If you know where you are going, if you are flexible about choosing your departure and arrival times, if you are traveling between a select list of cities, if you are able to book your seat a month or two in advance, MegaBus has very cheap tickets — some as low as 1 USD.
Megabus is a no frills bus line that was originally started in the UK in 2003. In 2006 they came over to the USA with hubs in Chicago and Los Angeles. The LA branch has since shut down but they opened up a new hub in New York City.
Now there are two hubs in the USA that offer cheap bus service from Toronto to Washington DC via New York City and from Minneapolis to Memphis via Chicago.
Cities service by Megabus and route maps
The following cities are serviced by Megabus.
- New York City (regional hub)
- Ridgewood, NJ
Map of northeast Megabus routes
Note on northeast bus routes
Keep in mind that there are five routes that service these destinations with New York City as the hub. So you must travel to New York City to transfer routes. For example, there are no direct buses between Albany and Rochester, or Boston and Buffalo. You must first travel to New York City to transfer routes.
- Chicago (regional hub)
- Ann Arbor
- Columbia, MO
- Kansas City
- Normal, IL
Map of Megabus midwest routes
Note on Megabus routes
The northeast and midwest routes do not connect. You cannot travel on Megabus from Buffalo to Cleveland or from Chicago to New York City.
How to buy tickets for Megabus
Tickets for Megebus must be purchased in advance over the internet or by calling 877-GO2-MEGA (877-462-6342) between 6:30 AM and 10:00 PM CST Mon – Sat, or 6:30 AM and 8:00 PM CST on Sundays.
How to get cheap tickets on Megabus
Megabus seems to have a tiered pricing system in which there are X amount of tickets at various prices per schedule. Typically only two $1 tickets are sold per schedule, so you must book your seat as soon as possible to get this fare. But there are plenty more $5, $8, and, for longer routes, relatively cheap tickets.
It is possible to book reservations on Megabus up to three months in advance.
The sooner you book your ticket the better. I just did a bunch of Megabus searches and found that the soonest dates that I could find the $1 fares were no less than three weeks in advance. This means that in order to find a really cheap ticket on Megabus you should probably book your travel 4 to 6 weeks in advance — sooner for popular routes or for longer distance travel.
How to ride Megabus
Megabus usually picks up and drops off passengers in the street, rather than at a bus terminal. This helps to keep prices low, but you must know how to find the pick up and drop off locations. Keep this in mind when using Megabus, get the address of the stop and find out where it is before traveling. There is usually only a fold out sign that says “Megabus” on it to indicate the stop.
Often Megabus says that they pick up passengers at well defined bus stations but in reality they pick them up on a corner near the station. It is sometimes difficult to find the stops, so I would recommend showing up early or scouting out the location before traveling.
You also must have your itinerary and receipt printed out prior to boarding the bus. After the bus stops the driver will step out and check your printed out itinerary/ receipt — this is your ticket. The driver will then scan in the bar code on your ticket and you are then permitted to enter the bus.
Reservations can be changed for $1 up to 24 hours prior to departure time. You can do this online or by telephone.
From Megabus.com FAQ
“Can I change a reservation?
Yes – This can only be completed more than 24 hours before the first trip you reserved is scheduled to depart. A US$1 fee (50¢ change fee and 50¢ new reservation fee) is charged for all reservations being changed. The cost of the initial reservation will be credited against the subsequent reservation. If the subsequent reservation is less expensive than the initial reservation, no payment or further credit will be made to you and all unused credit will be forfeited. If the initial amount paid is less than the cost of the subsequent reservation you must pay the difference when completing your new reservation.”
The Megabus baggage allowance is one checked bag up to 50 pounds and one carry on.
Megabus grafts and scams
I do not yet have a way to scam this system, but with lots of tickets between one and five USD, I have not yet found a reason to.
More information about Megabus can be found at Megabus.com
If you know where you want to go a month in advance and have a flexible schedule, Megabus can be a cheap way to travel in the midwest and northeast of North America.