A long-distance bus ticket that only costs $1 might sound too good to be true. But it’s not a scam, and if you plan in advance, you can snag a very low fare from Megabus.com.
A Coach USA company, Megabus has offered city-to-city express service since 2006. Megabus now has stops in 120 major U.S. cities and 23 hubs. While not every fare can be had for only a buck, the price is often below $10 or $15 depending on how far in advance you book and how fast other passengers book seats.
And, yes, if you are flexible and can plan several months ahead, you will indeed find $1 fares. A last-minute purchase for same-day departure could cost you as much as $40, though. You can buy your ticket online and show the driver your reservation on your cell phone (or print a copy if you prefer).
The trade-off for the low fares is cramped seating and sometimes cranky drivers. Megabus may not be suitable for the prissy set, but if you want to try something new with minimum risks, it’s an affordable adventure. Here are some other pros and cons to consider.
Pro: You can travel from big city to big city, including Atlanta to Washington, D.C., and New Orleans to San Antonio.
Con: Megabus doesn’t stop in every city. If you live in Hattiesburg, you would have to get to Jackson, Mobile or New Orleans to catch your ride. (In Mississippi, Megabus stops in Jackson and Oxford. You can only go to Memphis from these stops.)
Pro: You can plan a cross-country trip with as many detours as you please.
Con: Megabus organizes routes geographically, so each leg of your trip may require a new ticket. Chances are you will have to change buses and you might be waiting for a few hours.
Pro: Many Megabus stops are at or near city bus terminals or other hubs, which can make travel easy in cities like Atlanta with great public transportation.
Con: In some cities, Megabus is only allowed to drop passengers off in a remote parking lot. A summer trip to Ohio found this writer stranded in a Cincinnati parking lot at dawn, although not for long.
Pro: You can buy tickets online quickly for very low rates. If you need to reschedule, you can do so easily with at least eight hours’ notice.
Con: If you have to cancel or can’t make the trip, Megabus will not refund your money. No sob stories.
Pro: Sitting on the top deck can provide spectacular views and a different interstate experience.
Con: Some safety experts suggest sitting on the bottom deck behind the driver is the most prudent seat choice.
Pro: Megabus drivers are licensed professionals, usually on time and courteous.
Con: They are also human. One in particular reminded me of the worst PE teacher I ever had. If you have a sense of humor, let her yell at you. Then stay out of her way.
Pro: The ride is quiet and it’s easy to fall asleep. Bring a pillow and a light blanket.
Con: It’s easy to fall asleep because the PE-teacher driver demands the class be silent.
Pro: Amenities include free Wi-Fi service and an onboard bathroom.
Con: The Wi-Fi doesn’t always work and the bathroom might be nasty.
Pro: You can eat and drink on the bus. Pack a meal, but don’t bring booze. Every few hours, the bus will stop for a 30-minute break so you can eat and use a non-moving toilet.
Con: Make sure you get back on the bus in time.
To check out the possibilities, go to www.megabus.com and experiment with a few routes. Take time to scroll through possible future dates with lower fares. Usually, the further away the trip, the lower the price.