Timothy travels the U.S. full-time with only a small backpack and a suitcase. He spends his evenings writing and filming Youtube videos.
The Greyhound bus is a great way to travel to big cities and small towns alike, all over the country, for a very low price. No other form of transportation in North America has as many stations, stops, or routes as Greyhound, and it's because of this that tens of thousands of people travel via Greyhound every day.
However, there are some things you need to know about the Greyhound bus before you begin your trip. There are some issues that can, and do, arise quite regularly on the Greyhound bus, and the best way to deal with them is to be prepared for them in advance.
Compiled below are 10 of the most common 'bad things' that Greyhound bus passengers have to deal with, as well as the best solutions for solving these problems.
1. Your Bus Will Be Late
Greyhound buses are notorious for being late. So expect to board your bus 30 minutes to an hour after the scheduled boarding time. And that's on a good day. Depending on why your bus is delayed, you may have to wait anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. It's just part of the whole Greyhound experience. Your bus will eventually come, just don't expect it to always be at the exact time listed on your ticket.
2. You Will Sit Next to Some 'Interesting' People
You can't reserve seats on the Greyhound bus, so forget about any plans you may have about sitting next to a friend or family member.
You will not spend your 18-hour bus trip to Cleveland sitting next to your cousin Tony. Instead, you will spend all 18 hours sitting next to a man named Brillo who has on two trench coats and one sandal.
Brillo will want to tell you prison stories the whole trip as well as show you the new rash he recently acquired in Las Vegas. By the end of the trip, you will know more about Brillo than you do your cousin Tony, who incidentally is sitting next to someone just as crazy.
3. The Wi-Fi Won't Work on Your Bus
You've probably seen the Greyhound ads that talk about the free Wi-Fi you'll have access to if you travel on their buses. And you probably thought this meant that these ads would apply to you if you bought a Greyhound bus ticket and rode on a Greyhound bus. Hahaha! shows how little you know about bus travel in America.
What you can actually expect is for there to be incredibly slow Wi-Fi at the Greyhound bus stations and no Wi-Fi at all on your Greyhound bus(es).
Now I know what you are thinking: I'll just walk up to the front of the bus and ask the bus driver to kindly fix the issue with the Wi-Fi so I can finish watching twerk videos on Instagram.
Sounds like a reasonable plan right? Yeah maybe in an alternate Universe. Unfortunately, you will be stuck in the Greyhound Universe where the drivers are fed up with passengers like you coming up and bothering them about Wi-Fi that they have no control over. So instead of getting internet access, you will probably get an eye roll and a frown . . . if you don't get ignored completely.
4. Only Half of the Power Outlets Will Work
I don't know what it is about Greyhound buses and the power outlets, but I swear that on almost every bus I ride, half of the bus has no power. Sometimes it's the right side, sometimes it's the left side. Sometimes it's a weird mix of both sides.
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Basically, wherever YOU sit will be the section that has no juice coming out of the outlets. And just like the Wi-Fi situation, there will be nothing that you can do about it. You will just have to sit there and watch the battery level on your cellphone drop lower and lower as time ticks by.
Or you can ask the total stranger sitting in the row behind you to let you plug your phone into his outlet, but that's kind of creepy since then you'd have to let him hold your phone while it charges.
Alternatively, there are the charging banks at the bus stations, but half the time they don't work either and the other half of the time passengers from the bus that pulled in 15 seconds before your bus did will swarm the banks and take all the plugs. So basically you should just turn all your devices off during your whole trip and find something that doesn't require power to entertain yourself. Like reading a book or sleeping.
5. Expect Arctic Temperatures Whenever It's Not 100+ Degrees
There are two basic temperature settings on most Greyhound buses: Hang Meat and Sahara Sweaty. So expect to either have to put on a few more layers or to be tempted to take off as many layers as possible without actually being naked in your seat.
Don't ask me why the temperatures are so extreme on the Greyhound bus, maybe shivering helps to keep down the crazy. Maybe sweating out of every pore helps the drunks and druggies to feel more normal. Maybe it's an NTSB thing, I don't know. Just be sure to bring a jacket for the cold, and wear lots of deodorant for the heat.
6. You Will Have Longer-Than-Advertised Layovers
The scheduled layovers for your Greyhound bus trip will be listed when you purchase your ticket. And while I recommend looking over where and when you will have layovers, please keep in mind that the layover times WILL change.
If you believe nothing else from this article, believe this! That 2-hour layover you have in Cleveland will not be 2 hours! Something will come up and it will turn into a 4- or 6-hour layover. Or an 8-hour layover. Basically, you will be in Cleveland way longer than anyone has ever wanted to be.
There are a number of reasons why your layovers will be longer than advertised. For one, Greyhound will always have issues with buses being behind schedule. There's traffic, weather, crazy drunks who have to be kicked off the bus, and so many other issues that can arise to make the buses late.
