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On the one hand, I'm aware that at least 5 million people in the US do not have a valid government ID. On the other hand, traveling within the US requires you to show a piece of ID wherever you go - even when taking a Greyhound.

So let's say you're an American who has a large number of cash in their pocket but no ID whatsoever. Would you be able to get from New York to San Francisco or from Seattle to Miami? If so, what are your options? Even though I do have plenty of identification documents, I find it enjoyable to be able to travel anonymously.

  • Can you pay cash for a series of Amtrak rides? If not, you'll either have to take a lot of taxis, or a series of Lyft/Uber rides (which are unlikely to connect completely), or hitchhike, or walk, or bicycle, or per$uade a friend to drive you. – David Jun 21 at 4:02
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    Since when do you need an ID to take Greyhound? Their website even includes procedures for picking up a ticket with just a password. – choster Jun 21 at 4:03
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    @David Amtrak asks for (at least sometimes) ID on long-distance trains. – Andrew Lazarus Jun 21 at 6:06
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    Hmmm...are you Jack Reacher? – Paulie_D Jun 21 at 9:23
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If you have enough cash, you could buy a burner phone, load Uber on it, buy a prepaid MasterCard and then just Uber across the nation.

Amtrak doesn’t check Id very often so you could use Amtrak. If you get kicked off by a conductor, try the next train. Dress nicely and you may be rarely asked.

Greyhound and Bolt bus amongst other long distance bus companies don’t check ids.

Buy a bicycle and bike across.

Hitchhiking doesn’t require an ID except it’s handy to have one when your dead body lands up in a cornfield in Idaho.

  • Do not forget drinking age check. This requires a document. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jun 21 at 7:52
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    @GiacomoCatenazzi it is not necessary to drink alcohol while traveling across the US. RoboKaren: the question assumes "an American," but some US citizens (those with foreign accents, those who appear to be from Latin America, whether they actually are or not, and especially those who are in both categories) will want to avoid encountering Border Patrol without identification, so they'll want to avoid traveling within 100 miles of the border. – phoog Jun 21 at 14:53
  • While you may be able to initially get a prepaid card anonymously, the caveat is that you won't be able to reload it without providing personal details. See wallethub.com/edu/… I got a prepaid card for some internet purchases (more for the experience of trying it than anything else) and ran into this issue. – Peter M Jun 21 at 15:06
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Greyhound used to ask for ID but only at boarding if you used a print-at-home ticket. This was more of a credit card fraud prevention measure than anything else, and I'm not sure if they even do that anymore. They don't ask for ID if you used a paper ticket obtained from the ticket counter or kiosk. (I seem to recall there is some exception for departures from Washington DC where everyone gets asked for ID, but I don't have the info on this handy.)

You can fly in the USA without ID, but you get the blue glove treatment from TSA if you do. You go through an identity verification process that involves answering some personal questions about your finances and credit that are obtained from a third party. My experience with these questions is that they are usually kind of ridiculous. They ask things like what model of car you owned in 2005. Then you go through secondary screening. It can take an extra 20-30 minutes on top of the security wait.

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    My understanding of the "personal questions about your finances and credit" is that they will want to see a credit card for that, as well as IDs that otherwise would be insufficient. I had assumed that "no ID whatsoever" implied that the traveler had no credit cards on hand. They certainly looked at my wife's cards when she did this once, as well as her employee ID (with photo). Is it possible to undergo the process without any ID whatsoever? If it is, then it would be fairly easy to circumvent it with the ticket holder's credit report (and apparently DMV records) and some study time. – phoog Jun 21 at 15:00
  • @phoog I dunno, I've never tried it for the purpose of gathering information on how it works. I know people who have, though, so I'll ask them about it. – Michael Hampton Jun 21 at 15:30
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    In the flying without ID option you still provide your ID, just in a different form. As you say, you answer questions and they check with 3rd parties to confirm that's your ID. Which is not anonymous unfortunately. – kiradotee Jun 26 at 15:21

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