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Coach Travel
Understanding the good and bad of travelling by bus

Travelling by Greyhound in Canada and the United States can be a great way to experience these countries, but you should know what you are getting into, especially in the U.S.

Here you find out "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of coach travel in North America.

This information will help you decide if Greyhound is for you.


Advantages of travelling by bus

  • Bus routes go almost everywhere.
  • Buses reach many more areas and cities than trains.
  • Key destinations like Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Great Smoky Mountain, and Pacific Rim national parks have no nearby train service or rail coordinated coach service, an especially acute problem in the U.S.
  • You often have a choice of departure times, unlike the situation of many Amtrak and Via Rail Canada routes.
  • Seldom must you (or can you) book in advance.
  • Itineraries can be changed at the last minute within the perimeters of the availability of accommodation at the destinations.
  • You see the countryside up close. All long-distance coaches in both Canada and the States come with large windows and nearly all inter-city coaches have washrooms.

Disadvantages of travelling by bus

On the other hand, the disadvantages of coach travel are significant.

  • Many people find the seats and lack of leg room quite uncomfortable for long periods of travel.
  • Many cannot sleep at all.
  • People from countries with deluxe bus options like Mexico may be shocked at the lack of leg room and austere seats on Canadian and U.S. inter-city coaches.
  • Unlike trains, where you can move from car to car, except sometimes into areas reserved for sleeping car passengers, coach travellers are stuck with their peers.
  • If an inebriated passenger or small child makes noise all night, so be it.
  • The driver will not evict the child and the behaviour of an intoxicated or deranged passenger must be quite obnoxious before the coach operator will become involved.

Additional disadvantages

  • A significant target market of bus travel in North America is the very poor.

    Although budget flights, especially flights purchased in advance, may be less expensive than bus travel on many routes, a class of Americans and Canadians travels by coach because it perceives no alternative.

    Perhaps as a consequence, bus stations are often located in terrible neighbourhoods, the dangerous skid roads of their respective cities, near the poorest residential areas. Another reason may be the low real estate prices in these areas.

    Whatever the reasons, these areas can make us feel very, very uncomfortable.

  • Arriving in centre city Los Angeles or Washington, D.C., by coach is not a pleasant experience.

    Coach travellers must somehow make their way from the station neighbourhoods to more suitable ones. Even in the smaller centres, the stations may be located some distance from suitable accommodation, and no public transportation may be available.

    In recent years, clean, appealing budget accommodations have clustered along the Interstate highways near the cities, not in the city centres, where most bus terminals are found.

    An interesting story about the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York is that Bach and Hayden work even today to make it more pleasant. The station managers found that playing classical music drove the derelicts, panhandlers, hustlers, and at least some of the pickpockets outside.

    One can only imagine what playing Wagner might do.

  • Food is another problem on coach trips.

    T
    o save driver time, passengers are usually herded for short periods into fast food restaurants or dubious station restaurants. Almost never is there time to seek out more nutritious and appealing alternatives.

    Passengers riding "the hound" should bring fruit and other fresh food with them, just as sailors once carried limes to avoid scurvy.

Conclusion

In spite of all the disadvantages, no other form of travel, other than driving, lets you see so much.

Seeing the sights up close, having the freedom to spontaneously change itineraries, the ease of meeting like-minded travellers, and the low cost may be the deciding factors.

These are significant advantages that may outweigh the discomforts, especially if you break a long trip into a series of shorter ones and take along some fresh food.

For hints about scenic routes, see Dr. Voyageur's Greyhound Canada, Greyhound USA routes.

Learn about the pros and cons of othe travel methods:

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Go To >> Driving RVs
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