Is Greyhound really that bad?
June 6, 2005 12:07 PM   Subscribe

Is riding Greyhound buses really as bad as the horror stories would make you believe?
posted by Nikolai to Travel & Transportation (49 answers total)
 
What horror stories?
posted by mischief at 12:16 PM on June 6, 2005


Any long bus ride can get uncomfortable, just because you can't stop when you want to. But yes, what horror stories are you referring to?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:19 PM on June 6, 2005


i've never had a truly terrible bus experience, but I've also never taken a bus trip of more than about 8 hours or so. An overnight and/ or multi-day trip might be a different story.

Most big-city bus stations aren't in the greatest neighborhoods, but that's not something that particularly phases me, personally. YMMV, however.

Now when I take the bus here in the northeast, however, I usually take one of the multitude of chinatown buses.
posted by dersins at 12:21 PM on June 6, 2005


If your horror story involves cramped seating in a piss-smelling bus stopping in at every town with more than 16 residents, with the occasional person smoking in the bathroom and fellow passengers who talk loudly and at length about things like how annoying their probation officer is, then yes, I think so.
posted by Tuwa at 12:22 PM on June 6, 2005


I know what you're talking about, but I've ridden Greyhound more times than I can count and its always been totally fine. The big difference is that there's no room to walk around, it takes a much longer time than say a train or plane, and because its more economical there's a wider spectrum of folks on the bus. But every time i've been on a bus, everyone was pretty much sleeping, silent or otherwise keeping to themselves. It can be a great way to see the country on a budget and, as long as you have the time, a great way to see people you wouldn't otherwise be able to see if you had to pay for a plane/train ticket.

(all that being said, I am now and will always continue to be an avid supporter of a strong rail infrastructure). =)
posted by indiebass at 12:22 PM on June 6, 2005


Well, it just generally seems like whenever I read in someone's blog about someone returning from a Greyhound trip, it was always a bad experience (this one comes to mind).
posted by Nikolai at 12:24 PM on June 6, 2005


I haven't taken any long trips on Greyhound, but when I was in Canada a few years back I took a Greyhound bus from Toronto to Niagara Falls and it was actually quite pleasant.
posted by SisterHavana at 12:28 PM on June 6, 2005


I've ridden on two very long Greyhound trips; the first from Tucson to Austin and the second from Portland Oregon to Austin. I've also taken shorter trips. My experience is riding a bus is like a road trip: the short distances are irritating, but with longer trips you start settling in and it's not a grind.

Riding 3 days straight on a bus isn't easy, though. Bring a blanket, a pillow, energy bars and for godsake, buy some sleeping pills, it's the only way to get a good night's rest. But the people on the bus can be amazing. One guy I met flies helicopters to Alaska looking for new diamond mines. He was riding the bus to vegas because his Harley had broken down there. Another person was a 15-year-old runaway, who changed his mind 8 hours into the trip after he got advice from half the people on the bus.

Basically, I've found the bus to be enjoyable as long as you can take up two seats to yourself, or don't mind the clausterphobia of someone sharing your armrest for more than 24 hours. Watch your luggage carefully - it's the stations that are dangerous, not the bus itself - I had a ticket stolen from my jacket pocket as I slept in the station on a layover. Luckily the guy was an idiot and tried to sell the ticket at the station ... the clerk got suspicious, confiscated the ticket and called the cops.
posted by Happydaz at 12:28 PM on June 6, 2005


Not generally, but they can be. In my youth I traveled the hound frequently to get from place to place. Atlanta to Tulsa round trip was the most arduous. Mostly the worst part is how slow the progress is, you generally stop in every tiny one light town between start and finish. Greyhound is the only transportation that services these areas. As for horror stories, the bathroom smell will enter the whole of the bus, there will be crying children, and someone unkempt may fall asleep on you. But you get what you pay for.
posted by dirtylittlemonkey at 12:28 PM on June 6, 2005


I've never had anything horrible happen, but it's always been unpleasant. Once, just after getting off the bus at the D.C. station, I was jumped by two guys and had to pull a knife. Does that count?
posted by waldo at 12:30 PM on June 6, 2005


The one time I tried taking a greyhound it was a 16 hour nightmare. Nothing to eat, I was detoxing, and they give you all of 5 minutes at most rest stops, rest stops that occasionally only have one toilet. So you and 30 other people end up fighting over the bathroom.

