Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Megabus travels: A review in story form

Before this past weekend, I had never been to Washington, DC. I've wanted to go so badly, especially since a good friend of mine now lives there, but I kept putting off buying a plane ticket.

Then last fall I read that Megabus was coming to Knoxville and would provide low-price commutes to DC. It seemed too good to be true. Even if it was cheap, it had to be super sketchy, right?

Over time, however, I did hear good things about it, and even saw a friend's photos on Facebook of a trip they took from NYC to DC on the Megabus. One of their statuses read: Megabus, I think I love you, but I want to know for sure.

That was it. I had to know for sure, too.

On January 31, I reserved two tickets on for a trip to DC from February 12 to the 14th. Each reservation cost $16.25, round trip.

This price floored me, but even more uncanny is the fact that if I had booked it sooner in advance, I may have only paid $1 for each reservation.

As my trip neared, I was feeling a little nervous. It calmed me to know that everyone has to book their tickets in advance online, which weeds out the Greyhound types who can walk up to a bus and pay on the spot. (Nothing against the Greyhound types, but you know what I mean.)

So my friend Micah dropped Liz and me off on Church in front of the swanky Transit Center. We had to be there at 10:30pm for our 10:45pm departure, only carrying one bag under 50 lbs. and a small carry on. We got there right at 10:30 and were the last people to board. The bus was already half full, and to my delight, there were lots of college-aged kids, parental types, and the only child was at least ten.

photo by Liz Totten

I pulled out my laptop. The Wi-Fi worked, so I sent my farewell to Robert, who, leading up to our trip, kept telling us a story about someone getting decapitated on a bus and no one noticing. Thanks again for that, Robert.

As you can probably tell, we made it through the night. No one ever tried to decapitate us. We each had two seats and, after watching August Rush that came on the little TV's, we slept in the fetal position. We made a stop for an hour around 1am (why an hour, I'm not sure) and then at the bus stop in Christianburg, VA where we dropped off some people and picked up more. I still had my two seats though.

Our only complaint on the way there was that it was freezing. We put on every item of clothing that we had. Someone on the bus said they were going to ask the driver to turn on the heat, but I never felt any. And in the fetal position on my two seats, part of my body was against the wall of the bus, which was like ice. I did manage to sleep from about 3am to 7am.

At 7am, I woke up to the sun rising past the Washington Monument as we drove over the Potomac River, a scene I won't forget for as long as I live. It was a surreal experience as we drove into the grand, clean, and quiet city that Saturday morning.

Our bus stopped at 10th and H, a block from the China Town Metro Station. Most everyone from the bus bee-lined into the Starbucks that sat directly in front of our parked bus.

So we made it, and we felt good, despite freezing our asses off all night. Liz, in her unceasing optimism, said, "Think of how many calories we burned shivering all night!" That's a good way to look at it, I guess.

So DC was pretty OK. Just kidding. Let's just say, my heart is still there... That doesn't sound overly melodramatic, does it?

But this post isn't about DC.

On Monday it was time to board the bus again. We were a little early this time, but our bus was late, only by about 15 minutes. We did witness a lady who arrived at the departure time (not 15 minutes early) to get on the Megabus to NYC. The bus left her, even though it hadn't pulled away yet. So let her tardiness be a lesson to you. Be there 15 minutes early!

The bus ride back was pretty uneventful. It was during the day, so the need to sleep wasn't necessary. We talked with the man in front of us who works at ORNL who was in DC visiting his son who brews beer. He gave us peanuts.

Our stop on the way home was only 30 minutes, but enough time to eat. The bus was only about 1/4 of the way full this time. I could never get the Wi-Fi to work, which honestly didn't bother me because I get motion sickness easily. Our bus arrived about an hour ahead of schedule, safe and sound. This is typical for most trips. They make good time.

So in conclusion, I highly recommend using the Megabus, unless you are really high maintenance. I'm thinking the more people who use it, the more it will expand. I would love to see it go to Memphis with a stop in Nashville, or to Atlanta. Oh man! The possibilities are endless! And you can be sure if that happens, I will feel comfortable traveling alone.

Megabus, I do love you. I know for sure.


Unknown said...

YAY! I'm so glad to read this review! I was pretty skeptical when I first thought about booking / actually taking megabus, but sounds really reassuring!

Anonymous said...

