Need to know: Greyhound

It doesn’t get any better than the classic American road trip: the wide-open scenery; the strange roadside attractions; the tiny, less-travelled towns. But if you don’t want to drive – or don’t have access to a car – then getting to those tiny towns by Greyhound might be your next best option.

Why travel Greyhound?

With 3,800 destinations across 48 states (and 10 Canadian territories) and about 18 million passengers a year, Greyhound dominates coach travel in the US. Compare that with Amtrak’s 500 train destinations (or even MegaBus’ 100 destinations or BoltBus’ paltry nine destinations), and it’s easy to see that for many smaller destinations in the US, Greyhound is the only public transport option.

greyhound-route-map
Greyhound Route Map

Choosing savings over scenery or speed

Travelling by bus is also generally cheaper and more flexible than flying or taking the train, with tickets from Los Angeles to Las Vegas as affordable as $20 and buses on some of the most popular routes leaving every 30 minutes.

It won’t be as luxurious, as scenic or as fast as taking the train – there’s no cafe on board and buses routinely take the major highways, where travel time is subject to traffic – but the operator has added some flair to its fairly function-driven service, bringing its interior style and amenities up to par with millennial-born bus services like MegaBus and BoltBus. Greyhound has upgraded 85% of its 1,700-strong fleet to match many of the amenities expected from modern-day travel, including free WiFi (of varying reliability), power outlets and reclining leather seats.

For specific amenities on your route, check what’s offered on each of the four bus types and take a virtual tour of the available features.

Did you know?

When designing the new and updated buses, Greyhound removed an entire row of seats to provide more legroom (and provides one checked bag for free) – a stark difference from US air carriers.

Getting the best price

Unlike Bolt or MegaBus, which became famous for their near-mythical $1 fares, Greyhound’s prices, per route, remain fairly consistent and within a small range depending on day and time of travel.

That said, there are a few ways to ensure you’re getting the most affordable ticket possible:

  • Book early. Prices start to increase within two weeks of your departure date.
  • Travel mid-week or on holidays, preferably before 10am. As to be expected, the less frequented days and times are most affordable.
  • Buy online at Rome2rio or via Greyhound’s website or mobile app. Even if you’re right outside the station, using the mobile app will cost less than walking up to the counter, a few steps away. (You cannot purchase tickets via the driver.)
  • Use promo codes, often offered via the operator’s official Twitter account, or shared by Greyhound travellers like GuruofGreyhound.
  • Sign up for Greyhound Road Rewards, which offers 10% off your first trip. The points you earn while riding can be used to redeem future discounts and savings.
  • Discounted tickets: kids travelling with an adult don’t pay full price, and students get a 10% discount. Active or retired military service members also get 10% off, while travellers over 61 get 5% off.

Popular routes

As to be expected, many of the most popular routes follow fairly congested highways that stem from large city centres, such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas. These hubs also offer faster, often non-stop service, labelled as Express Buses (look for the ‘e’ logo) in the schedule.

Relatedly, the further you go, the more transfers you’ll have to make. A journey from Tampa to Key West, for example, can take between 12 and 20 hours, with 10 to 13 stops and 2 transfers.

Some of Greyhound’s most popular routes include:
San Diego – Los Angeles
Philadelphia – Washington DC
Dallas – Houston
Orlando – Miami
Los Angeles – Las Vegas
Toronto – Niagara Falls
New York – Boston

These are some of the longest routes Greyhound offers.

Tickets and seating

If you find highway scenery mesmerising, or revel in the serendipity of travelling through cities you might never otherwise see, then make sure to book an Economy Extra or Flexible fare to guarantee priority boarding. Seats are first come, first served, and passengers board in groups. The earlier you book, the earlier you board, increasing your chances of securing a window seat.

Purchase your ticket online at Rome2rio or Greyhound and print ahead of time, or take the reference number(s) you received by email to the bus  station to pick up your tickets at the self-serve kiosks or ticket counters (given the reach of Greyhound’s service, most city bus terminals are predominantly Greyhound, though local lines might use the same departure gates and MegaBus and BoltBus often pick up nearby).
Find your Greyhound station here

E-tickets have not yet rolled out for all app-based purchases, so make sure you leave time to print your ticket from the kiosk when you arrive. For all tickets, bring a personal ID.

Greyhound recommends that you arrive at the bus terminal at least 60 minutes before your desired departure time. If you already have your ticket and you aren’t checking a bag, however, you won’t need that much time. Boarding starts 15–20 minutes before departure.

Safety Tip

If you’re new to bus travel or travelling alone, try to avoid arriving, departing or having long layovers late at night when fewer people will be in the station.

Luggage

Carry-on baggage
  • 1 bag, up to 25lb (11kg)
  • Free
  • Must fit overhead or under your seat
Checked baggage
  • 2 bags, each up to 50lb (22.5kg) and 62 inches (157 cm) when you add length + width + height
  • 1st bag free. 2nd bag free with Flexible fare; small fee with all other fares
  • Stored under the bus
Greyhound Package Express
  • For oversized/oddly-shaped luggage, e.g. a surfboard or bike,  each up to 75lb (34kg)
  • Up to 5 pieces at a discounted rate, depending on distance. More than 5 items will be charged at usual shipping rates.
  • Items will be transported using Greyhound’s UPS-like ground shipping service. It may arrive at your destination after you.

If your bags are lost or damaged en-route, you can claim compensation. Keep in mind: for most transfers, you are responsible for getting your luggage off your first bus and bringing it to your next bus.

What if something goes wrong?

Tickets
  • Flexible fare tickets allow for full and partial refunds, as well as departure date and time changes.
  • Non-refundable tickets incur a fee if you change to another departure date or time.
  • Neither ticket allows you to change your starting point or destination.
  • Refunds are not available if the bus is late.
  • The Greyhound website offers step-by-step directions for both refunds and exchanges, and the Greyhound Bus Help Twitter feed provides customer service-related support and announcements.
Timing
  • According to Greyhound, the company cannot guarantee arrival or departure times because of things like traffic, weather and mechanical problems.
  • You can track your bus via the Greyhound’s mobile app or website.
Travel Tip
  • Bring snacks, a blanket or scarf, and headphones to watch TV or listen to music.
  • Many buses do make stops, but healthy food options might be limited. Additionally, bring cash since rest stops in some areas may not accept credit cards.
  • For reading on late-night and overnight journeys, every seat has an overhead light.

Main photo: Greyhound

Rome2rio, based in Melbourne, Australia, is organising the world’s transport information. We offer a multi-modal, door-to-door travel search engine that returns itineraries for air, train, coach, ferry, mass transit and driving options to and from any location. Discover the possibilities at rome2rio.com