But yeah, a good tactic if you've got an empty seat next to yourself when the bus pulls up to a stop is to stretch out on both of them and pretend to be asleep. People won't try to wake you up, and that way you don't have to sit next to anyone.

Also, if you like drugs, usually the people who sit at the back of the bus will either share or sell you some. FYI.
posted by cmonkey at 12:31 PM on June 6, 2005


It's not too bad. I'll second/third that the many stations aren't the most hygenic, but there are pleasant surprises sometimes. I usually carry wet-wipes (with alcohol) for when I get cootie-creepies.

It's nice when the bus isn't packed (you get two seats for yourself) and sometimes if you're travelling somewhere new you sometimes luck out and get to chat with a (cute?) local about the new place.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 12:34 PM on June 6, 2005


I've done Albany, NY to Florida (around 24 hours), Albany to western PA and back (about 10 hours each way), North Carolina to DC (10 hours), etc. It's certainly not fun, and I've had some wretched experiences: an impromptu fucking revival meeting orchestrated by the woman in the seat next to me which went on for hours ("Jesus tells me you are having problems with a man in your life, child!"), loud cellphone conversations, the guy who was on his way home from the Army and was really excited that he'd finally managed to swing a psychiatric discharge, etc. It's uncomfortable and slow. The staff at the stations are actively antagonistic and, I am convinced, get up each morning with the idea that, if even one passenger actually reaches his destination on time with luggage intact, they have failed in their duties.

It'll get you there, it's cheap, and you generally won't get stabbed or robbed. But I certainly am not looking forward to my upcoming 26+ hour trip from North Carolina to Chicago.

Bring as little stuff with you as you can. You'll have to schlep it around yourself, which can be a real hassle when you've got a couple suitcases and a three hour layover at 4 in the morning and can't find a functional locker.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:35 PM on June 6, 2005


I dunno, Nikolai-- it sounds like at least half of that guy's bus trip was perfectly pleasant, and the unpleasant half could have been avoided by putting on some headphones.

Not so bad, and pretty much like real life.
posted by dersins at 12:36 PM on June 6, 2005


My only Greyhound experience was a 34 hour ride to San Diego from Dallas. I enjoyed it, and in hindsight, I think I truly benefited from the trip. But at the time I had a bunch of issues in my head that needed sorting but couldn't find the time to really solve them. The bus, with its hypnotizing hum and windows, served plenty of time for me to think deeply about life and the world I had built around myself. I came out of it a better person.

If you're afraid you may fall victim to the same perils the author of the blog post you linked did, I would suggest some good sound isolating headphones and plenty of music. Also, are Greyhounds so popular that you can't just switch seats if you're unsatisfied with the people around you?
posted by sublivious at 12:45 PM on June 6, 2005


waldo stated:
I've never had anything horrible happen, but it's always been unpleasant.


This has generally been my experience, too, although I've only taken 4 buses in my life.

On the other hand, I just completed a 17-hour train ride on Amtrack, and it was amazing. Comfortable, space to move around, dining/snack cars, etc. If you can, spring for a sleeper car (it's like, $160 more expensive, but worth every penny). The only thing is that they don't have a) smoking cars anymore (if that's a deal-breaker for you), and b) no electrical outlets to plug in laptop / iPod / etc.
posted by chota at 12:46 PM on June 6, 2005


Greyhound buses don't have assigned seats, so unless the trip was too short to have intermediate stops, that "horror story" guy could have easily moved.

