Bus Tales

My sixteen year old daughter is heading out for her annual visit to Houston, TX this weekend. This year she’s going by Greyhound, and we’re both a little nervous because she’s never gone out on her own. I don’t even think she’s been at HOME alone for fifteen hours straight, much less been surrounded by strangers.

When I was 18 I had my own cross-country bus experience and it seemed relatively safe and fun. I met some interesting characters to be sure. But this was almost 18 years ago so I’m not really sure about safety issues.

We’re looking for advice/suggestions/experiences from bus travelers. I’m hoping there won’t be any horror stories, but if you have them, go right ahead. I want to be brave but I’m almost looking for an excuse not to let her go. Almost. :wink:

I did the same thing when I was 18, almost 20 years ago. Greyhound from Chicago to New Orleans, with a 2-hour stopover in Memphis. No real problems except the guy in Memphis who pestered me into buying breakfast for both of us. The Government paid for it so I didn’t really mind.

I lived with my grandparents. At age 14 my mother insisted I come visit. I was put on a Greyhound in Seattle. My grandfather spoke with the bus driver, who then told me I had to sit in the front seat, which I did, for 15 hours. He didn’t allow anyone else to sit near me.
I repeated the trip every summer until I left home at 18.
Of course, that was 1961…

I traveled Greyhound when I was 16 (1986) from Gary, IN to Austin, TX. It was fine. I left my ticket on the pay phone booth in Chicago and cried to the bus personnel and they gave me another ticket. Maybe your daughter can be more responsible than I was. Now, that was a long time ago, but…

Last October I took Greyhound from Wall, SD to Minneapolis, MN. It was fine as well. The line that I was on was actually a private fleet ?rented by? Greyhound.

I’d just say make sure she’s conscious of where her money and ID is all the time, stay around fellow travelers and personnel and she should be fine. You know, just make sure she’s informed of the usual safety precautions and stays wary of strangers.

HOWEVER, I personally would rather send my hypothetical daughter out by Amtrak myself, although it’s quite a bit more expensive than bus travel. I’ve done that recently as well, and I felt a little safer. In actuality, I did have a guy harass me a little (just insistently hitting on me, but nothing threatening) on the train and nothing like that on the bus. I think maybe it’s because Amtrak has more staff around that I felt safer.

My experience would fall into the “reasons to not let your daughter go” category.

When I was 17, a group of 4 of us took the Greyhound from the SF Bay area to south shore Lake Tahoe for a ski trip. There were two guys, and two gals, and we were all in the 16 to 17 year old range. The drive would normally take something like 5 hours, but on the bus it was more than double (I think maybe 12 hours total).

The trip started out fine, despite being slow (all the damn stops). And we were making the best of it. We had food, and the stops did allow reasonably frequent stops to stretch our legs.

But then in Sacramento (about halfway), these two guys got on that changed the rest of the trip. They were probably in their 20’s, and can best be described as “unsavory looking”. Almost initially, they started hitting on the girls (the girls were pretty cute, so I guess you can’t really blame them). The girls were polite, but eventually got worn down and ended up sitting by them and talking with them.
A little while later, the guys break out the vodka and start making screwdrivers in this jug. The back of the bus started to reek of alcohol. After repeated offers, the girls finally took a polite swig, but the two guys continued to get wasted. And more obnoxious. And started getting more and more “forward” (as in groping) with the girls. Me and the other guy started to ask if we should intervene. And the girls were more concerned about what the guys’ (now drunken) reaction might be. So they decided to just hold out and hope they either passed out, or had to get off.
Keeping in mind we were pretty naive, 16 year olds, it was pretty miserable. The girls, doing their best not to provoke these guys were just hating life. And me and the other guy felt helpless. None of us got any sleep for the last 3rd of the (long) ride.
The two guys did finally mellow out a bit, and nothing every really happened. But it was a pretty miserable experience for all of us. And pretty much turned us off any long-distance bus travel for good !

I tend to think our experience was more an isolated incident. And I have no idea what kind of rules there are on buses regarding behavior. But I would warn your daughter about such a possibility. And just prepare her on what she should do if something like that should happen.

Make sure to pack a big ol’ bottle of Mace. And that she keeps it in her purse/carry-on and not in her stored luggage.

Amtrak’s not always that much more expensive than Greyhound. Last month we took the train from Seattle to Los Angeles, and our tickets exclusive of food and sleeper were $79 apiece. How much cheaper can the bus be?

Yes, you’re right. I was thinking of my fare with a sleeper.

