MegaBus: The Cheapest And Least Pleasant Way To See America

Inspired by this Frugal Traveler article that asks, “Is Megabus the cheapest way to see America?”* here is my own personal list of ways to get around, in order of Most Pleasant to Least.

Methods Of Transportation, Ranked

1) Walking (or biking/scootering, if you like that sort of thing)

2) Teleportation / Apparition

3) Daydreaming

4) Actual dreaming

5) Climate-controlled stretch limo with soothing lights, music, and complimentary Diet Coke, taking you anywhere except a cemetery

6) Trains in parts of Europe and Asia

7) Streetcar

8) Planes (JetBlue, Southwest, Virgin, and certain European airlines)

tie: 9) Amtrak trains and planes (all other except RyanAir)**

10) Horseback

11) Cars

12) Being dragged by the hair

tie: 13) Busses and RyanAir

*The Frugal Traveler determines that yes, Megabus probably is the most affordable way to travel across state lines, if one is willing to make the necessary sacrifices:

My plan was to go from New York to Silver Spring, Md. (via Peter Pan, not Megabus, which does not stop in Silver Spring), and crash my nephews’ swim practice with a takeout Vietnamese dinner. A few hours later, I’d catch the Metro to Union Station in Washington for Megabus’s overnight bus to Knoxville, Tenn., known for its music, spending a day and evening there. Then I’d catch a 1:30 a.m. bus to Lexington, Ky., arriving at 5 a.m., to start a four-day bike trip. The way back worked out with shorter stops and just one overnight.

Sound torturous? Perhaps. I’m not saying it was paradise on wheels. But the total cost, including the Peter Pan leg, was just $63 (and could have been less if I hadn’t had to postpone the trip once and reschedule on short notice). By comparison, round-trip flights from New York to Lexington when I booked were edging toward $400.

Some of the indignities that he endures include frigid nighttime conditions with no blanket, co-passengers that reek of cigarettes or lap over into his personal space, a breakdown on the highway, and subsisting on stomach-churning gas station food.

Over years of riding Greyhound, budget, and Chinatown buses, I have experienced all of the above as well. The main additional indignity I’ve endured on a bus was smell-related. One very cold night, a couple of guys brought their tiny dog with them onto the crowded vehicle — which we had waiting an hour and a half to board because, of course, delays — and, as soon as the ride started, Puppy escaped from his carrying case and shat in the aisle. As one man tried to clean up that disgusting mess, the other picked up the pooch — which promptly shat again on the seat. We traveled three hours in a miasma of dog poop and when I wobbled out at last, breathing deep of the fetid but at least cold Philadelphia air, I swore Never again.

**Amtrak train and planes (all other except Ryan Air) are annoying for different reasons. Though expensive, they both involve long lines of fretful passengers who, at the slightest nod of encouragement from a person in uniform, will rush the doors, spitting and clawing their way forward. Both also usually involve delays and overpriced food. Trains offer more space while planes offer more speed. To me, they come out about even. Both are better than cars, though, because they’re less likely to induce claustrophobia and they’re faster.

But nothing, except maybe Ryan Air, is worse than the bus.

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