I did 12,000 miles around America last summer on the Greyhound, including several overnight and >24 hour legs. They're absolutely fine. Advice:
- Don't sit anywhere near the toilet
- Don't lose your ticket
- Bring a blanket, the air conditioning will be on full
- Bring an iPod
- Lunch/dinner/breakfast will be at McDonalds/Burger King/Wendy's. Make sure there's something there you like.

The Cohens seem to be on them all the time this season.
posted by cillit bang at 12:48 PM on June 6, 2005


The worst thing that ever happened to me on a bus ride was discovering that the tab of windowpane my friend sold me was too weak to do much more than create some wispy trails.
posted by mischief at 12:50 PM on June 6, 2005


Earplugs, my man, earplugs. Also powerbars, music and headphones, reading material, whiskey, writing material, and a towel. And go for it. At best you get a cheap and uneventful trip, at worst you get a story that you can tell the rest of your life. Win/win.
posted by LarryC at 12:51 PM on June 6, 2005


I once took a long greyhound ride from Denver to Missoula, Montana. For part of the trip, my seat-mate was a not mentally well person who was convinced the President was out to get her personally and she really needed to talk about it. It would have been funny if it wasn't so tragic and, well, real for her. The worst part of that trip, though, was hanging out in a Hardees in Gillette, Wyoming for three hours in the very early hours of the day, waiting for the next bus to come.
posted by Staggering Jack at 12:56 PM on June 6, 2005


cillit bang writes "The Cohens seem to be on them all the time this season."

What does this mean?

I've never had any horror stories.
I've never wanted to stay on the bus for any longer than it took to get there.
posted by OmieWise at 1:06 PM on June 6, 2005


I only rode buses in the Northeast and only before the Chinatown buses, but I can say that the extra money I paid for Bonanza or Peter Pan was worth avoiding the disgusting hell that is Greyhound.
posted by dame at 1:21 PM on June 6, 2005


As the person who is the top ranked entry for "greyhound sucks" on Google, let me share my advice. Greyhound is hit or miss. However, if they are in a miss phase, there will be no one in the chain of command who can help you out, or will want to help you out. You may be able to get relief from Greyhound Central when your trip is over. I did get my entire trip price refunded from the trip where I wrote that letter, incidentally.

So, if you are planning to take a Greyhound trip, make sure you have planned to make it suck as little as possible with the advice other people have given. A few things I haven't seen mentioned

- don't bother trying to save time buying tickets Will Call. My experience has been that the ticket kiosks that are supposed to magically spit out your tickets don't work and then you wait in line with everyone else to get your ticket which defeats the purpose of buying them ahead of time.
- other people will be crafty about getting other people not to sit next to them [sitting on the outside seat, pretending to be asleep at stops over both seats, putting their bags on the extra seat] If you are not crafty and you are on a fullish bus, you will have to sit next to someone. That said, I've had mostly good luck with seat companions, moreso than on planes, actually.
- do a reality check if you buy tickets online. This image should explain why. There are other bus services in some areas, check them too.
- don't have really tight connections on either end of your trip. The bus may get in very very late, but you can be assured if you are 5 minutes late to catch your bus, it will have left without you. Same goes with smoke/food breaks at rest stops, some drivers are nice and check to make sure everyone's aboard, some do not.

I found most of the Greyhound employees to be pretty disinterested in me having a good customer service experience with Greyhound, but they were almost always competent though very very slow. Plan extra time to get you and your stuff on board, to wait in line and to get into the center of town from wherever the bus station is. I've had mostly okay experiences, but I'm also pretty comfortable telling people that I don't want to talk to them in most situations.

"The Cohens seem to be on them all the time this season."

