A friend of mine and I are planning to travel a bit on the East coast this August. We plan to start in DC, then go to NYC, Boston, and then Toronto. Neither of us have a driver’s license, so it’ll be all buses and trains.
I’m used to traveling on buses - when I was in Europe I prefered them to trains because of the ridiculous difference in price. The image of Greyhound in the States, however, seems to be rather . . . negative. The only real concern I have right now is how we’re going to get to Toronto. There’s a bus that runs from DC to NYC that I’ve taken before, which was perfectly clean and lacking in colorful characters. The trip from Boston to NYC is relatively short, so I don’t think that’ll be too much of a problem either. But from Boston to Toronto - I think it’ll take something like 12 to 13 hours. Planes are too expensive on our budget.
I was thinking we have a few options - take the very cheap Greyhound from Boston to Toronto and suck up the fact that we’ll be a bit cramped for 12 hours; or, take the bus back to NYC and go to Toronto from there. The train from NYC to Toronto is $90. There is a bus from NYC to Toronto but that’s not much different from the Boston-Toronto bus, and it’s more expensive, for some reason. We could also take a bus to Buffalo, spend a night there, and then take a bus to Toronto, which all together might cost around $70. (Also, the bus from Boston to Toronto is a ridiculous $45.)
So I guess my questions are:
Is Greyhound horrific enough to make it worth taking the train for twice the price? (And what, exactly, makes it so bad? Is it dirty? Unreliable? Are the passengers frequently violent/aggressive? Would two girls be more inclined to attract unwelcome advances?)
Is there anything to do in Buffalo, NY for a day? Without a car, I should add.
I take Greyhound and Adirondack Trailways often, a girl alone, and rarely have any problems. Once they lost my bag and jumped through hoops to get it back. Occasionally I’ve been hit on. I can handle myself when being hit on. When I have traveled with a girlfriend I get hit on even less because many guys are afraid to approach you when you’re not alone.
And for Buffalo - Buffalo sucks eggs (sorry buffalonians) but you could see Niagara Falls!
My husband has had to take Greyhound quite a few times in his life (trucking companies will often send you on the bus to their HQ to pick up your truck so you don’t leave your car sitting somewhere unfamiliar for long periods of time). His opinion: it sucks balls. Not just balls, schweaty balls. Part of it is taking 12 hours to make a 6 hour drive, layovers in bus stations - some are OK, some are in the worst parts of town, part of it is the clientele (and I ain’t being snooty, we’re one of them after all), and part of it is the general grimyness of riding with a bunch of people with their worldly possessions stuffed under the bus in garbage bags while attached to a public toilet, and all that that implies.
I would pay for the train ticket if I had the money, but that’s because in my family we feel like we’ve put our time in on the bus. If you haven’t it might be a fun experience.
I actually quite enjoyed Buffalo the last time I was there. Then again, I like to eat, and finding the best wings and beef on weck more than kept me occupied. YMMV.
Oh, and yes, Greyhound sucks. My impression of them may be jaded, since I once took a 50-hour journey from Los Angeles to Chicago on them, and then again onto Boston a week later. I don’t ever want to experience that again.
If you’re considering the train, flying is probably the next cheapest to a bus, especially if you’re traveling between two major cities. But, if my choice was between a bus and the train only, the price premium on the latter would have to be very high to make me choose the former. Just in terms of comfort and rest, the train is a much better option.
If you’re in Buffalo, the most obvious day trip would be to Niagara Falls, although most of the tourist-y stuff is on the Canadian side. Of course, once you’re on the Canadian side, a couple of hours in Niagara-on-the-Lake is a must do! And frankly, once you get past the Falls themselves, a much more worthwhile trip than Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, the resident SDMB Buffalo expert I know is no longer a poster here, but I’m sure there are others who could chime in.
And, hey, if you’re looking for some guides in Toronto, there are a lot of Dopers here. We might even be able to coordinate a get-together ('cause Og knows we need a reason, since we never seem to pull them together unless there are visiting Dopers).
Greyhound is not bad if: A. you don’t mind cramped conditions (not for someone who has claustraphobia, trust me) and B. you don’t mind not getting very much sleep those days (that you’re traveling on one).
Other than that, it’s way cheaper than anything else and it’s fairly easy and relaxing. Some of the newer ones have TV screens in the middle of the aisle (from the ceiling) and it plays movies and such. I’ve taken a LOT of greyhounds in my life and really, they’re not as “dirty” as most say they are…but granted, do try (if you decided this route) not to sit in any of the far back seats because this is where the bathroom is.
It really depends too on things that you have no control over such as how many people are on the bus and how crowded it is. If you’re able to get on a bus that is mostly empty or half full…or are able to, in any case, have a seat all to/for yourself, your ride will be much easier and more relaxing, not to mention more comfortable. But again, this relies on things you can’t really change either way.
But overall, I think it’s a pretty good way to travel…and it doesn’t take as long as it used to.
Plus the distances you’d be taking it are very short. So I think your best bet would be the bus and unless you’re expecting a limo-like ride, you should be okay with it. Again, the only way you wouldn’t is if you don’t like slightly cramped places or want to sleep. Sleep, unfortunatly, is mostly all of impossible on these rides. The seats just aren’t comfortable enough. This is another reason why, if you go this route, you should try to get a seat all to yourself…or, if you must share, share a seat with someone you know (which is good you’re going with your friend).
