If you're looking for a cheap method of transportation to make your way across the United States, you can't go wrong with a bus. Sure, they might be slow and they may not have the best reputation, but when it comes to saving money, they've got you covered.
Greyhound buses have been a staple of U.S. travel for decades, but these days, you have plenty of other alternatives for your journey. Plus, many of the buses in the United States have gone through an impressive upgrade in recent years. Now, it's not uncommon to be offered free snacks and a bottle of water while you connect to the bus' Wi-Fi and use the power socket next to your seat.
In this article, I take a look at every option you have for bus travel in the country, weighing up the pros and cons of each company so that you can figure out which one will be best for your trip.
I've used BoltBus several times in the United States and been very happy with my experience every time. They're incredibly affordable if you manage to time your purchase well (you can grab a $1 fare if you book your journey months in advance), but still far more comfortable than Greyhound buses. On a Boltbus, the seats are comfortable, you have a lot of legroom, you have access to power sockets to charge your devices, and you'll even be able to connect to their free Wi-Fi.
Read more: 7 Ways to Get Cheaper BoltBus Tickets
Chinatown buses have been around for over 20 years now, and they serve the East Coast and Southern California to San Francisco (and do a leg to Las Vegas, too). With curbside stops and not a lot of amenities, they're a super-inexpensive option for when your budget is tight. If you need to save money and you'll be traveling one of their routes, they'll most likely be cheapest. Be aware that Chinatown Buses have had some issues with safety in the past, but have upped their game recently, and shouldn't be a problem to travel with.
Greyhound buses still rule the road in the U.S., with far more routes and potential flexibility for you than any of the cheap buses. And you can make your journey cheaper still if you apply a student discount. Greyhound buses are basic and don't have many of the fancy features of BoltBus and MegaBus, but they're safe and they'll get you where you need to go. For any kind of obscure routes or for crossing the center of the country, look at Greyhound for prices.
Lux Bus America
If you love overland travel, will be traveling in Southern California, and don't mind splurging for higher levels of comfort, Lux Bus America is designed for you. Of particular note is the Los Angeles to Las Vegas route, where you'll find incredibly comfortable seats, free drinks and snacks, pillows and blankets, and seatback entertainment. It's the priciest option out of everything mentioned here, but still cheaper than booking a flight.
Megabus is fairly similar to BoltBus. If you get in early enough, $1 tickets are available, but like BoltBus, if you leave it until the last minute, you could be paying $30 for the exact same ride. While there isn't too much difference in terms of comfort and price with BoltBus, I have found BoltBus buses to be slightly cleaner and more comfortable.
You may have noticed that the small bus companies in the United States tend to focus on the west coast or northern east coast regions of the country. If you'll be hitting up the southern east coast, RedCoach has you covered. With a route that covers the major cities and attractions in Florida, it's worth checking their prices before you book with anyone else. RedCoach has affordable prices and are slightly more luxurious than BoltBus, MegaBus, and Greyhound.
This article was edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.