Take the 2-minute tour ×
Travel Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for road warriors and seasoned travelers. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Can you help me decide, what type of transport can I use to travel from one US town to another (it will be a big journey), without flying?

Are buses available, and is there any more suitable method of traveling?

share|improve this question
12  
It depends on which cities and towns you plan to visit. In some places trains are best, in others, buses are best. In many places public transportation is rare or non-existent and you'll need a car. –  Joel Spolsky Jun 22 '11 at 2:29
    
Any reason for downvote? –  VMAtm Jun 3 at 9:33

9 Answers 9

up vote 27 down vote accepted

There exist several bus lines:

and probably more that I can't think of right now.

You can also travel by train:

In general bus routes cover more of the country than by train. You can see a map of the Amtrak network here:

Long distance trains are generally more comfortable than long distance busses. Long distance trains that include overnight trips usually have sleeping cars with beds. Obviously this affects the price, if you want to have a private cabin with a bed that is going to cost a lot more than a regular seat.

Busses are fairly cheap but pretty uncomfortable (depends on your comfort level).

If you're a good driver and over 25, you might consider renting a car. The costs for renting from one city and returning it in another can also be fairly high, however. Sometimes you can get special deals on rental cars for very cheap, when the company has a high number of cars it needs returned to a particular city.

share|improve this answer
2  
I don't think it merits a second answer, but I wanted to mention peterpanbus.com for travel between cities within the NE US. I had great experiences with them, and found them to be preferable to Greyhound or even Amtrak rail for the destinations that they service. –  Beofett Jun 22 '11 at 12:37
    
@Beoffett: Actually, I think you should create another answer. The more information, the better, especially if it's with personal experiences! After a while, if there are a lot of (or too many) answers, someone could create a "community wiki" answer with a summary of all the other answers. –  fretje Jun 25 '11 at 13:24
4  
Gotta say, if you get the change, travel by megabus on the East Coast. The buses were amazing, comfortable, free wifi - whereas the Greyhound buses were dank and expensive. –  Spedge Jun 29 '11 at 7:54
1  
Also, we took the train between Chicago and Seattle - and WOW those Trains are comfortable. Get a good book and settle down :) –  Spedge Jun 29 '11 at 7:55
    
Yup trains have much legroom in their seats. You can totally recline the seat and sleep. Just take a blanket, a book as @Spedge said. –  Vince Nov 19 '12 at 10:30

Another option is to rent an RV. It's more expensive, of course, but it's very flexible and you save on hotels (plus you meet all sorts of weird and wonderful people at the stops):

enter image description here

share|improve this answer
1  
I don't think you would save on hotels. The average hotel costs about $60-100/night, but an RV will probably cost you $150/day. Plus you don't want to drive a RV inside the city where parking is a nightmare. –  iHaveacomputer Nov 25 '11 at 5:50
    
@iHaveacomputer - As I said, "it's more expensive, of course, but [...] you save on hotels". Even accepting your math, you are saving $60-100 a night, to offset travel expenses. –  Malvolio Nov 26 '11 at 2:08
    
@iHaveacomputer what's that over the cost of a rental car? If that rental costs less than $70 a day you'd in theory be cheaper off with an RV, especially in areas with few parking problems. –  jwenting Jan 26 '12 at 7:24
    
You can easily rent a car for less than $70 per day. Plus RVs drink lots of gas - and I mean LOTS of gas. –  DJClayworth Nov 19 '12 at 15:57

If you're talking LONG distances - say Chicago to Seattle or similar, something that will take over a day however you travel (bus/train), then train will be far far far more comfortable, and may well be an enjoyable experience in its own right.

On long-distance lines, buying a sleeper is optional: the regular coach seats are spaced much farther apart as seats on an airplane, and they recline quite some ways - not close to flat, but definitely closer to 45' or so - and even have a food rest that pops up, like a La-Z-Boy. (The only awkward part is there's no armrest to separate your part of the seat from your neighbor's!)

You can get up, walk around, head to the viewing car, buy a bottle of beer or wine or snacks, and watch the scenery go by while chatting to other folks. (I think you can also pay to use the dining car for casual sit-down service, once the first class travelers are done using it - I did this on a 24ish hour trip from San Francisco to Seattle a couple of years back.)