So that's where my aunt and uncle went!
posted by jessamyn at 1:23 PM on June 6, 2005


On a trip from Tampa to NYC, the driver got lost in Savannah for an hour, kept falling asleep and hitting the rumble strip (waking me up), called for a volunteer to talk to him to help keep him awake, and made an unscheduled stop for himself only at South of the Border for some tacos. We ended up being several hours late to meet the driver for the next leg of the trip. I wrote a letter and got a voucher for a free trip. I've started riding Amtrak. More expensive, but much more pleasant.
posted by Bezuhin at 1:37 PM on June 6, 2005


If you've got a bad back or are a picky eater or shy around strangers, God forbid you should ride Greyhound for a trip of any duration.

However, if you want to learn someting about the variety, causes, and effects of human adversity, a trip on the dog is irreplaceable. In no other context can a trainee for (or member of) the educated class interact so thoroughly with the poor, insane, and/or criminal on grounds of presumed equality.
posted by MattD at 1:46 PM on June 6, 2005


I Greyhounded New Orleans-Memphis-El Paso-Phoenix-LA, and Portland-Seattle-Vancouver over about a month, stopping a few days in each of the places named, when I was 19 (*ahem*...11 years ago). The journeys themselves I had no problems with, though the gap in the middle (LA - SF - Portland) was because I couldn't stand any more sitting still for such long periods of time and treated myself to a couple of cheap student flights. Think I probably missed the most scenic bit of the road trip by doing that, but hey...

As a teenage, female foreigner, I don't remember the journeys (mostly overnight) being scary or unpleasant, just very long, so it depends how well you can sleep on board if you need to.

What I do really remember is the excitement in the pit of my stomach everytime I was safely boarded on the next bus and it pulled out of the station heading for a new road to a new place (and when you're in that frame of mind, the one horse town stops are exciting too, long as you don't get left behind).

The one unpleasant thing that sticks in my mind is that the bus stations are often in run down parts of town and can feel threatening - much more so than being on board the buses themselves.

And the "all human life" comments are spot on too.
posted by penguin pie at 1:53 PM on June 6, 2005


I've been on a Greyhound trip only once (Portland to Seattle, last summer), but it was wretched. The driver was pretty authoritarian, but I could deal with that. The problem was the unbelievable stench of human feces that permeated the entire vehicle -- and we were sitting near the front. It was so bad that my girlfriend and I had to hold our hands over our faces.

I will not be taking Greyhound again any time soon.
posted by Dr. Wu at 1:55 PM on June 6, 2005


Greyhound can be lots of fun if you treat the trip as practice for eliciting amazing & peculiar stories from strangers. On greyhound I've met.. a gem hunter who parachuted in after the Jonestown massacre with the 82nd airborne; a former salesman for an Italian carnival equipment company who told me all about the carnival business; teenage runaways; people to practice Spanish with; a trucker who used to drive transport vehicles in West Germany & sneak over the border to East Germany to (supposedly) meet hot Russian girls in the woods.. It's good practice at erasing all your personal history and asking questions to get the most interesting stories out of ordinary (or unordinary) people.

Other than that...
- Bring snacks if you're not a fast food fan.
- Bring headphones &/or earplugs & a book. They serve as camoflague if you're feeling asocial.
- Bring a pillow & a sweatshirt for weird temperatures. I use my very compact sleeping bag.
- Stretch your legs at every single stop. If the driver's a smoker that means you get to stretch your legs a lot more often. After 27hrs on the bus (my record), your knees swell & ache.
- The bus station may NOT be in a lousy part of town, but it'll always LOOK like it is, i.e. the front window will look out on the ugliest, busiest strip of highway or most broken-down commercial district ever. If you've got long layovers, do some internet research to see what you'll actually be near.
- You can always get off the bus & pick up the next one, or any one after that for up to a year (on roundtrip tickets; 6 months on one-way tickets). So you're not absolutely stuck in a terrible situation by any means.

On the other hand, Amtrak often has really good deals--look in "hot deals" and then "weekly specials." They're not flexible, unlike Greyhound, but they're often just as cheap if you happen to find one that fits your schedule..
posted by soviet sleepover at 2:34 PM on June 6, 2005


It depends on where you are going to. If your route goes anywhere between, say, a state prison and a major city, yes, yes it is that bad.

