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Megabus Review

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MegabusA few years ago, I booked a “Chinatown bus” from Baltimore to NYC that cost around $20. It wasn’t one of the major companies (Bolt Bus or Megabus) and the bus itself just looked like your typical coach bus – no frills, nothing fancy. Well, it turns out that no only did it not have any fanciness or frills, it had a broken oil cap and the driver, who spoke little English (which meant I acted as a translator), was trying to tie a rag over the broken cap. People were getting upset at the delays and ultimately I decided to skip the trip home. Fortunately I was just going back for a visit, nothing special was planned, and canceling was just a disappointment. Fast forward a few years, I’ve never taken a bus since but I know plenty of people who have. The ones that had the best experiences typically stuck with Megabus (though I suspect Bolt is just as good).

I asked a few of them for their experiences because I wanted to learn more about the service, which turns out to be pretty good (especially considering the prices).

How Megabus Works

You might have seen them on the road, big blue buses with the fat pink-faced driver in a yellow uniform, and the constant reminder that rides started at $1 a pop. It sounds almost too good to be true and it makes you wonder if they are able to save money on the tickets by cutting back on maintenance! (like the bus I was on that had a cracked oil cap) It turns out that the $1 tickets are just for the first one and the prices go up as the bus fills up. As the date of the trip draws closer, the price also goes up.

I did a check of a bus from Baltimore, MD to New York, NY for a weekend trip. If I chose this weekend (Fri-Sun), the roundtrip price varied between $40 and $50 depending on the time of day. If I opted for a month from now, the pricing was still around $40 to $50 for the same times but some trips were as low as $8. If I chose a mid-week trip, the pricing was better still by a dollar or two each way. I didn’t find any $1 tickets though. I suspect those go as soon as the scheduling opens up for that date (I went out as far as I could and there were no tickets cheaper than $8).

Pricing vs. Greyhound, Amtrak, Flight

How does the pricing compare with Greyhound? Good question but the Greyhound website is horrible. I tried to do a price comparison but couldn’t even pull up any tickets available on Greyhound. I must have checked half a dozen dates and each one had “n/a” for the pricing.

As for Amtrak, it wasn’t even close. I know, and have taken, the Northeast Regional several times and so pricing is usually anywhere from $65 to $120 depending on when you book it and what times you select. Whereas the train takes about three hours to get to NYC, Megabus takes an hour or so longer. The price difference is significant though, with Megas saving you a good $70-80 and giving you the option of booking a late ticket. If you book in advance on Amtrak, you can usually snag a $39-$49 ticket for the lower demand times.

For kicks, I checked Southwest even though I know flying wouldn’t come close. If you wanted to get into NYC, flying is probably the worst way because you still need to catch a cab from either LGA or JFK and that costs about as much as the Megabus trip one-way. That said, a flight for this weekend will cost you around $500 (last minute flights are horrible!) but one in a month will only put you back $200 depending on the time you choose. Southwest’s non-stop only takes an hour and twenty minutes, though with airport time it’s still comparable to the train.

Megabus Amenities

On the bus itself, the wi-fi is relatively speedy considering you’re on a bus and your ticket costs so little. This speed test report is several years old but I suspect the speeds are comparable if you’re lucky. As is the case with technology on buses, it’s a matter of getting a good bus and good co-passengers. Another important difference to note is that the buses now have power outlets, which is a nice perk for those longer hauls.

The best perk of all is avoiding tolls!

Megabus Promo Codes

Megabus typically releases promo codes specific to a origination/destination, so looking for codes online is probably going to yield very little. For example, the latest promotion is for this weekend – Travel Friday to Sunday to/and from Morgantown, West Virginia. The two cities you can go to or leave from are Pittsburgh for $5 or Washington D.C. for $9. The sales themselves are this specific.

Have you taken the Megabus? Good? Bad? Ugly?

(Photo: paul_lowry)

{ 8 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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8 Responses to “Megabus Review”

  1. Martha says:

    I just bought my first Bolt Bus ticket today! I’ll let you know how my trip goes!

  2. A number of years ago I took Megabus roundtrip between Minneapolis and Chicago. My take: If your resources are limited, it’s a great option for getting from point A to point B. But I didn’t find the trip pleasant. Wi-fi not working, toilet stinking, and way behind schedule (due to Chicago rush hour traffic, which inexplicably apparently wasn’t factored into the drive time). In sum, I guess I’d say I’m glad I’m financially comfortable enough not to feel compelled to take Megabus.

  3. Texas Wahoo says:

    I’ve taken Bolt and the Greyhound version of premium bus service (I think it’s called Peter Pan). They were nearly identical, but the Bolt Bus fills up faster for DC to NYC routes. If I’m just going up to NY for the weekend and I don’t want to spend a couple of hundred bucks, I will take a bus. I find that the bus is often not much slower than the slow Amtrak trains (non-Acella).

  4. Jim M says:

    Took a Mega bus to NYC when I had to rent a truck for the return trip. Experience was very pleasant. Professional driver, clean well appointed bus ande a young hip crowd along for the ride.

