I want to ride the Greyhound because it’s cheap, but I’ve heard it’s really awful. What should I do?
|"But won't I die the instant I step onboard?"|
As I’ve said before, practically every person who’s ridden the Greyhound has a horror story. My cousin Alison said that she felt safer on the buses in the poorest districts in Guatemala. My friend Tyler felt like his life was in danger because of his seat-mate. No matter who you ask about Greyhound, they will usually get a panicked look and blurt out some terrifying tale about the bus system.
After that, who in the world would want to ride Greyhound? Well, me. (Guess how I’m getting to Chicago from St. Louis.)
The pros of Greyhound are this: It’s often really cheap, especially if you can buy two or three weeks in advance. It runs frequently to most destinations, allowing you more flexibility. And despite the horror stories, I’ve had a lot of really good experiences with it. The snobby isolation of an airplane is replaced with a kind of camaraderie between the people on the bus. People often share food, music, stories, and kind words. I remember seeing a man offer a granola bar to a woman with a fussy little girl. My seat-mate shared his music with me once. A man on a Greyhound prayed for me once. I offered my flashlight to a girl trying to read at night, and when she saw how tired I looked, she asked, with genuine concern, if I was all right. Despite the inconvenience and the rawness, I like the Greyhound.
If you decide to give this bus system a try, here are some tips to get you through.
Book a ride during the day, and leave yourself gobs of extra time. Being stranded at a bus stop at 4:30 in the morning sure gives you trust issues. I should have tried to catch the 3:40 bus instead (which was what I ended up doing). Greyhounds have a nasty habit of skipping smaller towns at the wee hours, so be sure you’re traveling at the peak time of the day. Have backup plans if the Greyhound doesn’t come, and assume that it will always be running about an hour late.
|Greyhound doesn't have to be traumatic!|
Dress for success. Wear comfy and well-worn clothes, forget the jewelry, and give up on trying to keep your hair and makeup looking good. Put all your valuables in a money belt or deep in your pockets. If you look like an ordinary Greyhound traveler, you will not have a target painted on your forehead… or your pockets. Bring earplugs, a sleeping mask, an inflatable pillow, an mp3 player with headphones, a really good book, or any combination of these to help you go to your happy place.
Come in expecting a “miserable” ride. More than likely, the bus will smell like urine, the people will smell even worse, you’ll be stuck with a fat seat-mate, and there will be multiple babies crying. That way, when you show up and the bus is practically empty, smells like air freshener, and has comfy leather seats with cup-holders and free wifi (they have new buses that feature all these amenities!), you’ll be pleasantly surprised. One way or the other, be at peace about your surroundings. Instead of recoiling in disgust, think about the people around you, or return to your aforementioned happy place.
Sit near the front. Although this is a noisier place to be, it’s also a lot safer. Greyhound drivers are tough and don’t take any nonsense, so if there’s going to be trouble, it will happen in the back of the bus. Put on your creeper-alert senses and try to sit next to someone wholesome.
Be confident. Put on your best “I totally do this every day” face. Learn the stops and layovers so you can be confident when they drop you off at a seemingly random station. Be polite to the people around you, and very blunt if you need to be. Talk to the people around you to try to get a feel for their personalities. The less you isolate yourself, the safer you’ll be.
Be determined to enjoy the ride. Appreciating the Greyhound is all about attitude. My worst experiences have been awesome blog material, and my best experiences live in my memory with a kind of gritty magic. Be cautious but kind, look for ways to help the people around you, and live the adventure. You may be glad you did.
Have a travel question? Leave a comment and I’ll answer!