I’ve been a regular Greyhound rider since my parents divorced 10 years ago (starting when I was 14). The worst problem I ever had was the theft of my CDs - my fault for being too casual with them. DO have her bring pepperspray though, and make sure she knows how and when to use it.

Sometimes you don’t have a choice about whether someone sits next to you, but advise her to sit alone whenever possible (I’m sure this goes without saying). The bus stations themselves are actually much worse than the trip - the LA station is pretty gnarly, but the Las Vegas one is conveniently located in the parking garage of the Plaza hotel, right on Fremont. I can’t speak for any of the other large city stations.

Generally speaking, if you keep to yourself you’re OK. Also, travel as lightly as possible. If there are any layovers in her itinerary, she’ll probably be responsible for her luggage during them and also if there is any change in carriers (more often than you’d think).

You can read about my experience here. Short answer is: Don’t go Hellhound, it’s really unpleasant.

Bus trips are looooooooooooong and boring. In addition to pepper spray (which she probably won’t need) she should take a couple of good books and a hand held game of some sort if she has one (or likes that kind of thing). CD player/Ipod with headphones.

Going light as possible on the luggage is a good idea, also. It can be difficult to go to the bathroom in a bus station if all your worldly goods are in there with you.

I’m not familiar with the part of the country she will be traveling in, but the best rule of thumb is not to leave the station until she gets on the bus or arrives at her destination. No “quick walk around the block to stretch my legs”. The stations usually have some sort of security, but they aren’t always in the best part of town.

It can be fun! I traveled every summer to visit my grandparents on that ole grey dog.

Regular intercity bus traveler here. I take the bus by myself maybe every two weekends on average–been doing so for several years–and I’ve never felt the need to carry pepper spray. (Deodorant spray, sometimes, but I’ve never feared for my personal safety, and I’m a small woman.) I don’t know how often people travel by bus in your part of the country, though–I’m in the Northeast. Buses from NYC to Boston, Boston to NYC, Massachusetts to wherever, are often packed.

How street-smart is your daughter?

When I was 17, I really wanted to visit one of the colleges I had been accepted to. My father couldn’t accompany me to Massachusetts, and he was reluctant to let me travel to or within Massachusetts by myself. I asked my cousin, who lived there, to speak to him. Luckily for me, she was able to convince him that if I was able to navigate the New York City subway system alone almost every day for six years, the Boston T would be a piece of cake. I didn’t have any problems on my trip.

I agree with the tips that other people have offered:

If you can accompany your daughter to the bus gate, speak to the driver and let the driver know about your concerns for her safety.

She should sit by herself (and keep to herself) if possible.

Pack light. It’s awkward carrying several bags all by yourself. Even wheeling a suitcase around can be a pain.

She needs to keep an eye on her luggage, especially if bags are going to be transferred or unloaded before she reaches her destination. Put an address label on her bag. I like to carry my travel bag with me onto the bus and put it on the seat next to me.

Tell her not to leave the station before she gets on the bus and before she arrives at her destination, if there are any layovers. You don’t want the bus to leave without you. And if someone is going to pick her up, she shouldn’t be wandering around or outside the terminal where she gets off.

Bus trips can be quite boring, so bringing along a book is a good idea. (With all the road noise, sometimes it’s hard for me to hear my CD player unless I turn up the volume all the way, and I don’t like doing that.)

Make sure she has detailed directions to wherever she’s going and enough cash to cover emergencies (like if she has to catch a cab at her destination).

Bus stations can be worse than the buses themselves, true. I was surprised at the shitty condition of the Greyhound terminal in San Francisco. It was like a ghost town. (The Boston bus terminal is really nice, and Port Authority in New York is okay.)

Oh yeah, I prefer Amtrak over the grey dog if I have a choice. The train is WAY more comfortable (and cleaner).

Thanks for all the suggestions so far!

Yesterday she burned copies of her CDs just in case they get “lost”.
My fiance has been instructed to pick up pepper spray, although I’m really hoping she won’t need it.

She only has one bus change …this makes me nervous as hell…and she’s not exactly street smart. She has common sense though, and I plan to tell that bus driver it’s her first trip alone. I only hope s/he’ll care and that nobody else will overhear.

I’ve told her to try to get a space by herself, but if not to try to sit with an older lady. She loves old people so it wouldn’t bother her.

She’s carrying her Japanese textbooks but I’m going to grab her a few magazines to go along with snacks. And the pepper spray. Just in case.

