Timothy travels the U.S. full-time with only a small backpack and a suitcase. He spends his evenings writing and filming Youtube videos.
If you're planning to travel on a Greyhound bus for the first time, you undoubtedly have lots of questions. And if you're anything like me, you are probably just a little nervous. The good news is that help is on the way. Below, I've compiled a list of ten tips that I swear by whenever I travel on Greyhound. I hope they help you have a successful ride and ease some of your pre-trip jitters.
1. Arrive at Least an Hour Before Departure
On your first Greyhound trip, you should plan to arrive at the station well before your bus is scheduled to depart. This is because you will need to get checked in, find your departure gate/door, and determine where your boarding line will form.
Most of the time, you can get these tasks accomplished in a fairly short amount of time, but there are occasions (especially on weekends and other high-traffic travel days) when just getting checked in can take 30 minutes or more. That's why I recommend getting to the station about an hour in advance so you have time to do all of the things you need to do. This will also give you time to sit down and get your bearings before your bus arrives.
2. Get in Your Boarding Line as Soon as Possible
Once you learn where your boarding line is going to form, try to join it as soon as possible. At some stations, you will have to wait for a Greyhound employee to tell you that the line for your bus is now forming. At other stations, it's a more relaxed process, and people just kind of start lining up whenever they want to.
Whatever the process, you want to be at the front of the boarding line! The people in the front of the line get to get on the bus first and therefore get their pick of the seats. I can't stress enough how much of a difference where you sit can make on a Greyhound bus trip. Getting on the bus first can mean the difference between spending four hours sitting next to a crying baby or getting a seat by yourself up near the front of the bus. Try to be one of the first passengers in the boarding line!
Note: A few Greyhound bus stations board passengers according to the boarding numbers on their tickets. This doesn't happen often, but if it does, you won't have any control over when you get on the bus. That being said, the earlier you book your ticket, the lower your boarding number will be, and the sooner you will board. It's a good idea to buy your bus tickets in advance whenever possible just in case your station conducts boarding according to ticket numbers.
3. Make Sure Your Checked Bags Stand Out
You are allowed to check one bag for free with each Greyhound bus ticket. Additional checked bags are $15 apiece. When your checked bags are being loaded and unloaded under the bus it can be easy to lose track of them. There will be dozens of other bags being looked after, and if your bag doesn't stand out, you may not be able to tell where exactly it is. This can lead to your bag being put on the wrong bus, or worse, someone walking off with it.
I usually tie a scarf or bandanna around the handle of my bag, and sometimes I even tape strips of paper down the sides. It looks super tacky, but I always know where my luggage is even if I'm watching over it from some distance away. Another way to make sure your bag stands out is to purchase one that looks different than most others. Using a brightly colored bag or one that's an odd shape will allow you to differentiate it from all the others in an instant.
4. Sit Near the Front of the Bus
Most people get on the Greyhound bus and immediately head to the back. I don't know why this is, but I've noticed it on every single trip I've taken. For some reason, people like the rear of the bus more than the front. Luckily, this means that the back of the bus tends to fill up more quickly than the front. So, if you are looking to sit by yourself, your chances are far better in the front of the bus than they are in the back.
Sitting in the front of the bus also ensures that you will have a safer trip because most people won't act up that close to the bus driver. Greyhound drivers don't play, and some of them are quick to banish passengers from the bus for misbehaving. For this reason, most of the shenanigans go on in the back of the bus.
One last reason to sit near the front of the bus is that you get off the bus first. There will be times during your trip when you will have to make transfers to other buses, and sometimes a few minutes can mean the difference between making your transfer and missing it. If you are all the way in the back of the bus, you have to wait for everyone else to get off before you can get off and get your luggage. If you sit near the front, you can be off the bus and heading toward your connection in a relatively short period of time.
5. Don't Trust the Bathroom on the Bus
You do not want to have to sit down on the toilet in a Greyhound bus bathroom. You have no idea what the people who used that bathroom before you did in there (although you can often guess due to the smell), and you don't want to find out the hard way.
I recommend going to the bathroom before you board the bus and then again when the bus stops for food breaks. Even if you don't think you have to go, check and make sure. If you get a sudden urge while you are on the bus and have to use the on-board bathroom, you may regret it for quite some time.
