If you’re like me and you consider getting the best possible price and route on trip tickets is a kind of game to “win”, then let me introduce you to the most undervalued choice on the travel market: Greyhound.
Greyhound. I know, the name conjures up dingy bus stations, panhandlers, and slow rides shared with dozens of strangers. I can’t promise to get around the “dozens of strangers” part, which is also part of air and train travel, though I can promise you won’t miss the security line or ride to and from the airport.
Greyhound’s negative brand equity is what has led to the boom of curbside bus operators like Megabus, Bolt Bus, and even the Chinatown bus. Bolt Bus, arguably the best-run curbside service, is in fact a rebranded joint venture with Greyhound and Peter Pan. But the ‘Hound has reformed, and in fact offers many overlooked advantages, including price.
This is not to say that I won’t take other services if they offer a great fare or convenient pick-up or drop-off location. My point is, all else equal, I’ll take Greyhound, and if the price is better which it often is, I’ll do so happily.
Back-up buses and drivers
If you’ve ever broken down in a Megabus or a Chinatown bus, I’m sorry. I’ve heard the stories of being stranded in a rest stop in New Jersey because the Chinatown bus broke down. About the worst I’ve fared is stopping in Jersey as the driver filled the tank with $120 of gas.
Greyhound has bus pools and spare drivers across the country. Other bus companies keep their prices low by skimping on this infrastructure.
You know the stereotype of the middle-aged bus driver with his sweater vest and moustache? Given the choice, it’s great that my driver has 20+ years of experience and a union contract that requires rest breaks.
Ever need to go to Cortland, NY from New York City? Me either, but I’m glad that Greyhound offers service to less in-demand cities, should I ever decide to go there.
In-person customer service
Figuring out why discount bus carriers are late is a mess. They give you an 800 number to call if there is an issue. Greyhound has a ticket desk, where at least if they are unable to help, they can tell you face-to-face.
This one has its pluses and minuses, as I mentioned the sad state of many bus stations is what scared many people off Greyhound in the first place. It is, however, really nice to wait for your bus indoors when its snowing or raining.
A truly great rewards program
The Road Rewards program, which rolled out last year, offers 20% off coupons, companion fares, food discounts, and even free tickets, all based on the number of trips you’ve taken. To date, I’ve earned and used two companion fares, one to go round-trip for two to Syracuse for $80, and the other to go to Montreal for $120 for two.
As other travel rewards plans devalue their points, Greyhound has added value. The companion vouchers used to be ineligible for redemption within New York State and to/from New York City, but the policy has recently changed to include all stations, New York included.
Has your bus company ever been shut down by a federal safety investigation (link)? While they may not always have the promised wi-fi or plugs, they are often quite nice (photo).