There’s something innately exciting about every mode of travel, but travel by bus is the very picture of budget travel from books and movies, allowing you to have more travel experiences with the same amount of money, especially when compared to flying.
I went from Seattle to Portland on the Bolt Bus, which had an interior like that of a small puddle-jumper airplane. The driver was friendly and the seats were comfortable enough. The bus was air conditioned, and there were two free Wi-Fi channels, one for streaming video/music and the other for everything else. Power outlets were in most rows of seats (mine didn’t have one for some reason, but luckily I didn’t need it). The bus was only half full on both trips so I got the full row to myself (it’s choose-your-own seating), which made it even nicer. Even in the rows that had both seats filled, the people still had as much room as they would have had if sitting next to each other on a budget plane.
I’d heard horror stories of bus bathrooms, but on the return trip I decided I was brave enough to check it out myself. Anticipating a tiny, disgusting box that could rival the gas station bathrooms we used during family road trips, I was pleasantly surprised that it was clean and about the size of the bathrooms on small airplanes.
There were only two small drawbacks: the legroom and the location of the bus stops.
The legroom wasn’t much of an issue for me (yay short legs!) but for taller people or those with longer legs, you might feel that you are as cramped as on a small plane, despite Bolt Bus’ efforts to give more legroom (according to their FAQ page, it’s 3 inches more than a standard bus seat configuration).
The bus stops were okay if you were trying to get somewhere central/downtown (Seattle’s is in Chinatown and Portland’s is in the Downtown neighborhood). There are many local bus routes that serve each area and getting to where you need to go from there, so it isn’t much of a problem, except that they’re in high traffic areas and it can be difficult to estimate where the traffic will be at what time if you’re not from the area. I ended up needing to get a ride from someone back to the bus stop because I realized I wasn’t going to make it back in time on the local bus during rush hour. However, now I know to plan ahead for things like traffic, and am more mindful of the time I book my trips for, so I doubt that it would be as big of a issue in the future.
The only other thing I was bummed about was that, unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky people to be able to buy a $1 ticket (a few tickets each route are offered at $1 one-way), but it was still so much cheaper than flying. Round trip, the cost was $34. I could have also brought one luggage free, which would have gone in the compartment near the wheels, plus two carry-ons.
Overall, I think it’s a great deal, as comfortable as flying on a small budget airline, and with the same perks (or more, depending on the airline). I’d travel by bus again in a heartbeat.
Do you have bus travel stories? Share them in the comments!