I avoid drinking too much water or soda when I'm on the bus, and I only eat light snacks until I get to a station or my destination. The bathrooms at Greyhound bus stations vary from station to station, but even the gross ones usually have one decent stall or at least some paper towels that you use to do some quick toilet-seat-cleaning before you go.
6. Keep Your Carry-On Bag With You
One of the most common crimes that occurs on Greyhound busses is the theft of carry-on bags that people leave sitting around when they walk off to do something else. Always keep your carry on bag with you! Even if you are just going to walk around the corner and come back, take your bag with you. It only takes a few seconds for someone who has been scoping you out to snatch up your bag and run off with it.
When you are traveling and the bus stops for breaks, I recommend taking your carry on bag off the bus with you. I know it's a pain, but it's less of a pain than having your bag stolen. One of the reasons I always use a backpack as my carry-on bag is because it's so easy to carry around with me. I just sling it on my back and I'm off!
7. Follow the Bus Driver's Rules During Breaks
When the bus stops for food and bathroom breaks, the driver will typically give you some instructions about:
- Where to go to get something to eat.
- When to be back on the bus.
- What not to bring on the bus when you return.
Listen to these instructions and follow them! I've seen at least a half-dozen people get kicked off the bus for not following instructions. I've also seen the bus leave people who didn't come back from a break on time. You don't want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere and have to wait 12 hours or more for the next bus to come through and pick you up, so follow all of the driver's rules and instructions. They exist for a reason.
8. Don't Lose Your Ticket or Re-Boarding Pass
This may seem like common sense, but after a few trips on Greyhound, you will realize how often people lose or misplace their tickets. It's always an ordeal for them to get back on the bus, and in some cases, they even have to buy a new ticket.
Keep your ticket on you at all times. If someone were to steal your ticket, they could use it in your place and you would be left stranded. I keep my ticket in my pants' front pocket and I check it often to make sure it's still there.
There will be times during your Greyhound trip when you have to exit a bus for it to be serviced or cleaned. The driver will give you a reboarding pass so you can get back on that same bus before any new passengers when it's ready to depart again. Don't throw this re-boarding pass away!
If you lose this pass, you may have trouble getting back on the bus. And if you can convince the driver to let you back on the bus, it will probably be after everyone else is already has already boarded, and you may have lost your seat. Be sure to keep up with any and all reboarding passes you are given throughout your Greyhound bus trip.
9. Ask Greyhound Employees If You Have Any Questions or Concerns
If you have questions, concerns, or security issues at any time during your trip, ask the nearest Greyhound employee you can find. Even if it's not their department, they can point you in the right direction so you can get your issue resolved.
Greyhound gets a lot of bad press about its employees and its customer service, but I've found that the majority of the time, I am able to get the help that I need. I've only run across one or two employees who downright refused to help, and in those cases, I just asked another employee and quickly got the information I needed.
Bus drivers are a great source of information since they typically drive the same route every day. They have probably heard any questions you can think to ask 1000 times over, so they will definitely be able to help you. Fellow passengers are a good source of information as well. If you can't find a Greyhound employee, try asking someone around you that looks well-traveled.
10. Stay Inside the Bus Station at Night
During your trip, you may have layovers and stops at other Greyhound bus stations after dark. These stations are not always in the best neighborhoods, so exercise caution when going outside. If I'm in a city I'm unfamiliar with, I never go outside the bus station at night unless it's absolutely necessary. When you reach your final destination, make sure you have made plans for a ride and don't go outside until it arrives.
You are pretty safe inside the Greyhound bus station, but outside is a whole different ballgame. I personally know several people who have been robbed right outside of Greyhound bus stations. Stay inside and don't risk encountering an incident that could end your trip (or worse).
More Advice for Long Bus Trips
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Lynn Kemp on September 23, 2019:
I am a senior traveling for the first time with the disability which seeks shall I choose for leg room due to my disability I also have a small service dog will that be a acceptable thank you for the video they put my mind at ease
Tatiana Serain on June 10, 2019:
Thank you for the tips! Going to use their service for the first time in a week.! Fingers crossed. lol
Christine Van Hou on October 16, 2018:
I enjoyed reading your tips for bus traveling. My son is a freshman in college this year and 6 hours away from home. It's actually much quicker and certainly far less expensive for him to ride the bus home on vacations. I texted him a link to this article and made him promise he'd read it ;) He's my youngest child and you never quit worrying. Thank's again for the article. Safe travels!