Hope this helps. I’ve taken Greyhound over 15 times, I’d say, in the last ten years, so if you ever have any questions, I can help (and I’m sure others can too. :p)
You could get a bus from Boston to Albany NY (actually Rensular) , NY, from there you can get Amtrak out to Buffalo (and beyond?), this would shortcut having to travel down to NYC and back up again and should save quite a bit of time (Trains out to Buffalo come from NYC through Albany)
Really if you can swing it this leg would be so much worth it to catch a flight, it’s a long haul.
Have you considered changing your cities? If you get rid of Boston or Toronto, and add in Philly it will make your travel time quite a bit less (Note you can take commuter rail from Philly to NYC, and for that matter longer, but those are 2 major cities which IMHO is worth a visit.
I have taken Greyhound quite a bit over the years and overall have a pretty jaundiced view of the bus. Here’s a post I made about Greyhound a while ago. The whole thread is worth reading. Things may be different on the East Coast but they downright suck here.
I’ve only been on one Greyhound bus, and it was one of the more miserable experiences I’ve had. Now, I’ve been on buses in Burma, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Peru, Lithuania, and Mozambique, amongst other places. From a comfort perspective, all the foreign buses were worse, but the fact that you are on a fucking bus in America considerably diminishes the aesthetics of the experience.
Having a travel companion will make life much better. Get on the bus early and grab a paired seat so a dirtbag like me doesn’t try to sit next to you.
The reason I’m commenting on this thread is that I’m intrigued by a travel concept and wanted to mention it to you. There is a highly competitive network of very cheap buses that go from Chinatown to Chinatown in major metropolitan areas. I believe there is service in every single city on your itinerary. Now, I love hanging out in Chinatown, so in every city, I’d end up there eventually anyhow. WARNING: I HAVE NEVER BEEN ON A CHINATOWN BUS AND HAVE NO IDEA WHAT IT IS LIKE.
Have fun on your trip, those are some killer cities.
I’ve done Greyhound from Detroit to Buffalo (to see an ex while we were still dating).
The drive is a little boring (is it taking you through Canada or through the States?) but it’s fine. You really can meet up with some interesting people along the way. With that being said, I’m not a foxy young woman, so it could be a different experience for you.
Lemme remember…the bus station in Buffalo is downtown. Unfortunately, downtown is pretty much dead. I’m not kidding, it’s flippin’ dead. There is a pretty fun nightlife sector (on Chippewa Street). There is a subway system, but using the word “system” is odd. It’ll take you down Main Street. That’s it. Up and down the street. It’ll take you from downtown (by the HSBC Arena) past where I went to school (stop and bask in the glory) down to…the University of Buffalo. Like I said, it’s pretty much shitty, but there are some nice little stores.
I do have some contacts in Buffalo still and if you wanna see what I can, drop me a line. It also depends what you want to do.
Ooh! If you go right by where I lived (right next to the LBJ housing projects), you’ll head past the world’s worst golf course (Deleware Park) and get to the Albright-Knox modern art museum (right across the street from Buffalo State). If you like modern art, I highly suggest it. There are also some Frank Lloyd Wright homes that are on the street right behind the museum. Across the 198 from the Albright Knox is the Buffalo History Museum. I never went there (kept forgetting/found out it existed at the end of my stay there) but I could see how it might be fun. In the immediate area is an exact replica of David, one of 3 in the world (or so I’m told).
Yeah, drop me an email if you need more info/contacts.
Thanks for all the advice! I’ll have to discuss this a bit more with my friend, but I might be back with more questions. Unfortunately we can’t alter our destinations, or at the very least we have to end up in Toronto because we’re meeting a friend there. I’m tempted to cross Boston off the list, though, because it’s mucking everything up in terms of transportation.
Yeah, I’ve heard it’s $10 between NYC and Boston? A young bohemian girl I know of takes it regularly and I haven’t heard that she’s had any problems.
The worst I had was a 37-hour trip from OKC to New York. The only seat available was drenched in cheap whiskey and I was miserable also because I was leaving my honey behind. What a drag. But generally, for shorter trips like yours, it’s not too bad, especially if you have a friend with you.
Greyhound has treated me well through my college years. The most uncomfortable experience for me was when I took the bus from San Francisco to Las Vegas via Los Angeles. The trip overall was not too bad but the San Francisco to LA leg was ridiculous. I have never seen so many people awake and talking on an overnight Greyhound. When I travel between Pittsburgh and New York overnight, no one is saying a word. Everyone is passed out and thats the way I like it at night. I had three different people trying to talk to me at once when all I wanted to do was sleep. After I gave up on the idea of sleep it was ok though. The people were nice enough…strange, but nice. Of course, I am also a guy. My female friends have had very different experiences riding the Greyhound solo. They all revolve around unwanted advances but nothing frightening, just annoying.
I actually prefer the amount of space you get on a Greyhound over the space on a plane. Of course, you are rarely on a cramped plane for 8+ hours.
Eh…if you’re with a friend, it won’t suck nearly as much. For starters, you have each other to distract yourselves from the pathetic lot you’re riding with. Secondly, it’s pretty damn cheap and reliable. Finally, if nothing else, you’ll have a bus story to share with your friends.
I’ve taken Greyhound between NYC and Upstate a few times, I actually don’t have anything bad to say about it, and I would definately use Greyhound again for trips 5 hours or less. It was worth what I paid for the ticket, thats for sure. I think that today, JetBlue is the best option for NYC->Buffalo, but thats just because its so much faster.
I’ve only heard nice things about Chinatown buses.