Greyhound has also been having trouble lately finding enough drivers to fill all the scheduled routes. This means that you may have to wait while they find a driver willing to come in at 3:00 a.m. and drive you and the rest of your fellow passengers to your next stop.
Would you want to get up at 3 in the morning and get on the bus with 50+ rude, unruly, and restless Greyhound passengers? No, and neither do the drivers. So your layover may be just a few hours longer while they find one desperate enough to come to work.
7. You Will Have to Get Off the Bus a Lot
If you have a Greyhound bus trip over a certain length of time, don't expect to be able to snuggle up and stay on the bus the whole time. There will be several stops throughout your trip where you will be required to get off the bus.
For instance, at some Greyhound stations, your bus will have to be cleaned and serviced and so all passengers will have to exit the bus. Passengers who were already on the bus will be allowed to re-board first before new passengers so they can reclaim their seats, but be prepared to spend an hour or so inside the station.
You will also probably have at least one transfer during your Greyhound bus trip. A transfer is basically changing from one route to another which means you will have to change buses. Most transfers happen at Greyhound stations and you will typically have a layover between transfers. Layovers can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.
Your bus will also stop for meal and bathroom breaks every few hours. These breaks are usually at gas stations or fast-food restaurants. You are not required to get off the bus at meal and bathroom stops. But it's usually a good idea to get off and get something to eat since the food prices at Greyhound stations are pretty high. And using any bathroom is better than using the one on the bus!
8. You Won't Get to Your Destination on Time
Just because your ticket says you will arrive at your destination at 8:00 pm on Saturday does not ensure that you actually will. In fact, more likely than not you will arrive later than scheduled. How much later you arrive varies but it's usually a good rule of thumb to expect to be at least 2 to 6 hours behind schedule.
Greyhound buses have to travel on the same roads as every other motor vehicle out there and this means that they have to deal with traffic accidents, bad weather, road closures, etc. And all these factors cause buses to run behind schedule.
Greyhound Bus Lines has also been experiencing a driver shortage for the past few years. This means that buses are routinely delayed at departure while a driver is found. If your trip is behind schedule from the start then there's a good chance you will be WAY behind schedule by the time you reach your final destination. It's not uncommon for some passengers to arrive at their destination 12–24 hours late when their bus was initially delayed.
It's very important to keep this in mind if you are traveling to an important event that is taking place at a particular time. DO NOT book a Greyhound trip that is going to get you into town only a few hours before a wedding, funeral, graduation, job interview, etc. To be safe, it's usually a good idea to book a ticket that will get you there the day before or maybe even a few days earlier. That way if your bus is late or delayed, you won't miss your important event.
9. You Won't Get a Lot of Answers From Greyhound Employees
Greyhound employees as a whole are not always known for being forthcoming with answers to passengers' questions. There are some Greyhound employees that provide exceptional customer service, but don't expect this to be true at all stations.
If you think about it, not only are Greyhound employees very busy getting everyone, and their luggage, sorted and on their way, but they also hear the same questions EVERY SINGLE DAY! It only takes a few days of hearing people ask you the same questions over and over again, many of which you might not have a straight answer for, before you get fed up and start ignoring people. Not that this is the way customer service should be handled, but it's understandable.
Your best bet for getting your questions answered is to ask at the ticket counter or ask your driver if he/she seems friendly. Fellow passengers are also a great source of information since many of them are veteran Greyhound riders.
Getting the answers to any questions you may have before your trip is also a great idea. For example, my Frugal Travel Guru YouTube channel has over 100 videos dedicated solely to the Greyhound bus.
10. The Bathrooms Are Gross!
One thing you definitely need to know before you embark on your Greyhound bus adventure is that the state of the bathrooms on the bus will occasionally be less than ideal. In fact, sometimes they will be downright gross!
Greyhound buses are routinely cleaned and serviced during trips, but it only takes one person with bad aim or explosive bowels to ruin the restroom for everyone. And when you factor in that the bus is in constant motion when passengers are using the facilities you can understand why it's usually a good idea to use the bathrooms during meal breaks at restaurants and gas stations.
The cleanliness level of bathrooms at the Greyhound stations varies depending on location. Some stations keep their bathrooms spotless and well stocked. Other locations leave a lot to be desired. If you find a clean bathroom at a station, use it! You don't know when you will come across another one during your trip.
The purpose of this article was to inform future Greyhound bus riders of some of the issues that might arise during their trip. It is not to scare you away from riding the Greyhound bus. Greyhound is still one of the most cost-effective methods of travel in North America, with thousands of passengers passing through the network every day. Almost all of them arrive at their destinations safely, eventually.
Knowing some of the issues you might face throughout your trip, however, should allow you to have a better experience on Greyhound and keep you from being surprised and/or confused while traveling. Hopefully, the tips mentioned in this article will allow you to arrive safely at your destination with little or no hassle throughout your journey!
© 2019 Timothy Ward