I recently had the opportunity to ride as a passenger aboard Megabus — a express bus service which offers transportation at a low cost between city centers in ten countries throughout North America and Europe — for the first time.
A trip from Atlanta to South Florida came up at the last minute for me; and a search for a one-way airfare would minimally cost me $375.00. I searched for a one-way airfare because I was driving back using a rental car at a rate of $9.45 per day plus taxes and fees. The class of rental car was full size because I loaded the car with items I was bringing to a relative.
The idea then struck me: I remember reporting on Megabus back in December of 2012 here at The Gate. Why not try that option?
What I did was arrange to be dropped off at the station in central Atlanta. I would then take Megabus on an overnight trip to Orlando where I can attempt to sleep on the trip; walk three blocks to Lynx Central Station once I am in Orlando to catch a bus to Orlando International Airport; and rent a car continue the trip to South Florida to pick up the items which I was bringing back to the Atlanta area.
The bus was scheduled to depart at 11:59 in the evening and arrive in Orlando at 8:35 in the morning — eight hours and 36 minutes later. That was not too bad, I thought, considering that there was a scheduled stop in Gainesville, Florida for 15 minutes. I will just try to sleep during as much of the trip as possible; and that way I am not really devaluing my time by doing something I would have been doing anyway while someone else is doing the driving: sleep. I also would not have to worry about getting up early the next morning and possibly fighting traffic to catch a flight. There would be no airport security screening checkpoints and no Transportation Security Administration about which to be concerned.
When I was dropped off at the outdoor station on the side of the street over Interstates 75 and 85, the area looked pretty seedy. People were queued for their respective buses, which had not arrived yet; and an employee of Megabus was ensuring that the lines were kept in order. The line in which I was waiting — this is ironic as I dislike waiting in lines, which is one reason I avoid flying as a passenger on Southwest Airlines — was not too long. The line for the bus to New Orleans was another story altogether, as that bus appeared destined to be packed with passengers. Sandwiched between the buses was a dilapidated truck with a vendor aboard who was selling snacks and drinks; although I did not see one person purchase any items.
I was solicited by panhandlers no fewer than three times. This is not something one typically experiences at a gate at an airport; but the Brooklyn in me came back just in case anything became out of order and I should be prepared. Don’t ever mess with a guy from Brooklyn…
…but I actually found that the people were generally nice — although I could have done without the second-hand smoke from people puffing away on their cigarettes. Fortunately, we were all waiting for our buses outside on the sidewalk; and — cue “Deltalina” with her now-infamous waving finger — smoking is not allowed aboard the bus, thankfully.
By the way, a little FlyerTalk trivia: the name Deltalina was first coined on February 21, 2008 by FlyerTalk member Flyin’Mom — but again, I digress.
While I was waiting in line, an older woman from Pompano Beach who teaches second grade volunteered her tale of woe to me: apparently, she was visiting a long-time friend in Atlanta and was scheduled to be a passenger on a flight operated by Spirit Airlines to return home to the Fort Lauderdale area that evening — but the friend wanted to stop and eat first before taking her to the airport…
…yes — they went to a restaurant rather than a take-out place so that they may sit down to eat.
Needless to say, she ultimately missed her flight. Her friend then dropped her off at the station to take a Megabus to Orlando, where she was to catch a Greyhound bus to the Fort Lauderdale area.
Instead of being home that night, she would not arrive home to her husband until well into the afternoon the next day. Some friend.
Once we were allowed to board the bus, we were able to choose any seat we wanted. I chose to go upstairs to the front seat. I always like the front seat in a car or bus — and on an airplane but not in a bulkhead seat, for that matter. Yes, I have had a seat aboard an airplane with a view out front; but that is another story altogether.
The front four seats on the upper deck are usually reserved seats; but the route on which I was a passenger did not have that option when booking a reservation, so it was fair game. There were not too many passengers on the bus; so plenty of seats were available.
Another person took the two seats across the aisle from me, as she preferred the front seats as well. I would say that she was in her 20s in terms of age.
The bus was already on the Interstate highway within mere minutes of departure; and we were on our way. It was then that I attempted to get some sleep.
