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Amtrak, Via Rail
USA scenic routes
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American & Canadian Bus
Travel Pros & Cons
Understanding the good and bad of travelling by
Bolt, Greyhound Canada, Greyhound USA, and Megabus are the primary bus lines in North America. Bolt and Megabus are hugely popular with university age adults but operate solely regional routes in the U.S., as well as to Vancouver (Bolt) and to and within Ontario and Quebec (Megabus).
Travelling by bus 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., when you take long trips by Greyhound.
Here you find out "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of long-distance coach travel in North America.
This information will help you decide if long-distance bus travel is for you.
Advantages of travelling by bus
- Bus routes go nearly everywhere in North America south of the Arctic. .
- 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.
- 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
Disadvantages of travelling by bus
On the other hand, the disadvantages of coach travel
- Many people find the seats and lack of leg room
quite uncomfortable for long periods of travel.
- Many cannot sleep
- People from countries with deluxe bus options such as 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.
- Meal stops tend to be short at a seemingly unending collection of basic fast food places.
- If an
inebriated passenger or small child makes noise all night, so
- 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.
- 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
>>> NOTE though that Bolt Bus & Megabus do not tend to use these terminals. They usually pick up and drop off at convenient street locations such as adjacent to a subway stop.
Note also that Bolt and Megabus and increasingly Greyhound are attracting young adult students and others who may not have utilized bus transport before.
- Arriving in centre city Los Angeles or Washington,
D.C., by coach is not a pleasant experience.
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.
To 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.
In spite of all the disadvantages, no other form of travel, other than driving, lets you see so much.
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
Learn about the pros and cons of train travel in Canada and the United States.:
Go To >> Rail travel
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