But what I've found is everyone has a story about how scary it is, how bad it smells, how rude/weird/angry the other passengers are, but I don't know anyone who's actually been hurt, robbed, etc. It's social discomfort more than a real, hideous threat.

Missing your bus and coming in hours and hours later than expected? Yeah, that's to be expected with Greyhound.
posted by Gucky at 2:39 PM on June 6, 2005


I never had any genuinely awful experiences with Greyhound, but I always felt icky afterward.

I prefer Amtrak, on the whole.
posted by angeline at 2:53 PM on June 6, 2005


I always found that Greyhound seats hurt my back and neck. I am 5'2" and they seemed to be designed for taller people -- the headrest section is in the wrong place for me. But I don't have this problem on Amtrak or airplanes.

The main problem I had on Greyhound besides that was scary men trying to hit on me (my Greyhound phase was when I was 18-20 or so). But I guess that could happen on any form of public transport.
posted by litlnemo at 3:27 PM on June 6, 2005


Yeah, deeply unpleasant but likely to be interesting about sums it up. I'm glad I did it (LA to Nowheresville, then Nowheresville to NYC) but would never ever do it again. Met some very interesting people, but you probably do that in prison too.

They're absolutely fine.

Sure, just like a prolonged bout of the runs, or being beaten with birch rods!

you can be assured if you are 5 minutes late to catch your bus, it will have left without you

Yup, this happened to me. We had, what, a four-hour layover in Harrisburg, Pa., so of course my newfound pals and I went off to a bar and had a few scotches. We looked at the clock, said "Whoa, time to get back to the station," and got there just in time to see the red lights of the bus disappearing down the street. We told ourselves it was just going around the block for some reason, but nope, it was gone, and the next bus wasn't for many hours. And of course all our stuff was on the bus that took off without us. Bastards.

Oh, and that night we spent at the bar waiting for the second bus? It was the night of Three Mile Island, just a few miles away. I've always said the power of the alcohol protected me from the radiation.

It's social discomfort more than a real, hideous threat. Missing your bus and coming in hours and hours later than expected? Yeah, that's to be expected with Greyhound.

Greyhound: Not as Bad as Actual Death!
posted by languagehat at 4:51 PM on June 6, 2005 [1 favorite]


In my younger days I took the Hound a few times, and the wildest trip was coming back from Oakland to Denver. We arrived in Denver at night in blizzard-like conditions. Just as the bus got to the first of a several scary (icy, icy, icy)overpasses/bridges, the woman in front of us started to freak out in a very big way "Ohmygod driver, please don't kill us! Please don't kill us!! oh pleaseplease don't kill us!" etc. She was in the first row behind the driver, on the right. We were right behind her, and I soothed her and kept her exclamations down to a dull roar by reaching between the seat the window and rubbing her arm, telling her that things would be fine, he's an excellent driver, etc.
Mind you this is after she's been asking every hour or so if we're in Reno yet, because that's where she wants off (of course she didn't ask while we were in Reno - only hundreds of miles later).
I was really, really glad to get off the bus.
posted by dbmcd at 4:57 PM on June 6, 2005


She was in the first row behind the driver, on the right. We were right behind her

and this is why no one gets to sit in those seats anymore. both front rows are off-limits to actual passengers now, according to a sign I read when I took Greyhound last month [Pittsburgh to DC, not bad really except for the will call hassle]
posted by jessamyn at 5:14 PM on June 6, 2005


It just depends on your definition of horror. I have taken the Greyhound three times from Oklahoma City to Grand Forks, ND (close to 24 hours). I made the trip with my older brother once, my college girlfriends the next time and the last time with my then-boyfriend (who carried my engagement ring on the bus with us).

