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?

  • 16
    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. Commented Jun 22, 2011 at 2:29
  • Any reason for downvote?
    – VMAtm
    Commented Jun 3, 2014 at 9:33

8 Answers 8


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 buses. 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.

Buses 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.

  • 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
    Commented Jun 22, 2011 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
    Commented Jun 25, 2011 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
    Commented Jun 29, 2011 at 7:54
  • 2
    Also, we took the train between Chicago and Seattle - and WOW those Trains are comfortable. Get a good book and settle down :)
    – Spedge
    Commented Jun 29, 2011 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
    Commented Nov 19, 2012 at 10:30

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.


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

  • 4
    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
    Commented Mar 22, 2013 at 20:58

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):

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  • 3
    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. Commented Nov 25, 2011 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. Commented Nov 26, 2011 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
    Commented Jan 26, 2012 at 7:24
  • 2
    You can easily rent a car for less than $70 per day. Plus RVs drink lots of gas - and I mean LOTS of gas. Commented Nov 19, 2012 at 15:57

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.

  • 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 Commented Nov 28, 2011 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
    Commented Nov 19, 2012 at 10:17

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.


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


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...

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