  5. ase says:

    I have taken a number of different buses in the DC-NYC corridor and found Megabus one of the worst. Of the 3 trips I’ve taken with them, twice the bus “broke down” right outside the Lincoln Tunnel. It was very obvious that the bus pulled over to the side there (and turned off the AC in the middle of summer) because of the lack of curb space in NYC. Both times it magically became servicable again (including AC) after 20-30 minutes on ths side.

    In contrast, both BoltBus (which I’ve now taken over 10 times) and DC2NY I have had great experiences with. They were clean, pretty comfortable, WiFi has generally worked, very competant bus drivers, and for the most part on time (all but once traffic related when not within 30 minutes of scheduled arrival time).

    In short, the regional bus operators in the DC-NYC corridor that have a rewards program (which both BoltBus and DC2NY do and, tellingly, MegaBus does not) are the best.

  6. mannymacho says:

    Megabus just came to Texas and I have been very pleased with them. Not many people know about them down here yet so the $1 fares have been plentiful for me. Another perk (at least for the kids at heart) is that they are double decker buses.

  7. JP Adams says:

    Thanks Jim – this is helpful as I will be taking a trip to Phili in a couple weeks and am thinking about riding Megabus!

    I have heard that the best place to ride the bus is in South America. In certain countries the buses have wifi, leather comfy seat, tons of leg room, food, great air conditioning, extremely nice bathrooms, satellite tv, and more..

    But alas, we live in America :(

    I’d be curious to see if anyone has had any seat companion stories. For some reason it seems more acceptable to talk on a bus than on a plane (where people are generally pretty respectful and quiet).

    Having taken the train many times from NYC to Boston, it can be a good option for people with a bit more financial flexibility.

  8. Christopher S. says:

    #Megabus is the worst bus service, EVER.

    Every time I rode Megabus from Washington, D.C. to Hampton, VA and back, it was late. When I say late, I don’t mean five or ten minutes. I’m talking at least an hour. The last time I rode Megabus, I was leaving Hampton, VA to go back to Washington, D.C. The bus didn’t leave because the bus driver couldn’t get it backed out. There was something mechanically wrong with the bus and the bus driver attempted to “reset it,” but a new bus didn’t come for hours later. If you care to read my correspondence with Megabus customer service below, it’s always the same thing, “we apologize for the delayed response,” blah, blah, blah.

    Unless you have zero regard for your time, I highly recommend you not take Megabus.

    Chris

    ————————————-

    Dear Christopher,

    We apologize for the delayed response. In regards to your inquiry, while we deeply regret the service disruptions that have affected your previous trips, there are unfortunately unforeseen issues that can occur and cause subsequent delays. Of course, Megabus.com aims to provide our clients with affordable, dependable, and quality service expected and so we hope you will give us the opportunity to serve you again.

    Thank you for using Megabus.com, your patronage is important to us.

    Sincerely,
    Jasmine
    Megabus Customer Service Specialist
    ________________________
    Megabus Customer Support
    inquiries@megabus.com

    ————————————-

    12/11/2012 09:22 PM
    Subject: Every MegaBus experience is awful

    To whom it may concern:

    I continue to have the worst possible experience with MegaBus. You’ll see from the below email trail that I have had on-going issues with your service, EVERY TIME I have used it. Because of these issues, I lose time and money. When I purchase a service, I expect to receive the service I pay for (perhaps I’m expecting too much). Nonetheless, some people have schedules and places to be. We cannot afford for buses arrive late or not even leave because they’re broken down. This leads me to my most recent experience on 2Dec. As always, the bus is supposed to depart Hampton, VA at 5:40PM. I depend on this bus to leave on-time so that I can take the metro to another bus which stops running at 10:30 PM. Because this bus was broken, I had to have a friend drive me to DC which cost us both time and money.
    I feel sorry for every customer you had on your bus because I received an email at 9:27 PM stating another bus should be arriving in an hour. REALLY!? The bus was supposed to leave at 5:40PM and another bus doesn’t even theoretically arrive until 10:27? You left all these people sitting out in the cold — I’m not sure how your company is still in business.

    This is only my experience on the return leg of my trip. As I left DC that earlier Friday, 30Nov, they had to bring in another bus because there was a mechanical problem with the bus that arrived. We didn’t actually leave D.C. until probably close to 10 or 10:30PM. It appears there is a trend with Megabus being unreliable and mechanically unsound.

    I told myself I should never use your service again. However, since I have two complimentary round-trip tickets because of my most recent problems, I’m considering booking the 8:45PM bus leaving Washington, D.C. to Hampton, VA on 21Dec and returning at 5:40 PM on 25Dec. Although, what guarantee do I have that my bus will actually leave and return? I’d rather not be late for Christmas festivities and I cannot afford not to show up to work on the 26th. I have no faith in your service and I need some assurance I will actually get to where I need to go.

    Christopher S.


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