After performing numerous acrobatic maneuvers I never even knew that I could do in order to attempt maximum “comfort”, the person across the row kindly moved back one row — which was completely empty — and offered for me to rest my legs and feet on her side of the row. I thanked her and did get some sleep — punctuated by the bright lights whenever the bus lumbered towards a major interchange. After all, the upper deck has plenty of panoramic windows — including in the ceiling. That is a minor disadvantage because of the lights. Regardless, I did get enough sleep — even though I awoke at both a rest stop for the bus driver in Tifton and at that scheduled stop along the route in Gainesville.
Although the bus encountered traffic in downtown Orlando on Interstate 4, it did arrive at our destination a few minutes late. After leaving the bus, I walked to Lynx Central Station — it only took me several minutes to walk — and caught the bus on Route 11 to the airport for only $2.00.
Despite the possibility of rides as a passenger aboard Megabus costing as little as one dollar plus fees, my ride cost a total of $35.75, which includes the base fare of $34.00; a booking fee of $1.50; and an “SMS” fee of 25 cents:
“When you choose to use the SMS Text feature, we charge a one-time fee of $0.25 for each reservation in your order. Other charges from your wireless provider may also apply each time you receive an SMS Text from us and it is your responsibility to check with your individual carrier about these fees. Third party mobile network providers are involved in the delivery of SMS Text messages and our SMS Text fee is non-refundable in the event of a delivery failure.”
I do not recall choosing to use the SMS text feature. In fact, I did not use my cellular telephone or any other electronic device once while aboard the bus during the entire trip. Was I taken for 25 cents? I may have to launch a campaign in recovering that quarter — or perhaps I should have just searched the crevasses in the seats for a spare quarter to give myself a refund of that charge.
Anyway, I digress — as usual.
Keep in mind that once you pay for your reservation, you cannot cancel or get a refund — but you can trade your reservation in for another journey up to 24 hours before your original scheduled departure.
Anyway, the entire trip round-trip between Atlanta and South Florida cost me a total of slightly less than $90.00, not including fuel and tolls — but remember, I needed to rent a vehicle anyway. Although I did not rest as well on the bus as I would have in my own bed, it sufficed where I really did not lose much of my time while awake.
I did not try to use free Wi-Fi Internet services offered aboard the bus — nor did I use the electric outlets equipped near each seat. Perhaps I may attempt to try this equipment in the future…
…but I do not think I want to try out the lavatory on board located on the lower level of the bus. I did not this time, anyway. I waited until I arrived at Orlando International Airport.
“You would consider taking Megabus again in the future?”, you might be asking me. Let me put it this way: it is not my preferred mode of travel — but the cost is low. It would not be worth it to me if the bus was at full capacity with passengers or if the equipment did not work. I would recommend Megabus for shorter trips where you would arrive at your destination no faster by airplane; or on overnight trips if you are able to sleep aboard a bus. The seats were all right — they are not as wide or as “comfortable” as those found in the economy class cabin aboard a typical airplane operated by a commercial airline. Certain seats — usually reserved on routes which offer reservations when booking your trip — do offer more leg room, a table or better views to help pass the time…
…so while I would not exactly say to myself “Wow! I cannot wait to travel on Megabus again!!!”, I can say that when conditions are right, I will consider being a passenger on Megabus again. It was nice not to have to worry about driving or going through an airport security checkpoint to be screened; and — as I said — the price was right.
I apologize if you were disappointed that this trip report did not include photographs of several courses of gastronomic cuisine, opulent luxury and attentive butler and maid service. I have always believed that travel should entail different types of experiences — and while I certainly like to have that first-class treatment once in a while, I see nothing wrong with choosing a mode of transportation which serves its purpose quite adequately, as Megabus does.
There is one caveat: Megabus does not have the best reputation for safety, as demonstrated by this incident as an example. Still, incidents are minimal compared to the number of trips completed safely. Megabus was first introduced to the United States back in 2006.
I would recommend Megabus if you want something a little different; are in no hurry; and are looking to save some money — but I personally would not make a habit of it.