The worst experience was with my girlfriends because they were fairly naive city-girls and didn't know how to be among the "people". It didn't help that they oversold a good chunk of the route and we had migrant workers sleeping in the aisles during the night. The two of them swear that they will never ride again.

I did ride again after that (and I probably would again!). The next time, with my now-hubby, our bus driver had a heart attack while on the road. We had to turn around, go back to another town and wait for a new driver. A little unnerving, yes, but not horrific by my standards. If you're adventurous and know how to deal with people outside of the suburbs, Greyhound is fine.
posted by wallaby at 5:28 PM on June 6, 2005


I can't add much to what jessamyn said. It's like travelling any other way, sometimes you meet great people and learn something new and other times the stinky guy passes out and drools on your arm.

When I was an aimless youngster (sounds better than fugitive) a bus ride from Miami to northern CA was a wonderful trip -- met some great people (one of whom remains a friend some twenty years later), drank a lot of wine and found out what Humboldt Green was. I saw the little towns off the highways, missed a few connections on purpose and had a blast. If you pay attention you will see parts of America that you never imagined existed.

A few (okay, a lot) years later I had to go from upstate NY to New Orleans. Worst three days of my life. I actually got thrown off the bus and nearly locked up. Long story short: woman hitting a crying kid for 300 miles. I mention that maybe her son would stop crying if she stopped hitting him. She did. She hit me instead. Guess who got thrown off the bus? Then I was attacked by a seeing eye dog... I could go on, but you get the point.

The trick is to be self-reliant. Don't plan on buying anything besides basic sustenance on the way. Bus stations are generally in out of the way places and the schedules are crafted so the non-express buses arrive and depart when traffic is lightest (read as: pre-dawn and late at night). Bring a stash of food, extra batteries for your audio and a book. Don't underestimate the power of drugging yourself. On a long ride on a bad bus those magical pills could be the difference between a restful night and clawing your eyes out in frustration. Exercise every chance you get, when that bus stops get off and walk, even if it's for five minutes. However, keep in mind that when they say they will leave without you if your late -- they really mean it.
posted by cedar at 5:31 PM on June 6, 2005


My brother and I used to commute 6 hrs on the Greyhound between our divorced parents' houses, every two weeks for years and years. 90% of the time it's fine-- if you can get a seat to yourself, you can spread out with a magazine and snacks and music and just pass the time until you're there. Occasionally, though, there are incidents. I have been robbed (lost my laptop, ouch), left behind (Rockford, IL, ouch), harassed, groped, practically peed on, etc. etc.

I have had a few pleasant conversations with Amish families or kind old ladies, but for the most part I cultivated an air of tough indifference so people wouldn't mess with me (or try to sit next to me.) Around holiday times when the buses get really packed, the experience is exponentially more foul.

My Greyhound survival kit is basically activities (knitting, crosswords, magazines, music), food and water, and scented lotion to overpower the smell of the bathroom and the other passengers which can be quite potent.
posted by bonheur at 7:33 PM on June 6, 2005


I chose Amtrak over Greyhound last month because the seats have an enormous amount of room and you can get up and walk around, even get some food and a drink. However, what should have been a seven hour trip took sixteen hours. Amtrak does not own the rails, they lease the right to use them from the freight companies which means freight takes precedence. On certain routes (this was the California coastal route), there are very few places for the train to stop and wait for the freight trains to pass, so you can be stuck for hours each time. The staff are very nice but they can't do a thing about it. I ended up wishing I had taken the bus instead.
posted by cali at 7:59 PM on June 6, 2005


I went 24 hours on Grayhound from suburban Washington DC to northeastern Arkansas. This was pre-iPod; pre-Walkman, even. It was miserable. It was one of two frightening travel experiences I've had where a priest was there and it wasn't comforting. I knew at that time that it was one of those almost-unendurable experiences that, once I'd endured it, would be a badge of honor and a story that I'd almost enjoy telling. The good thing is, you'll always have that bus trip to compare bad things to later and realize that, while they might be bad, the bus trip was worse.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:06 PM on June 6, 2005


A couple of points to add: As a youth, I rode Greyhound a lot. I quit when two guys in the seat behind me started discussing what type of handgun was best for robbing a 7-11! "I like a 44, because their eyes widen WAY up!"

