9 Greyhound Bus Tips You Need to Know Before You Travel

All aboard!

Ladies Boarding Greyhound Bus
Photo: Ray Whitten Photography/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

For long trips, many would argue that flying is not only quicker, but the view from the sky is so much better.

However, along with that aerial view, comes congested airports, delayed flights, and the dreaded middle seat. Throw in rising airfares, long lines at the security checkpoint, and sketchy in-flight Wi-Fi, and it's a wonder any of us are still choosing to fly over driving. But there is another mode of transportation growing in popularity across many parts of the country—traveling by bus, or more specifically, Greyhound. Okay vacationers, before you rule out reaching your destination on the "Dirty Dog," hear us out: Greyhound is a lot cheaper and, depending on where you're going, faster. There's also free Wi-Fi, and did we mention no TSA? You're welcome.

As someone who has made both short and long-haul trips using Greyhound (I'm talking 20-hour road trips, y'all!), I'm not only making the case for traveling by bus, but I'm also sharing the things you should know to make it a less tedious and safer experience. Hey, it certainly beats spending hundreds of dollars on a plane ticket and having no legroom, right? Here, nine tips for your next great adventure on the open road—er, um—bus:

1. Book your tickets early.

Although it's not the norm, there are a few bus stations that operate like airlines, in that you board by the number on the ticket. If this is the case for the station you're departing from, the earlier you purchase your ticket, the lower your boarding number and cost. A low boarding number also guarantees first dibs on a good seat. Keep in mind, Greyhound has three different fare options to choose from, such as "Economy," "Economy Extra," and "Flexible," and you can also choose an express bus that provides quicker, non-stop service, with fewer (or no) transfers.

2. Arrive at least an hour before departure.

If it's your first time on a Greyhound bus, allow yourself enough time to get checked in and find your gate. On weekends and during peak travel season, this process may take longer, so arriving an hour before gives you more wiggle room.

3. And, get in line as quickly as possible.

Once the station attendant announces that the line for your bus is forming (provided that you're not restricted to a boarding number), make a beeline towards the front. As with any form of transportation, where you sit can make all the difference in your trip. And those passengers who board first have their pick of the seat litter. Trust me, you don't want to spend hours on a bus next to a crying baby.

4. Make your luggage stand out.

Bags are positioned under the bus, and without an identifying marker, design, scarf, or luggage tag, it's hard to tell one black suitcase from another. Placing something on your bag or choosing a brightly-colored suitcase will help you to easily find luggage when you have to switch buses for transfers.

5. Sit at the front.

You'll have a better chance of having two seats all to yourself, since everyone else will, undoubtedly, be heading towards the back of the bus. Personally, I prefer the front because it makes me feel more safe to be closer to the driver. Not to mention, you can make a swift exit when seated near the front, making it easier to get off and grab your luggage just in time for the next transfer.

6. Try not to use the bathroom.

Do we even have to explain this one? Get your bathroom breaks in before boarding and when the bus stops. At least the restrooms at the stations are cleaner, and you have the privacy of a bathroom stall. As a general rule of thumb, I try to eat lighter and limit my water intake.

7. Follow the driver's rules during stops and transfers.

Sure, you haven't had to follow the rules on a bus since you were a kid, but each Greyhound driver has their own set of restrictions to make the ride safer and more enjoyable. During stops and bathroom breaks, the instructions usually involve what time to be back on the bus, what you can and cannot bring back on the bus, and where to go for food.

8. Keep your carry-on bag and ticket with you at all times.

Guard your purse or carry-on with your life. There's no overhead bin or storage like there is on a plane, so if you leave anything on the bus during stops, you run the risk of it being stolen. For that reason, I tend to go for a smaller bag or backpack that's easier to take on and off the bus. And you'll need to show your ticket every time you board the bus, so make sure you have it at the ready.

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9. For your safety, stay inside the bus station at night.

Unless your trip is short, you will have layovers, and most of those stops will be at night. No matter how much you want to explore, it's best to stay inside the Greyhound station. Also, make sure you've already made arrangements to be picked up once you arrive at your final destination.

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