You can pay extra for a sleeper cabin, but it's quite pricey - you're really paying for a room with a bunk bed, so it's bad value if travelling solo vs travelling with a friend you can split the cost with - but it basically gets you first class service: meals are then included, plus you get to use a fancier first-class viewing car. But if you view it more as a 'land cruise' than just transport, you might consider it worth it.

Do note that some Amtrak lines can be notoriously delayed; Amtrak owns the trains, but not the lines, and the freight companies that own them give their own freight trains priority, so it's not unusual for an Amtrak train to slow down and stop for some time as the freight train ahead clears a switch. The train from Los Angeles to Seattle is often known the "Cost Star-Late" rather than "Coast StarLight" for this reason...

share|improve this answer

Something nice about Amtrak is that you can cancel your tickets without penalty.
So you can always change your plans at the last minute.

share|improve this answer
1  
If I recall correctly, Amtrak does not refund your ticket cost in the event of a cancellation; it just gives you a voucher that you can use toward a future trip. –  ESultanik Mar 22 '13 at 20:58

I recommend Bolt Bus first and MegaBus second for travel on the East Coast (Boston, New York, Phili, DC, Baltimore).

As mentioned in other answers, they are both generally cheaper than Greyhound/Peter Pan (in fact Wikipedia tells us that "BoltBus is ... a 50/50 venture between Greyhound Lines and Peter Pan Bus Lines"). Not only that, but they are often just as cheap if not cheaper than Chinatown lines if booked in advance.

You can board either one by just showing your reservation number on your phone, from the email or SMS they send you.

Their locations are convenient as well. In Boston and DC they leave from the same place as all major buses and trains (South Station, Union Station). In New York, Bolt and Mega leave from (in my opinion) more convenient locations than other buses. They so street side pickup in the 30's (Mega on 31/9th ave, Bolt on 33/7th or 34/8th depending on destination). Port Authority, the major bus terminal in New York, is an unpleasant place to be, and it is very annoying to navigate. Chinatown is more out of the way, although if you are going to be downtown anyway, that location is better.

Bolt Bus pro tip: register for an account before you buy. That way you get an "A" ticket, which means you get to board the bus first! Make sure you get a seat with a power outlet, since not all seats have one!

If you are travelling from the east coast to any other major city, in my opinion you should fly. One-way fares are often just 50% of RT. Amtrak is often (not always) more expensive than flying.

share|improve this answer

If you are traveling between cities on the east coast, the so-called Chinatown bus lines are one of the cheapest option. They usually start and end in the respective China towns of New York, Boston, Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and other cities.

There are various different companies running these buses, you can search online or just ask around in China town, they have small offices from which the buses are leaving.

share|improve this answer
    
One such bus line, Fung Wah has a Wikipedia article which includes a section on their safety record. They also have a website at www.fungwahbus.com –  hippietrail Nov 28 '11 at 12:03
    
and they drive rain or shine! I remember a snowstorm a couple years ago around Christmas. All other bus carriers stopped operating for a day while Chinatown still drove. It gives you an idea of their safety levels, but if you really really need the ride ... –  Vince Nov 19 '12 at 10:17

https://www.apexbus.com is a cheap option.

share|improve this answer
2  
While this link may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here and provide the link for reference. Link-only answers can become invalid if the linked page changes. –  Vince Jun 3 at 7:40

Car rental is the most flexible and enjoyable option.

Inter-city buses in the U.S. do not come close in comfort, frequency or convenience to ones in most of the world (e.g. Europe and East Asia). With few exceptions (5 or so major cities), once you get to your destination, public transport is sparse and infrequent, while walking the streets is unusual and at times unsafe. Buses are generally used by people who can't afford a car and must get somewhere, and not for tourism / pleasure trips.

Trains work well in established corridors (east coast between Boston/NYC/DC, and San Francisco Bay Area in the west), but otherwise can be both more expensive and less convenient than airplane.

share|improve this answer

Amtrak > Buses IMO - but don't go to as many places.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.