I am glad that it was a good trip. I will be taking the Megabus home from DC in March, so this is good news to me. Both my brothers are regular riders of the Megabus from Chicago to Ann Arbor. Little Bro tells me that the only real issues with the Megabus come in if the driver is inexperienced. He says that those are the instances where you will come across weird delays, longer stops than planned, etc. He says that if the driver is experienced, you can often arrive early because they are willing to make up time on the road. However, all in all it's not too shabby for a buck. Much cheaper than the crazy rates between TYS and DCA (and I refuse to fly from Dulles if I can help it) and much better than needing to be an attentive driver for 8 hours after running a marathon (which will be my case in March).

The Modern Gal said...

I'm glad it was a good experience. I'm planning on getting a ticket to DC in April once it goes on sale. And ohhhhh, a Megabus line to Nashville or Memphis would be AWESOME.

max said...

Great news!

I took the Megabus in Britain and had a great experience. I'm glad it is here. A Nashville / Atlanta route would be really nice. Getting to the airports would be really easy.

Also, next time you are on there B you should try playing the "Megaride game" on their British website:

Just don't turn the sound up b/c they'll probably kick you off for being so annoying.

Carly said...

Was it cold on the way back?? I'm just wondering if it's typical for it to be so cold.

B said...

On the way back, I was really hot for the first 30 minutes. The sun was on my side so that may have had something to do with it. After a while, I was comfortable.

I know someone asked the driver to turn on the air at one point, which he did. Seems like it's ok to make suggestions like that.

Mickey said...

That's incredible! How have I not heard of this?

Unknown said...

Looks swanky! I mean, for a bus.

amanda said...

Glad to hear you had a good first-time experience! I enjoyed reading about your trip and loved the photos.

Westcliff Condominiums said...

B! I love the article! Even more, so happy to share the grand virgin megabus experience with you...

Huh? said...,19345/

Rachel Ely said...

I'm so glad I read this -- I'm taking the bus to DC, then picking up another to NYC on Saturday, and I hadn't really thought to look for local reviews of the KNX->DC route. Having had the unfortunate need to take Greyhound to DC from Knoxville once, I was hopeful that Megabus would be better. Thanks for easing my mind a little!

Busted Knuckles said...

I'll be traveling on Megabus shortly after the 4th of July from DC back to Knoxville. This thread has given me the confidence to take it, and I'll pass my experience on as well!

Busted Knuckles said...

I traveled on the Megabus back from DC to Knoxville on Tuesday July 5th. It was a good trip! Clean bus, AC plugs at the seat, and the wifi worked most of the trip when I tried to access it. We stopped once near BlacksBurg for about 20 minutes to offload some passengers from the full bus. After that the bus was about 2/3 full. Then we stopped about 45 minutes after that for about 45 minutes(I guess legallly the driver must take a break) at a collection of gas stations and fast food joints. Something I didn't know or consider until after the trip was over though: There are no terminals. Only parking lots or bus stops. So if there is inclement weather, you must be prepared, and your baggage must be prepared for any type of weather, like rain, snow, sleet, or in my case, heat.
I've traveled on many buses in my time, and usually they are either hot or cold, hardly ever comfortable. So I've learned to carry on a small blanket, which keeps me cozy in the event of a nap. For the price, this deal can't be beat! Happy travels!

dgray74 said...

I would not recommend Megabus to my worst enemy (ok, maybe my worst enemy). My husband and I thought we would take a trip to New York over a 3 day weekend and enjoy much of what New York has to offer. Unfortunately for us, it happened to be the “big hurricane” weekend.

Although we monitored the situation all day Friday, and called Megabus twice (and sat on hold for all of eternity), we were assured that all was fine and our bus would leave NY as scheduled Saturday night. We asked the operator if we should switch our bus. At one point, we even begged to switch our bus to an earlier one to insure we’d get home. The operator, completely clueless, told us to wander around Penn Station to find the Megabus employee and ask him what was going on. Really???

Obviously, all was NOT okay. After finding the Megabus employee (who was NOT at Penn Station, by the way) we found out that Megabus canceled all busses leaving the city without informing those of us with tickets, leaving us stranded. I will never understand why busses LEAVING the hurricane area were canceled ALL DAY Saturday.

We were left scrambling to find a way out. The weather was not a concern for me, but as a teacher, the first day of school WAS a concern. I had to get back to Pittsburgh.

The whole situation was mishandled. After requesting a refund (and sending a lengthy complaint), I received no reply or acknowledgement. After waiting a week, my husband called, waited on hold for another eternity, and finally got a human to claim our refund would be in our account in 3-5 business days.

Megabus does not care about its customers. Unlike some of the other passengers leaving a review, I paid way over $1 for my ticket, and I would consider it a rip off. New York is fantastic, but I think next time we’ll just drive ourselves.

