Americans are so used to automatically going online and booking airfare when it comes time to travel that they forget about the advantages of booking a good old-fashioned bus ride.
With fuel prices rising, getting around can be expensive. Airlines are raising fuel prices and the train system is equally as expensive (and very limited).
Taking a bus may not seem glamorous to travelers with dreary stations, frequent pit stops and long routes, and most people tend to forget its advantages.
Greyhound and Megabus go head-to-head this holiday season in expanding their express services to California with fares starting as low as $1 to provide the best and most affordable traveling services to customers.
According to Maureen Richmond, director of media relations for Greyhound, Greyhound Express was developed to give passengers a flexible, affordable and direct travel option.
“Express schedules have fewer than two stops per schedules, fares that start at one (dollar) and modern amenities including three-point seatbelts, power plug-ins, extra legroom and free Wi-Fi,” said Richmond. “In addition, every seat is guaranteed.”
Richmond also mentioned the Greyhound Express stations are located in about 80 different cities state and nationwide, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield.
“The response has been tremendous. In fact we have seen an increase of 20 percent in cities where Express is introduced,” Richmond said. “There is at least one $1 fare on every schedule. It is randomly assigned and available at any time.”
Liane Go, a Los Angeles resident who was notified by a friend about Greyhound’s Express $1 deal, recommends Greyhound Express but encourages people to also look into MegaBus.com for more options.
“I would definitely recommend the Greyhound Express service to other people,” said Go. “Although, I would encourage them to inquire about the Megabus schedule and prices as well; that may serve them better if they chose to purchase a ticket under the three weeks you are allotted for the Greyhound, in order to be eligible for the $1 fare.”
According to Richmond it is always a good idea to purchase tickets as far in advance as possible to ensure the best rates and availability.
Elizabeth Leonardo, a San Francisco resident, also recommends Greyhound’s $1 Express service but agrees with Go in planning ahead when booking a $1 fare with Greyhound Express.
“Yes! Purchase early in advance,” said Leonardo. “Look into it three weeks to a month in advance.”
Leonardo also encourages people to look into Megabus for more $1 traveling options and schedules.
Greyhound didn’t give Leonardo any luck, tickets ranged from $100 to $200. Leonardo heard about the Megabus tickets, starting at $1, from a friend who has ridden on the Greyhound.
“I didn’t believe it, so I checked it out and it was true,” Leonardo said. “On the day I found out, I booked for the holidays and my birthday. We’ll see how the experience is like.”
According to Mike Alvich, vice president of marketing and public relations for Coach USA/MegaBus.com, Coach USA is now the largest bus company in the United States.
The bus company is larger than Greyhound and are owned by the Stagecoach Company in Scotland.
MegaBus.com is the first, low-cost, express bus service to offer city-to-city travel for as low as $1 via the Internet.
“Since launching in April 2006, MegaBus.com has served more than 22 million customers throughout more than 120 cities across North America,” said Alvich.
Alvich added that the bus company is now operating state of the art vehicles, double decker buses that hold 81 seats. All have free Wi-Fi and power outlets, and some seats on the lower deck face each other with a table between them.
“All have clean bathrooms, the seats recline, air conditioned and heated, seat belts—and when you check your 50 pounds of luggage, you don’t have to pay for your luggage like you do on airlines on many cases,” Alvich said.
Omar Villa, originally a Orange County resident and now a New York City resident, has never experienced Greyhound’s Express $1 fares, but has tried Megabus before in California and considered it a great experience.
“I never knew there was a $1 deal for Greyhound,” said Villa. “I heard about the Megabus deal through a friend in college during my first year.”
Villa added that the experience was great the first time he travelled on the bus.
He liked that it provided energy outlets, double decker buses, cheap fares and cleanliness. Another plus was that he did not need to print out his ticket to show proof of check in; to Villa, this showed their environmentally friendly ways.
“The buses are pretty spacious and empty. Not many people knew about the Megabus,” Villa said. “When it moved to the East Coast there were more people who took it on a daily basis to work, only because the East Coast community revolves around public transportation.”
But even with MegaBus.com, booking your trips in advance is highly encouraged.
According to Alvich, people can travel on Megabus Express buses with fares as low as $1 if trips are booked in advance or travel on weekdays that are non-peak days.
The closer a customer books to the day they are departing, the higher the fares will gradually increase until it hits the top fare. Alvich added that all fares are very affordable and their company uses a yield management system similar to what the airlines use.
“If the $1 fare was sold out, what would happen is automatically the fare goes up to the next level, it might be $4,” Alvich said. “If the $4 sale gets sold out, then it goes up to the next level, it might be $7.”
There are all kinds of affordable fares on the buses no matter when people are booking. But the secret to getting the lowest fares, according to Alvich, would be booking 30 to 45 days in advance or traveling Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Also, not traveling on holidays unless you book very far in advance helps too.
“But you always have an opportunity for those very low fares but if you don’t have the chance to book in advance you’re still going to get, even if you waited a day you’re departing, the fare you are going to pay is lower than any other bus company,” said Alvich. “We are significantly less than airlines and Amtrak.”
With new dollar fares from companies like Greyhound and MegaBus, travelers can not only revisit the mode of transportation their grandparents used, but they can also travel for only $1 to cities like San Francisco or Sacramento.
Stephanie Alona, a Cal State Fullerton student, recommends bringing a neck pillow no matter what the bus company people choose.
“Don’t expect five-star accommodations, and bring a neck pillow if you’re traveling for hours,” said Alona.
In today’s struggling economy, this may seem like a good option, one that comes with the fringe benefit of getting to know the nation from the road.