I have travelled by bus and train. I did prefer the train myself, even though mine caught on fire in the mountains in Colorado and we ended up having to get a bus ticket (or stay overnight in a hotel) back home the rest of the way.
Amtrak was where I had my first experience with alcohol and strange men too. No harm came there, but I was probably lucky.

I think if I’d paid for the trip she’d have taken the train, or even a plane, but her best friend saved up the money and paid for the ticket himself for her birthday.

Now I’m wondering about her money. Stick it all in her bra or sprinkle it about in various locations? It’s only 100 dollars but it’s still all her savings.

I’m also thinking about her headphones and whether she needs to keep them off so she can be more aware of her surroundings. Is that silly? We’re not worried about anyone stealing the player, for it is cheap and hideous.

Lute Skywatcher hopefully since she’s starting out in Memphis we won’t have that problem! :wink:

I started riding the New York City subways (and buses) alone at 12. When I was 14 and 15 I spent the summer with family friends in DC, that’s a 3 hour trip on the train, all by my lonesome.

At 16 I made my first intercontinental trip alone. Flew all the way to London, and no, I was not met at Heathrow airport. I had to exchange funds, find the bus to take me to Oxford, and call the people to tell them I was there, etc. Then I took a long train ride to York and wandered around trying to find the Hostel, and went hiking with 9 perfect strangers (it was a guided trip though). Then the whole thingy in reverse.

Aside from being confused because the British “ring” sounds like the American “busy signal,” it was fun.

Use sense, be aware of your surroundings and if someone is making you feel icky DON’T PUT UP WITH IT. Don’t be afraid to “be the bitch.” You have ZERO, zip, absolutely no responsibility to be “nice” at the expense of your own comfort and safety. (as in the story of cormac262… they “wore them down” so the girls felt obligated to talk to the creeps…? whaaa…?)

Have her sit as close to the front of the bus as possible, as well. If anyone actually tries something, she’ll hopefully be in full view of the driver and help will be fast in coming. The last time I took the bus it was full and I sat way in the back. I had a guy sit next to me and snort something white and powdery and then he proceeded to enjoy himself, intimately. There were no other seats, so I just pretended I was waiting to use the bathroom and stood until the next stop (unfortunately I didn’t know that I could or even should stand up for myself, as Hello Again advocates). Pretty icky/scary stuff can happen toward the back.

I’ve done the grey dog myself quite a few times. My first trip was at 17 (1998). I loved it, personally – you do meet some characters and you see a lot of things. On my first trip, my seatmate was an older Cajun lady with a beautiful accent, and she told me a load of wonderful stories about New Orleans, including some great spooky bayou tales.

It can be a bit frazzling trying to make all of your connections quickly [or, on the flip side, waiting through a four-hour layover]. I repeat the advice to pack lightly, as you do [well, did] have to manuever your own luggage between buses and such.

My only :rolleyes: experience on the bus was in line with what Ashes, Ashes had to deal with. A guy across the aisle was, uh, having a personal moment while staring at me the entire time. I guess the driver caught on to him, though, as he came back to me at a stop and asked me if everything was okay, to which I replied it was fine. Mr. Weenie McJerksalot didn’t frighten me, it was just a :rolleyes: type of thing. The driver then told me to move immediately and sit up front if I felt uncomfortable in any way, and then proceeded to ream the guy out afterwards.

So I’d recommend sitting in the middle/up front, alone if she can or with an elderly person or child [there tends to be a lot of elderly folk on the bus/sometimes people can’t manage to get a seat with their child, and the kids usually sleep through the trip], pack light, and have a good time. I really did enjoy my bus trips. Yes, the stations usually are in skeezy parts of town, but I was from a super-skeezy town, so it didn’t bother me. If she’s a little naive about such, just remind her to keep her things with her [no stashing them and then going to the potty or anything], don’t flash her money, and be aware of who and what is going on around her. As for her money, I used to put $20 or $30 in my pocket for little purchases at the stops, and I put the rest in a little bag and safety pinned it inside my bra. She can always go to the restroom and get more out if she needs it.

I’d also recommend [on one of her longer stops], that she use the restroom to wash her face and brush her hair. She’ll feel better and enjoy the trip more.

I hope she has fun Rushgeekgirl! I look back on my days bussing it very fondly, and sometimes I really have an urge to go Greyhound even though it’s not my only option anymore.

Oh! RE: Hygiene. Sometimes you can feel really sweaty and icky on the bus. I suggest getting some of those pre-wetted face cloth thingies. Like any of these. Just being able to keep your face nice and clean can go a long way in keeping your mood up.