Anonymous said...

If you enjoy being anal raped by anonymous forces that hide behind a thin veil of customer service than MEGABUS is for you. I am speaking particularly about the DC to Philly route, but it is all the same. And by the way, this company is a piece of shit.

SmplyAnita619 said...

I'm so glad to read such a good review! I was skeptical as the media is saying so much about free/$1 trips now that Atlanta & Nashville have been added to the mix. However, I have already booked 3 trips from ATL to NASHVILLE 2 of those were free, so I'm hoping our reviews will be just as good :).

Mario said...

I was supposed to travel from Washington to Boston with departure at 19:45. Me and my wife arrived at the bus station exactly at 19:45 (our bad) and I could not complain if I would have not find the bus at the bus station. But the bus was there! It was just turned on and it moved for less than 2 meters from the parking area. I begged the driver to allow me to get in since it was still inside the station, it stopped two times arguing with me that we lost the bus, wasting more time than that necessary to just open the door and let us get in! At the end, he didn't allow us to take the bus and he left us in Washington. This nice behavior of your driver costed us 360$ to travel to Boston with the train, plus the 70$ we paid for the unused bus ticket. This is really not the way to treat customers, living them thousands of miles far away from home at night time just because the driver doesn't want to open the damn door! This lack of humanity was astonishing!!! I'll never never never use megabus again!!!

Anonymous said...

Last time I checked, Mario, late is late in the travel business. Try knocking on a cockpit door and see if the pilot opens it up just because YOU are late. My guess is that the driver will be reprimanded if he doesn't follow company protocol. What if someone asked you to do something that may cause you to lose your job? As silly as it may be, that's most likely why he didn't let you on the bus.

Mark said...

Yes, that is what I was thinking.
They do have rules that are very up front when you purchase the ticket.
I was inPortland Maine, taking the ferry to Nova Scothisha.
They to had a strict policy of being there 1/2 before departure. We saw a guy driving like a made man into the parking lot. Parks and blows out of the SUV screaming at his wife. He runs ahead trying to board the ship, only to be not allowd on the ferry. He made a total ass of him self as the ship left the dock. He screamed lots of words with four letters. Then he turns to his wife a screams at her.
I guess it better these people are left behind.

Philip atheirea said...

Went from Chicago to Iowa City. Bus left on time and was about 20 minutes late on arrival. The driver acrually stopped and picked up a fare a block from the stop. Tickets easy to purchase on computer and the price was right. I had a broken foot and was on crutches and probably looked like death warmed over, but the agent got me on first and the driver gave me a hand. Excellent service with good people running it. They really do a good job of moving a lot of people in a short amount of time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review! You probably already know that Memphis and Nash have been added. I was looking for reviews about riding at night and found yours. So glad you posted, as my trip is tonight! Memphis to Knoxville. The best part is I'm riding overnight tonight, staying in Knox for the day and riding back tomorrow night. No hotel cost, no gas or extra mileage for my car, and all for $54 roundtrip! Can't beat that!!

MeleKalikimaka said...

I just bought a Megabus ticket for the Boston to DC leg; does anyone know if they guarantee outlet plugs (for laptops, phone chargers, etc) at every seat? Would hate to be unprepared and find myself stuck on a 10+ hour ride with little to no distraction...(reading while traveling makes me carsick; pretty sure the other passengers would appreciate me not doing so, lol)

Christopher S said...

#Megabus is the worst bus service, EVER.

Every time I rode Megabus from Washington, D.C. to Hampton, VA and back, it was late. When I say late, I don't mean five or ten minutes. I'm talking at least an hour. The last time I rode Megabus, I was leaving Hampton, VA to go back to Washington, D.C. The bus didn't leave because the bus driver couldn't get it backed out. There was something mechanically wrong with the bus and the bus driver attempted to "reset it," but a new bus didn't come for hours later. If you care to read my correspondence with Megabus customer service below, it's always the same thing, "we apologize for the delayed response," blah, blah, blah.

Unless you have zero regard for your time, I highly recommend you not take Megabus.



Dear Christopher,

We apologize for the delayed response. In regards to your inquiry, while we deeply regret the service disruptions that have affected your previous trips, there are unfortunately unforeseen issues that can occur and cause subsequent delays. Of course, aims to provide our clients with affordable, dependable, and quality service expected and so we hope you will give us the opportunity to serve you again.

Thank you for using, your patronage is important to us.