I rode Amtrak yesterday for the first time in 25 years. It was ridiculous: Reno to Sacramento (~130 miles, 2 1/2 hr drive max). Supposed to leave at 9:15 am and arrive at 2:15. That's a 26 mph average speed.

Actually departed at 9:45 and arrived at 5:15. That's like 17 mph average! And no one seemed too suprised. At one point we sat on a siding for 2 hours. After an hour or so, the attendant asked on the PA for the conductor to update the situation. There was never a reply.....

Beautiful ride over the Sierras, but I could have rode my bicycle in about the same time! Train travel in the US is a joke!
posted by Instrumental at 9:53 PM on June 6, 2005


Disclaimer: I haven't taken Greyhound since ca. 1996, so I don't know if things have improved since then.

At that time, at least, a Greyhound ticket did not guarantee you a seat--only transportation. I had to stand on part of one trip because all the seats were taken, and I've been on others where other people had to stand or sit in the aisles.

Even that wasn't enough to put me off Greyhound in my poor college days. It took them losing my ski boots to do that. I put them with all the other luggage to be loaded next to the bus, and got on; I don't know whether they ever got on the bus, but when I arrived at my destination, they weren't there. Greyhound would only reimburse me resale value; since the boots were several years old, this was considerably less than the cost to replace them. Perhaps I was foolish not to watch them until they were actually loaded on the bus, but it makes no difference to me now. I haven't ridden Greyhound since, and I won't ever again.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:02 PM on June 6, 2005


I Greyhounded from coast to coast one year, and have to agree with penguin pie's sentiments, especially of that feeling of the bus pulling out of the city. I am female, and was 22 and travelling alone at the time. I did a lot of my travelling at night (saved on accommodation) to make sure I arrived at my locations at vaguely respectable times of the day.

Agreed, the buses are fine, it's the terminals that gave me the creeps. The food is terrible, the toilets are terrifying, and the people scared the hell out of me. I tended to read a lot so people wouldn't approach me.

To survive the bus though, bring water, reading and writing material, music of your choice and a good jacket. I found the jacket useful, not only to keep me warm but also a great makeshift pillow against the window. The bus drivers I had generally said that if it was too cold or hot, they'd fix the temp for us anyway.

Mostly I managed to avoid contact with anyone on the buses. Spreading myself out over 2 seats usually worked. However, the few people I did talk to were quite interesting, and one fellow traveller offered to put me up for a few days when I arrived in Las Vegas (and I am here to tell the tale of it as well). The only painful trips were the packed overnight buses. Sleep does not come easy to those sitting in front of screaming kids.

I found myself staring out the window most of the time -- the US was a foreign country to me and I had wanted to travel Greyhound partly because it allowed me a chance to see the roadside version of the country. Snowfalls in the middle of the night leaving Virginia was by far the most beautiful memory.

Greyhound is fine, and I'd do it in a second again.

(NYC -> DC -> VA -> KY -> TN -> Miami -> Orleans -> Houston -> NM -> Vegas -> LA -> San Fran == a hell of a lot of buses!)
posted by chronic sublime at 10:18 PM on June 6, 2005


Was going to tell the story of the recent parolees discussing prison life, but it's not as good as stories already told here.
Mainly wanted to agree with many posters above that the bus stations are the worst aspect of Riding the Dawg.
posted by Aknaton at 11:37 PM on June 6, 2005


I took a greyhound bus from St. Augustine, Florida to Chattanooga, TN. I didn't have any problems, other than being a bit nervous about making sure I didn't get mixed up during the stops. At the time I was a sixteen year old male, of completely unintimidating build. I didn't have any reason to be bothered, I don't imagine on the average day too many others would have much of a problem with it.
posted by ElfWord at 12:12 AM on June 7, 2005


I've done many greyhound trips, including several coast-to-coast trips. So many people have great advice and stories...

cmonkey (16Ker) writes "Also, if you like drugs, usually the people who sit at the back of the bus will either share or sell you some. FYI."

