Thinking of “Going Greyhound”? Here’s What You’ll Want to Know

Thinking of “Going Greyhound”? Here’s What You’ll Want to Know

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  1. > Fares:

    Fares are subject to change.” Make no mistake about this disclaimer, rates can and do change drastically within the span of just a few hours. And, you can never assume that a round-trip ticket is always cheaper than two one-ways.  Pay close attention to what you are charged at the ticket counter and never assume the agent will point out the best deal. (Also, do not automatically assume that bus fares are cheaper than air fares. For the time being, this is often not the case.)

    > ETA:

    Greyhound does not guarantee departure or arrival times.” Not only does Greyhound not guarantee when your bus will leave, it will not even guarantee that you’ll be on it–even if you arrive an hour ahead of time as they suggest.

    Due to their practice of over-booking, you may find yourself without a seat even if you’ve booked your spot weeks in advance, and even if you’ve paid extra for “reserved seating.” And should you be the unfortunate victim of “seat bumping,” keep in mind that not only are you not guaranteed a seat on the next bus, your destination ETA can be thrown off by several hours—even days—due to missing those all-essential connections.

    Additionally, should your bus be late, broken down, or pulled from the route (as is sometimes the case), do not expect to be informed or forewarned. Ticket takers may well tell you that your bus will arrive ‘any time now,’ while minutes turn into hours.

    > Boarding:

    Don’t be surprised if you’re subjected not only to a metal-detector scan, but to having your bags thoroughly searched item by item, inside and out. While some terminals seem to have no policy whatsoever regarding what you can and cannot bring onboard, others arbitrarily confiscate pencils and pens, nail files, knitting needles, and anything else that could possibly be construed as a weapon (which includes most anything, if you think about it).

    Also, when arriving at a transfer terminal along your journey, expect local boarders to be lined up well in advance of your arrival. It is quite possible to be bumped-off your scheduled route if more tickets were sold than your bus can accommodate; and do not assume you’ll be given special priority no matter what you’re told.

    Additionally, at some point on a long trip you’ll be asked to disembark the bus for the purpose of bus maintenance, at which time you’ll be given a re-board pass. Often these re-board passes are completely ignored, making it quite possible to be bumped off the very bus your baggage is on.

    > Accomodations:

    Trash-littered floors, unsanitary restrooms (with no toilet paper, water, or hand sanitizer), malfunctioning air-conditioning, filthy windows, and stained seats are more and more often the norm. (Factored together, these can result in the most unpleasant odors imaginable.)

    Be aware that newer buses are built to accommodate more seats—meaning less leg-room for you.

    And even though Greyhound is required to make periodic rest and food stops along the way, depending on the schedule, these stops may amount to nothing more than 5-minute dash-and-grabs at over-priced fast-food chains where a long line may mean those in the rear of the bus have no time order. So unless you don’t mind indigestion (and dare I say, the one thing you don’t want on a bus ride: diarrhea), bring your own food and beverages.

    > Baggage:

    Rather than imagine that your luggage may get lost along the journey, it’s better to just assume that at some point it will. Even though you may actually witness your bags being placed (thrown more often than not) into the luggage compartment, they have a way of mysteriously disappearing. Even the most diligent passenger can miss the inadvertent removal of his or her bag at one of the many stops along the way, only to later discover that it was redirected to some distant destination—not theirs.

    Also, be aware that despite “company policy,” baggage handlers seldom match your claim ticket to your bags, usually allowing passengers to walk off with bags that may or may not be their own.

    > The Ride:

    Despite regulations against loud conversation between passengers or via cell phone, the use of profanity, or loud music, these annoying distractions are now all too common. Unless you are hard of hearing (or can turn your hearing aid off), forget about trying to sleep. Even at 2 am, do not expect passengers around you to have any regard for your personal space, nor for the bus driver to enforce regulations. Many of the drivers themselves think nothing of carrying on loud conversations with near-by passengers.

    Also, depending on the condition of the bus, the terrain, and the weather, you could be in for quite a scary ride. Broken windshield wipers, burned-out headlights, unbalanced tires, broken rearview mirrors, and malfunctioning turn signals are far from uncommon. Combine these disrepairs with a good rain or snow storm and you’ll find yourself wishing you had flown.

    > Personel (a):

    Surly bus drivers, rude and short-tempered ticket counter staff, apathetic baggage handlers, and disinterested customer service representatives are what you should expect. And should you become stranded, lost, or just confused about why your trip has taken an unexpected turn (which if you travel enough is bound to occur), don’t look for help in the terminal; in fact, expect to be berated for asking too many questions.  (I’ve seen passengers reduced to tears for just trying to find out what the last loudspeaker announcement said.)  Which brings us to language barriers.

    > Personel (b):

    Despite Greyhound’s continent-wide service (3,700 destinations across the US, Canada, and Mexico), terminals in many parts of the US are staffed by personnel who only speak regional dialects that can be quite difficult to understand for people not of that geographic area. This can make understanding boarding calls very frustrating as well as one-on-one communication while trying to resolve ticket or schedule issues.

    > Safety:

    While a short-lived slogan for Greyhound was, “There’s a reason you’ve never heard of ‘bus rage,’” in reality, safety is a genuine consideration when traveling by Greyhound Bus. Though it’s a comparatively rare occurrence, exchanges of harsh words between passengers that escalate into physical threats do occur—which can be quite unnerving.

    Also, due to the confusing and haphazard organization of many terminals, pushing and aggressive behavior in boarding lines is quite commonplace. Understandingly, passengers who have been bumped from their seat (sometimes twice) can lose patience after spending hours in the terminal waiting for the next bus to arrive—only to be bumped again by more aggressive passengers who have forced their way to the front of the line. (On two occasions, I witnessed near-riots erupt.)

    Additionally, some terminals are located in areas of cities where it’s common for homeless to seek shelter at night. And as regards the unsanitary health conditions on many buses, the possibility of contracting a virus or bacterium is a real concern.

    > Complaints:

    There’s a Contact Us tab on Greyhound’s webpage, but don’t waste your time. While Greyhound invites complaints and comments both to their website as well as their corporate office, don’t expect any type of response for weeks—even months—and don’t expect them to ever acknowledge any misdoing. They’ve become masters of dodging and eluding issues.

    Even a serious complaint such as one involving a pregnant woman who couldn’t use the restroom because the toilet was covered in feces and there was no toilet paper or sanitizer available was categorically ignored.

    Greyhound no longer cares about passenger safety or well-being—this is clear.

    > The Greyhound Experience:

    While for many year “leaving the driving to Greyhound” was a reasonable alternative to driving or flying, that is much less often the case today. High ticket prices, over-booking, uncomfortable rides, rude and discourteous personal, and sub-sanitary lavatory conditions can make for a very unpleasant experience. Cramped seating, rude and unruly passengers, degrading inspections, and apathetic bus drivers negate any possibility of just sitting back and enjoying the scenery.

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