Greyhound, Megabus, Bolt, and even the now defunct Fung Wah–I’ve had countless rides on all of these budget bus lines since high school. If you don’t mind a bit of ride time, it’s an affordable way to get from place to place. I’ve gotten $1 fares from New York City to Philly and DC, as well to and from San Francisco and LA. Sure, those are definitely rare prices to find, but even typical fares will be much less than a flight. A good airfare from San Francisco to LA is roughly $60-$70 one way, with enough planning in advance. A Megabus or Bolt Bus ticket will cost about $20-$30, even if you purchase last minute. Dollah billz! Cue Donald.
No doubt, these budget buses and others like them are awesome. But what can make them not-so-awesome are inconsiderate riders. After taking my fair share of them, I’ve created a list of Do’s and Don’ts for riding on these golden chariots. Here it is: The Budget Bus Rider’s Rule Book.
1. As everyone boards, leave the seat next to you open.
Look, everyone dreams that they’ll ride their cheap-ass bus and be one of the lucky ones that no one decides to sit by. I dream that every. single. time. But as people are trying to board, crowding the seat next to you with your bags, your feet, or whatever else is just rude. I personally get a joy out of seeing people approach seat-hoggers and politely asking, “Can I sit here?” Like the person is going to respond, “Um, no, actually my purse really needs its own seat for this ride.” Feel free to sprawl out if it does indeed turn out you have no neighbor, but wait until everyone is on the bus.
2. Limit your carry-on items to 1 small item.
Plan to pack smartly, because if you have 3 medium-sized bags, they won’t all fit comfortably on the bus with you. This isn’t like an airline where you have space above your head and some ample room under the seat in front of you. Stuffing bags all by your feet makes it difficult to get up and go to the bathroom, or, in the case of Fung Wah, evacuate in the event that your bus bursts into flames on the highway (Kidding! Well, not really…). I had one woman sit down next to me and struggle for ten minutes trying to figure out where she could put her things so they’d magically disappear. The only solution: the luggage compartment. Unless you need it for the ride, check it before you board.
3. Shower beforehand.
This one really goes without explaining, methinks. Whether you shower twice a day or twice a month, plan to take one right before your trip. Brush your teeth, wash your face, and put on some deodorant. Kthnxbye.
4. Avoid crazy perfumes/body sprays/etc.
In the same vein, don’t lather yourself in obnoxious-smelling things. Whether you think it will hide the fact that you failed to shower or if you just normally wear that kind of stuff day to day, it’s no bueno on the bus. Someone will either be allergic to it or, like myself, will becomes nauseous from excessive use Axe Body Spray or the latest J. Bieb’s perfume. There’s a difference between being clean (above) and smelling like you just rubbed magazine samples all over yourself.
Bus temps vary. I’ve found that the Megabus tends to be a little more Arctic, and the Bolt bus can be a little more tropical, to put it creatively. The answer? Layers. If you’re like me and always cold, I like to have a light jacket to throw over my legs and something else to layer up top. If you end up not needing it, it can act as a pillow, or you can set it inside your backpack or purse. Be like a Boy Scout or Girl Scout and prep yo’ shit.
6. Leave the smelly foods for another meal.
To the man who decided to eat tuna on one of my first Megabus trips from LA to San Francisco: you are dead to me. I understand wanting to pack some food for the ride–I almost always bring something with me when traveling since airports and trains can be pricey, and buses usually stop at gas stations (Cheetos for lunch!). But as much as I love Brussels sprouts, I won’t subject the entire bus to smelling what it is I’m nomming on. Save the seafood and other stinky foods for another time, please!
7. During breaks, return to the bus on time.
Greyhound isn’t very forgiving if you miss your bus, but Megabus and Bolt like to do a headcount before taking off from a stop. I sat next to a woman once who sauntered back to the bus 10 minutes after our break had ended simply because she wanted to finish her Big Mac inside McDonald’s. As she re-boarded, everyone silently killed her with their eyes, but those are 10 minutes that we were all sitting around waiting for just her and we would never get back. Everyone has the same end goal: to get safely and quickly to the final destination, so make sure you’re doing everything in your own power to make that happen.
8. Find some quiet time and entertain yourself.
It’s fine to converse with your neighbor, and by all means chat on the phone for a while at a reasonable volume. But at some point in the ride, there should be time when you aren’t talking. I sat next to a perfectly nice college student on a recent Bolt Bus, and while he was kind of chatty I didn’t mind too much. But at a certain point, I just wanted to be in my own head and do my own thing. I understand the joy of meeting cool people (*Cher hair flip*) but you’ve got a long ride ahead of you so plan accordingly. Bring a book, get a good playlist going, download a fun app on your phone–whatever it is, your voice should not be the soundtrack for an 8 hour bus ride.