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My Mother is joining me for some time on the Appalachian Trail, and we will meet in Hot Springs, NC. She will arrive at ATL Atlanta on April 5th around 3:00 p.m. We thought the best way to get to Hot Springs is via Asheville with a Greyhound Bus. However the first available Bus goes in the night on April 6th 1:30 a.m.

So, since this is already a very exciting trip for my mother, I want this to be as smooth as possible. What would be the safest place for my mother to wait for the bus? Are these bus stations open and safe at night? Should she stay at the airport and go there last minute? Or even stay the night at a hotel and take the bus at 11:30 a.m.?

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    Would your mother feel comfortable renting a car? The drive is about 4 hours from the airport and the route is easy. If she's uncertain, she could have a GPS in the vehicle (added cost), but the cost would be less than a hotel, and safer than the Atl bus station (I'm in Atl and I wouldn't go there after dark). At that time of year, she'd have daylight for almost the entire drive (sunset is at about 8 pm). That Greyhound Bus seems to take 9 hours to arrive in Asheville btw. – Giorgio Mar 7 '17 at 16:12
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    Do you or your mother happen to have any experience with Greyhound Bus? If not, I'd like to mention that they are not well known for reliable service or comfortable trips. Their tickets tend to be cheap, but you have to be especially careful about your personal belongings, your fellow passengers can be concerning, and their stop locations can be in rough neighborhoods (Atlanta included). For a savvy passenger they can work well, but might not be a great choice where you are tying to ensure smooth travel and reduce the possibility of any problems. – user58322 Mar 7 '17 at 17:16
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The smoothest option is most likely a flight from ATL to Asheville later on April 5th. Seems to be about $260 one-way through Delta. I don't recommend waiting overnight at a bus station as it can be both unsafe as well as uncomfortable; waiting overnight at the airport will certainly be better, though still uncomfortable. Considering the extra waiting time (for and on the bus) plus the cost of a hotel, the flight is probably worth it.

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The distance from Atlanta to Asheville is not inconsiderable. Is renting a car and driving there out of the question?

Like many U.S. bus stations, the Atlanta Greyhound terminal has few services and is not optimally located. The South Downtown neighborhood is not especially dangerous by Atlanta standards; however, it is seedy, and the area where the station is located is dominated by state and local government offices— an earlier name for the district was Government Walk. Very few people (other than vagrants) will be around after business hours, and there are few establishments to patronize. I would not recommend my own mother wait alone at the station or nearby for 8 hours.

If you are insistent on the bus option, your mother could take MARTA from the airport to the Peachtree Center station downtown, which is in the hotel district. It will be too late to visit most of the tourist destinations in the area, like the World of Coca-Cola or the CNN Center, but Georgia Aquarium is often open until 9pm (you should book tickets in advance). There are many restaurants and hotels in the area where she can wait out the duration, then take a taxi or car service to the bus station, which I would recommend over the train late at night.

I have no experience with luggage storage in Atlanta. There is a bag storage business downtown but I have absolutely no idea as to their convenience. The Aquarium has a coat check, but I do not know if they would accept luggage. She could always try the bell desk at one of the larger hotels, but I am not confident Atlanta hotels will accept bags from people who are not guests.

Of course, it is also possible that your mother may just want to get a hotel room somewhere and nap, after a long flight and before a long bus ride on which she will probably not get much sleep.

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I took a Greyhound into Atlanta for my hike of the AT from Springer, and I wouldn't want to do that again. When I did arrive, I went straight to the nearest MARTA station and got the hell out as fast as I could. I arrived in the early afternoon and I didn't think it was a very nice neighborhood even then. (I have a friend who lives in Atlanta who gave me a ride from there to the USFS 42 trailhead.)

Now, consulting my handy Thru-Hikers' Companion...

I would contact Bluff Mountain Outfitters there in Hot Springs at +1 828 622 7162 about shuttle service from Asheville, Tri-Cities or Knoxville airports, and then have her fly from ATL to one of those (from $140 one way, or consider changing her existing flight booking). This will probably be safer than any other option. These guys are amazingly helpful. I had one of my debit cards mysteriously cancelled while out on the Trail and was able to have a replacement overnighted there; I hiked into town minutes after it arrived and was able to pick it up without any trouble.

You also should give some thought to the return trip. It might make more sense overall to change the flight destination and return from ATL to, e.g. TRI, which is more convenient to Hot Springs, and much more convenient to points farther north of Hot Springs, like Erwin, Roan Mountain and Damascus.

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