

In many cities, many of the train stations are being converted to include bus stations for local city buses and intercity bus lines (Greyhound, Megabus, etc) in a shared facility. Even in cities/towns not served by Amtrak trains they had also combined local public transportation and intercity buses in a shared transfer station. If arriving into a city by plane there are also long distance buses and van shuttles at the airport arrivals zone for direct travel to another city or town over 60 mi (97 km) from the airport terminal, thus saving a trip into town to reach the bus station. In other places each company maintains their own separate stations or they subcontract a convenience store/gas station; truck stop, travel agency, restaurant or hotel to the sell the tickets and serve as a de-facto bus station. In other locations or with some companies they only have a curbside bus stop with a sign at a street corner or in a parking lot while the surrounding businesses have nothing to do with the bus company. Therefore, you must prepay and preprint the ticket online before going to the bus stop as the drivers cannot accept cash or any form of payment. The bus station(s) or stop(s) can be in sketchy neighborhoods and therefore you should plan to arrive before dark when possible and plan to use a taxi, ride share service (Uber, Lyft, etc); or arrange for someone to pick you up prior to arrival. Even in a shared station with local public transportation, the station can be unmanned and all outdoors in a sketchy neighborhood.

If you plan to use the local public transportation DO KNOW where the marked bus stop is at, which route(s) you need, how frequent that bus goes by and which side of the street you need to wait at. In many cities the Greyhound station/stop IS in or next to the transit center for multiple routes of the local city or county buses. In some places the local buses may quit running after 6:30PM or 7PM Mon-Sat evenings and NO service all day Sundays and holidays while in bigger cities they tend to operate longer hours every day. Use the maps provided by Google or Wikivoyage to determine the nearest bus stop location and the trip planner program on the transit agency's website to see which bus(es) or train(s) to take to get to there. Know the fare required in ADVANCE of arrival. Local bus fares are typically paid with EXACT change to the cash box as the driver does not make change for the difference in overpayments. In rural locales and small towns there may not be marked bus stops either but rather flag down the bus or the stop must be prearranged in advance (usually 24 hours prior). In most other rural and remote locales there may not be any local public transportation available either.

The available amenities inside the stations varies with some offering a restaurant and gift shop while others may have nothing more than vending machines for snacks and drinks. There could be individual TV's on the armrest of each seat or one big TV mounted on the wall for everybody in the room to watch. There can even be a time limit on how long one can be in there before being asked to produce a ticket or leave in order to keep the homeless from taking shelter inside. Some stations like the Greyhound station in Chicago have lockers but most don't. Unattended bags are more likely to be confiscated by security than to be stolen. Try to separate your valuables into a smaller bag you can always keep with you and not tempt fate. In other places there are also car rental offices or desks (Avis, Hertz, Enterprise) inside or somewhere next to or nearby the bus station. In places where the "bus station" is in a shared station with local public transportation, the facilities are usually very basic with only a series of bus stops lined up, one next to another, on several islands in an open lot.

Occasionally drivers may point out a convenience store or fast food restaurant nearby the bus station but most don't except to announce the arrival to the stop and the re-boarding instructions for onward travel. If you look up where your stops are before the journey, you might be able to find better and cheaper food/drink/entertainment; accommodations or local city bus routes going by the bus station or stop. If you don't, still keep your eyes peeled for gas stations, restaurants, accommodations and/or city bus stop signs/shelters near the bus station.

If you choose to spend your layover time sampling nearby bars do not get drunk as you will not be allowed on the bus. Even the smell of alcohol in your breath may be enough for a driver to disallow you back on the bus.

Rules[edit]

Generally, the few rules imposed on bus travelers are very basic and largely common sense. Smoking and alcohol consumption are always forbidden. Some buses have signs banning eating and drinking, but this is rarely enforced; if you do eat or drink try to clean up after yourself. Try to keep noise to a minimum - no-one wants to hear other people's conversations, no matter how fascinating you think they are. Unlike air travel, security checks are rare, but there are occasional inspections for 'banned' items, though items that are obvious hazards such as firearms may not be brought on board. Each company has its own guidelines regarding live animals.

See also[edit]

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