Some senior travelers swear by long-distance bus travel. Others shudder at the thought. With gasoline prices climbing, bus travel is certainly an affordable alternative. For long-distance travelers in the United States and Canada, Greyhound Lines, which connects major cities from coast to coast, offers the largest choice of destinations and departures.
There are several advantages to bus travel. You don’t have to rent a car or pay big-city parking fees. You avoid the stress of driving in unfamiliar places during rush hour. Best of all, you’ll often pay less to “go Greyhound” than you will to fly or take the train.
For example, a one-way Amtrak ticket between Baltimore and New York City costs anywhere from $61 to $160, depending on how far in advance you reserve your ticket. Greyhound’s standard senior fare is $55 one way, and you can travel for $25 - $34 one way if you book online in advance. (Airfares start at $59 - that's a Southwest Airlines "Wanna Get Away" fare - and go up from there.)
Bus Travel Facts
- Some buses stop only once or twice between the departure and destination cities. Other routes include several intermediate stops.
- Buses usually have a restroom on board. It’s meant for emergency use only.
- All types of people travel by bus. This could include parents with small children or people who are ill.
- Your route may include one or more layovers, which can last anywhere from five minutes to an hour or longer.
- Greyhound and several regional bus operators have pooled some of their routes. This means that you could purchase a ticket through Greyhound and end up riding on a Peter Pan bus that shares Greyhound’s route. Your fare won’t be affected, and you can easily see which carrier operates on each route by looking at the Greyhound website.
Pros and Cons of Bus Travel
If you’re considering a Greyhound bus trip, here are some things you’ll need to know.
- You can request a 5% senior discount on regular fares (10% on Greyhound Canada).
- Greyhound offers $29 - $129 one-way midweek fares with 14-day advance purchase; fares are based on miles traveled.
- You can reserve your tickets ahead or purchase them up to one hour before the bus departs.
- Greyhound will provide assistance to disabled passengers with 48-hours’ advance notice.
- Fares between New York and other large East Coast cities are comparable to those offered by “curbside” or “Chinatown” buses, if you buy advance tickets online.
- Greyhound stations tend to be in less-than-savory downtown locations. If you need to change buses, try to schedule your layovers during daylight hours.
- Even if you reserve a ticket in advance, you’re not guaranteed a seat. Greyhound operates on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Holiday weekends are especially busy.
- Stations may not have any food available, or may have vending machines only.
- You may need to transfer between buses. If so, you’ll have to carry your own luggage.
- Not all Greyhound buses have wheelchair lifts, although many do.
- If a disabled passenger boards the bus and all the handicapped seats are occupied, the driver will ask non-disabled passengers in those seats to move. Greyhound’s policy states, “If the person occupying the seat refuses, he or she cannot be forced to move. You may sit in the next available seat and move to the designated seats as they become available.”
- If your bus is late, Greyhound will not give you a refund.