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Traveling on a Budget: Tips for Greyhound Riders

by Kat on February 7, 2011

Ten years ago, I spent 4 weary days on a Greyhound bus on my quest to move to New York City. It didn’t matter that a month later I returned to California with my tail between my legs.

I went, at the tender age of 19, all the way across the country BY MYSELF!

It was exhilarating, if not a bit of a scary idea at the time. I had never taken so much as a city bus before, so a Greyhound trip across the country was a huge undertaking.

A few years later, I was planning a U.S. tour with a friend who didn’t drive.

Some of our stops were close enough together that they would’ve meant driving for 12-14 hours straight, doing a show, sleeping for three hours, and continuing on for another 12-14 hours.

The idea of doing this as the one and only driver was baffling, and after lots of consideration and brainstorming, we decided to take the bus.

In our research we discovered that Greyhound offers Discovery Passes in 7 day, 15 day, 30 day, and 60 day increments, ranging in price from $239.00 to $539.00.

This meant that for the low low price of $539.00, we could travel anywhere in the continental U.S. and most parts of Canada for two months, without purchasing individual tickets!

Things haven’t changed. You can still purchase a Greyhound Discovery Pass and tour the country on a shoestring. Hooray!

So, without further ado, here is my list of tips for traveling by bus in the U.S.

Things to bring on the bus with you:

  • Pillow
  • Small blanket
  • Baby wipes (You think just hand sanitizer will do it for you, but trust me, those back-of-the-bus bathrooms can get nasty.)
  • Something to read
  • Your cell phone charger
  • A pack of cards (All-night poker games on the floor of the bus are awesome!)
  • A lighter (You will be the most popular girl on the bus.)
  • Healthy snacks (Greyhound stops at Burger King approximately every 3 hours. Stops outside of that are limited, and you will find almost nothing healthy available for purchase, even in the bus terminals. Bring trail mix and dried fruit with you so that you don’t have to eat burgers all the time.)

Winter day 22 - Centerpiece

Things to leave behind:

  • Heavy stuff (Greyhound does not transfer your bags for you like an airline would. This means that you will be lugging your bags with you every time you change buses, which can be often. Leave the hardcover books, hot rollers, and any other heavy accoutrements at home.)
  • Nice stuff (Jewelry, fancy computer equipment, and other things that can be instantly recognized as worth stealing are best left at home. Greyhound makes stops in some pretty sketchy places, and if you look like an easy mark, you will be taken advantage of.)

Other things that are good to know:

Don’t put your Discovery Pass in a wallet or somewhere else that it might easily be stolen.

Keep it on your person.

My tour mate had his wallet stolen while we were on tour, and had to beg and plead to get home, because his Discovery Pass was gone. He got lucky, but Greyhound doesn’t replace missing Discovery Passes, so be prepared.

Don’t laminate your Discovery Pass. For some reason this voids it. I don’t remember why.

If you have a weak or compromised immune system, Greyhound may not be the best option for you.

Recycled air and lots of kids with the sniffles means that a lot of people who ride the bus for extended periods get sick. I had to leave tour for a week to recover from the cough of death.

The good news? Once you’ve had it, you’re pretty much immune for the rest of your trip.

The best seats on the Greyhound, if you can get them, are in the very back.

Unless the restroom is really stinky, the back row is the Champagne Room of the bus.

All the other rows have pairs of seats, but the back row is three seats together, which means if you can get them alone, you can actually (mostly) lay down.

It’s a bit more private than the rest of the rows, because there’s nothing across from it, so two of your three seats are obscured from the view of everyone else on the bus.

Do you have any other tips for traveling by bus? Do you have an epic adventure or nightmare experience you can’t wait to tell us about? We want to hear all about it!

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Kat is pretty awesome. She has spent most of her life in California, but has both driven and Greyhounded across the U.S., zigzagging hither and thither, come hell or high water, snowstorm or hurricane or heatwave. She is a Sales & Marketing Assistant by day in the heart of the tourist industry of San Francisco, slam poet and wife and superhero by night. You can check out her personal blog at http://jazzellis.livejournal.com.

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