Ixnay on the ellingtay! Ah hell, one time i was riding from east > west, and the bus was mostly empty. There was one other guy and me sitting in the back. We'd been chatting earlier and he asked me to look out for him...and pulled out a giant bag of mushrooms! He proceeded to break up the bag into many smaller ones, asked me if i wanted any. I did. I was at a moment in my life where catharsis was inevitable, and this was the catalyst. Changed my life...

penguin pie (17Ker) writes "What I do really remember is the excitement in the pit of my stomach everytime I was safely boarded on the next bus and it pulled out of the station heading for a new road to a new place (and when you're in that frame of mind, the one horse town stops are exciting too, long as you don't get left behind)."

Exactly!

Oh, and if you are headed to St. Louis, get off at the airport station...a billion times safer than the alternative. Roughest bus station I've ever been to, in one of the worst parts of town.
posted by schyler523 at 1:50 AM on June 7, 2005


I've ridden Greyhounds very recently - I do a semi-regular trip from CT to Toronto, via NYC. And I've done Toronto to Vancouver and back again (through Prince Rupert, of all places). That was 72 hours, which I don't reccommed doing at one go - stop at a hostel or hotel in between.

The bus is what it is - it won't be as comfortable as the train, but if you are like me, you might find that the train is twice as expensive and twice as long. (It's 13 hours by Greyhound from where I am to TO, and 25 by train, due to bad connections and routes).

But it's not as bad as people who don't take the bus often say it is.

There is very good advice in this thread - make sure you have lots of food and drink, entertainment, maybe sleeping pills. Canadian Greyhound stops really regularly for rest breaks, but American Greyhound doesn't seem to - they switch drivers instead. Some routes may have a movie - the Canadian praries did, but not BC or Ontario. I have no idea why, perhaps they thought trees were more interesting than wheat.

If you have any problems, like smells or anyone bothers you, just speak to the driver - they are very willing to help, and want the passengers to be as comfortable as possible.

And if you are going out of NYC towards upstate New York, you just might get this really nice, funny driver I seem to every time.

There is also a good Red Elvises song about riding Greyhound (mp3).
posted by jb at 3:00 AM on June 7, 2005


Oh yes, and a blanket in winter, and a sweater for a pillow. Some people take a whole pillow, but I always thought that was too bulky.
posted by jb at 3:02 AM on June 7, 2005


Second the East St. Louis depot suggestion. I went through there 20 years ago, and ended up taking my luggage away from a pimp at 4 in the morning. (Travel Tip: If you have to do this, stick your hand in a pocket or purse, and make it look like a gun, and point the shape at them.)
Other than that, just boring, and occasionally heart-breaking when strangers decide to hit the print all button and share their lives with you. That's enough to make you glad you have the problems you do, as opposed to theirs.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:59 AM on June 7, 2005


Greyhounding was also the first place I joyfully unlearned the great British art of queuing and tutting.

Ahhh... the sense of liberation, the adrenalin, that moment in Phoenix when, after a 24-hour wait when I was bumped off one full bus, I saw the doors from the terminal to the bus stand twitch prior to opening, the red mist rose, and I thought "I'm getting on this fucking bus even if I have to kill someone," and became the first person to start elbowing my way violently towards the ticket collector, instead of the last. I got on the bus. (And I don't think anyone died in the process...)

[/Takes off rose tinted specs] It's not all fun and violence though, I guess the on-board toilets do smell. Fortunately at the age of 19 I just thought "Wooo, free wet wipe sachets!"
posted by penguin pie at 2:32 PM on June 7, 2005


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