Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

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GreyHound: A Review

March 30, 2009

In my life, as an itinerant traveler, I am used to travelling in buses like no other I’ve been in khataara village buses, which are astoundingly sturdy, disguised “Vaal-vos”, trucks with intricate hand painted signs (once) and actual Volvos plying their trade in Karnataka.

I had to go visit my sister this weekend, and not having a car license, or any money, decided to travel Greyhound. I spent 28 hours travelling up and down, and had a wonderful time in State College (more on that later), but I think the journey warrants a guide to grad students looking to travel cheaply.

PLUSES:

– I was in 9 different buses in the course of my trip, and ALL of them were on time, in fact all of them were about 15 minutes early. While this was a necessity, considering I had to change so many buses, I was nevertheless very grateful.

– All the buses have a restroom. To those of you who are thinking, Pfui! I can hold it in, remember, the urge to use a restroom is inversely proportional to the accessibility of the restroom. In fact, I used it only once, for the sheer novelty of it, but had a restful journey knowing it was there.

– The stations are quite good. To anybody used to Indian bus stations, Greyhound stops will seem like an airport. Good restroom facilities, vending machines, and even restaurants in the major stops. My only crib were the highly uncomfortable metal chairs, whose only scoring point is that they make the bus seats look comfortable.

MINUSES

– Queues/Reservation Policy. This was the most irritating part of the journey, even more than making all the connections. Greyhound does not have a reservation policy, and seats are offered on a first come first served basis. Which means that I had to stand in queue for half an hour to an hour for each bus I took. I don’t understand why they can’t have a check in system, where passengers are allowed to check in one hour before the bus starts. It would save a lot of trouble.

– The three hour bus connections. Sure, I was going from Cincinnati to State College, and didn’t expect a direct bus, but did I HAVE to change 5 buses, at 12AM, 3AM and 5AM in the morning? Would it have been really that tough to have a direct bus from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh, and Pittsburgh to State College?

– Cost: Let’s put it this way. Had I rented a car for 3 days, including fuel and insurance, I would have spent $20 more, and managed the journey in 14 hours, instead of 28 hours. Getting a license suddenly makes a lot more sense.

TIP:

If this is the first time you’re using Greyhound, buy your tickets online. And before you buy the ticket, sign up for the Road Rewards program, which is there right on the site. Advantages? You get a 10% discount on the first trip you make, and you can collect points for free tickets later. Mind you, after having traveled in a bus for 10+ hours, you might just decide to work harder, procrastinate less, and buy yourself a car.

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, you pay for what you get. As I said before, tickets are way cheaper than airline tickets (around 7 times cheaper in my case), and in case you don’t want to drive, and don’t mind the hassle of standing in line multiple times, Greyhound is a good choice. But the best thing going for it is (at least by my experience) is their punctuality. They get you there, on time, and the staff is generally helpful. As long as you don’t mind sitting next to strangers for extended periods of time, and take care of your belongings, it’s not a bad way to travel. A definite B.