The Megabus: Better Than You’d Think

The Megabus

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the hassle of dealing with airlines and airport security; if there’s another, it’s the rage-inducing mishaps that occur when you ride on Amtrak. And although I’ve never ridden a Greyhound bus before, I’m pretty sure I’d hate that too. Consequently, I was genuinely interested — albeit skeptical — when my wife proposed an altogether different means of transportation for our trip to Chicago last weekend: The Megabus.

The Megabus is a double-decker bus service that shuttles people to and from various cities throughout the United States, Canada and Britain. It’s incredibly cheap: round-trip tickets for two adult passengers from Minneapolis to Chicago cost us a paltry $65.50. That’s even less than we would have spent on gas money if we had driven the same route in my 40 mpg Toyota Echo. And since driving in Chicago is a nightmare and parking there is financially ruinous, it wasn’t much of a choice.

Still, I had doubts. The thrifty price tag raised a red flag with me; why were tickets for this thing so cheap? Is their clientele so unsavory that they have to offer discounted tickets? I wondered. The image of my fair wife and I being accosted by lonely, desperate and/or unwashed lunatics for eight hours flashed grimly in my mind. On second thought, however, this potentiality seemed pretty manageable when taken in the context of my prior experiences with Amtrak in particular. I decided to chance it.

As it turns out, the Megabus is pretty awesome. The seats were more comfortable than your average 767, and there were no metal detectors or TSA employees to make me throw away my shaving cream and shampoo bottle. There were no lonely weirdos or gibbering sociopaths — or, if there were, they managed to stay quiet for the entire trip. I sat back and listened to an audiobook on my iPod for almost the entire ride, taking naps whenever I got bored. Patty did pretty much the same. There’s a small-but-functional bathroom on board the bus, and we had a half-hour lunch break at a truck stop just outside Madison. If I have a complaint, it’s that we arrived at Union Station more than an hour late; however, this appeared to have more to do with Chicago’s horrific construction-related traffic congestion than anything else. Also, getting our luggage on and off the bus took a long time because the driver, a friendly and competent guy, had to handle all of it by himself.

I’m trying hard to think of something I didn’t like about the Megabus, and I’m failing to come up with anything significant. Of course, it might be that after several years’ worth of miserable and harrowing travel experiences, nothing short of being knifed by a disgruntled passenger would faze me at this point. Regardless, I have only good things to say about the Megabus, and I would definitely ride it again.

Oh, and by the way, Chicago rules.

Boarding the Megabus

Megabus Interior

8 thoughts on “The Megabus: Better Than You’d Think

  1. You’re right about the Greyhound, so no need for you to try that one out. Last time I took it to Chicago they released people directly from prison (as in a Department of Corrections van rolled up to the bus stop) onto the bus.

    The small child sitting next to me got so scared of one man (who was probably mentally ill) that he jumped on my lap. Later, his mother informed me that he had pinkeye . . . and I got it.

    That was the last time I rode Greyhound.

    My mother actually took a Megabus over the weekend; her only complaint was that if you sit on the top level there’s a lot of swaying going on and it’s a bit precarious trying to get down the stairs if you want to use the bathroom. Still a vast improvement over most modes of transportation though.

  2. The Megabus is notorious for its tardiness. It is a perfect example of the adage, you get what you pay for. I think the story of the driver who just decided to skip the downtown stop in Milwaukee “to make up time” that I was told by one passenger about sums it up. Nevermind that there were passengers who needed to catch connections to other routes there!

    If you have the patience and the time to kill, it is certainly the most economical way to get to Chicago!

  3. Going to school in Chicago, I’ve probably ridden the Megabus over a dozen times in the past two years. Of all those rides, I’ve had only one bad experience when we had to stop in Milwaukee and the driver didn’t know the way to the bus stop. Otherwise, the drivers are usually very quick and make great time for being in a bus. Often, we’re in the left lane and pass cars the entire way (something you wouldn’t expect from a double-decker bus). Definitely the cheapest way to get home for the holidays.

  4. I’ve rode the Megabus twice from Minneapolis to Milwaukee and both times were awful. The bus was over an hour late the first time (while waiting in below 0 temp) and the second time they left 30 people on the side of the road since it was already full. They did send an overflow bus after we all put our bags in front of the bus to prevent it from leaving without us. The bus driver told us it was already in Milwaukee and would be there in 5 minutes so we let the bus go. After calling dispatch though we learned the bus would take 3 hours and would be coming from Chicago. BE WARY. It’s not bad if you can actually get on but you pay for what you get.

  5. Megabus cancelled our bus from Chicago to Minneapolis without telling us and told us the next bus we could take would be three days later. We ended up spending an extra 120 dollars on Greyhound tickets and arriving home in Mpls at 5:30 am. A very grueling trip. Those cheap tickets are great, unless you end up paying twice as much because Megabus flakes out on you. I used to ride it frequently, but never again!

  6. Hey Nick,

    I typed “Megabus” and “bathroom” into Google to answer a friend’s question on whether they had any – and the fifth hit or so was your blog! I wondered if it was the same Nick Busse; it became pretty obvious with the “beer geek,” “St. Paulite” and “Government Communicator” that it was indeed you. Anyway, thought I’d say congrats on the high Google ranking!

    - Seth Rowe

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