Megabus Customer Service Specialist
Megabus Customer Support


12/11/2012 09:22 PM
Subject: Every MegaBus experience is awful

To whom it may concern:

I continue to have the worst possible experience with MegaBus. You'll see from the below email trail that I have had on-going issues with your service, EVERY TIME I have used it. Because of these issues, I lose time and money. When I purchase a service, I expect to receive the service I pay for (perhaps I'm expecting too much). Nonetheless, some people have schedules and places to be. We cannot afford for buses arrive late or not even leave because they're broken down. This leads me to my most recent experience on 2Dec. As always, the bus is supposed to depart Hampton, VA at 5:40PM. I depend on this bus to leave on-time so that I can take the metro to another bus which stops running at 10:30 PM. Because this bus was broken, I had to have a friend drive me to DC which cost us both time and money.
I feel sorry for every customer you had on your bus because I received an email at 9:27 PM stating another bus should be arriving in an hour. REALLY!? The bus was supposed to leave at 5:40PM and another bus doesn't even theoretically arrive until 10:27? You left all these people sitting out in the cold -- I'm not sure how your company is still in business.

This is only my experience on the return leg of my trip. As I left DC that earlier Friday, 30Nov, they had to bring in another bus because there was a mechanical problem with the bus that arrived. We didn't actually leave D.C. until probably close to 10 or 10:30PM. It appears there is a trend with Megabus being unreliable and mechanically unsound.

I told myself I should never use your service again. However, since I have two complimentary round-trip tickets because of my most recent problems, I'm considering booking the 8:45PM bus leaving Washington, D.C. to Hampton, VA on 21Dec and returning at 5:40 PM on 25Dec. Although, what guarantee do I have that my bus will actually leave and return? I'd rather not be late for Christmas festivities and I cannot afford not to show up to work on the 26th. I have no faith in your service and I need some assurance I will actually get to where I need to go.

Christopher S.

Anonymous said...

Megabus sucks! You cant even relax and use your phone bcuz the driver doesnt want to listen your conversation "thats what he said" is he suposse to focus on your conversation while drivin? NOOOO! His job is "drive" and have professional costumer service skill.

This just happened today (april/22/13) Boston to Nyc 5:00 bus

kalvarez2 said...

Please, I beg you, do not use Megabus if you want to get somewhere on time. I book the trip one month in advance,, online, not for one dollar mind you. Took my parents to the bus station in DC, we got there ONE HOUR before departure time. The bus arrived 30 minutes after departure time, but they said THEY HAD NO DRIVER!! so, the bus left ONE HOUR AND A HALF LATE. They had to go to Toronto to get on a plane, the bus was supposed to arrive at 9:00, they made it at NOON, 3 hours late, they missed their plane, had to stay in a hotel, get a different flight to a different city, get a taxi 200 miles to get to their destination.


megabus promo code said...

I can't believe you guys talking smack about the megabus! you know everything's going to be late once in a while, planes, trains, automobiles, even your soon-to-be-bride on your wedding day, but don't get me started about that, point is megabus is usually on time, their buses are clean, comfortable and tickets are usually but cheap, just don't know the mega bus boys n girls..

megabus promo code said...

I second that megabus promo code, that's why I stole you name, lol! No, seriously, I've had nothing but good experiences on the megabus, now they re-started that Los Angeles to Las Vegas route I'm all abou tit, yo!!

Cheap Bus Tickets said...

bus travel has a bad rep because it used to be just for poor people, but now many bus services are down right luxurious, and they're still cheap!!

Unknown said...

I wanna know if they have any restrictions about the luggage? Because i'm travelling from NY to Baltimore and from Baltimore to DC and i'm going with like two big baggages (international fly-type) and i wanna know if there is any problem.

Anonymous said...

Wish I could give it negative 5 stars. Booked a roundtrip from Reno to Sacramento a month ago. Two weeks ago I got an email stating my trip to Sac had been cancelled, but if I clicked on a link I could reschedule at no cost, which I did. Schedule had only CHANGED - by 20 minutes. Not sure why "cancelled"?? Today I get email saying trip from Sac to Reno is "cancelled" and to follow links. No links provided. Took over an hour to find a phone # to call, finally reached very rude customer service who said the refund had been processed and I would HAVE TO just re-book - so nooooo, I don't HAVE to do anything - cancel the whole trip. Again, the trip wasn't cancelled, just the TIME changed by 20 minutes!! They refused to cancel the other leg, and won't refund me for the booking fee. They also REFUSED to allow me to speak with a Supervisor! This is THEIR fault, and it is costing me?? I think not. Do not use these crooks!!!!! I have disputed the charge on my credit card and filed BBB and DOT complaints.